OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

Little Catching up to do! – Caitlan S.

Well, it has been two weeks since my last blog post! So I (Caitlan S.) have a little catching up to do! 
This past week I was fortunate enough to be at Save a Life Centre in Village of Hope with Lauren (which we will post about soon) and the week before I was on the pediatrics ward at Lewanika with Aileen. So I will inform all who are reading about my week on peds and then you can keep an eye out for myself and Laurens post later 😉
We were told before we embarked on this journey to Africa that it would be filled with some very high highs and extremely low lows. I had not understood this meaning until my week on pediatrics. It was THE hardest and most physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging week I have had throughout this practicum. However, it was also a week where I had some of the most inspiring and happiest moments of this trip. 
The very first day was the day that I felt like I couldn’t go on with this practicum anymore. Within the first hour of the first day on the ward, myself and Aileen witnessed a situation with a young boy that I don’t think either of us could ever have imagined would happen, especially to a child. The boy had a severely infected thigh with osteomylitis (a very painful infection of the bone) and a small incision used for drainage of the leg of pus and fluids that build up. The very first day I was with him, without analgesic or local anaesthetic, the doctor attempted to drain the boys leg by squeezing the leg on either side of the incsion and was unsuccessful. The doctor then proceeded to stick his entire pinky finger into the boy’s incision in attempt to drain the fluid from it, which was also unsuccessful. Meanwhile, I am holding this boy, listening to his piercing scream of pain, and watching him in otherworldly pain.  Eventually the doctor gave the boy local anaesthetic but then immediately (without letting the anaesthetic kick in) put his finger in again and then ended up creating a second incision to allow the leg to drain. This final incision was thankfully successful, the boy’s leg was drained, and then bandaged. Thank goodness Aileen was with me during this experience because she had a certain strength that I didn’t at that moment. I needed a shoulder and she was there. 
This situation was just entirely shocking to me to the point that I felt like I could not comprehend what was going on. There were just so many things about it that just seemed completely wrong to me in every way especially with the involvement of a child. I do understand and recognize that there are many inequities in underdeveloped countries and with a lack of resources, staff, and supplies, certain situations we just have to let be what is. However, what I learned through this experience is that there is ALWAYS room for patient advocacy and comfort. The rest of the days I spent on the ward, I made it my mission to be with and comfort that boy through every dressing and drainage and to advocate strongly to the doctor for analgesia for him. I feel as though our voice was heard during our time on the unit but the hardest thing for me to accept is that boy will likely experience that pain many times over without analgesia or comfort. This is that feeling of extreme lows. 
On the upside… 🙂 By the end of the week, it was fantastic! Aileen and I made it our business to ensure that everyone on that ward, including parents, had some fun! So, we did some colouring, story times, and bubble blowing! It was so beautiful seeing smiles, hearing laughs, and seeing a community bonding together in less than happy times! One of the high highs during my pediatric experience was the day when Lauren, Aileen, Darien, and I taught two groups of 5yr olds at Limalunga school how to wash their hands and brush their teeth! It was a amazing day, especially when we did the hand washing activity and the kids saw glitter for first time 🙂 The day was just filled with giggles, smiles, games, reading, and generally awesome times! I almost think we had more fun playing with the kids than they did with us, but we all had lots of fun! 😛 
The week I experienced on pediatrics was one of incredible personal and professional growth. I feel as though I learned more than can be put into words and so much of which can be brought back to Canada with me into my personal life and nursing practice. It truly shaped my entire Africa experience and even though it was quite the week of roller coaster emotions, I’m so happy it happened especially with the group of ladies I am surrounded by. Special shout out to Mama Aileen 🙂 
– Caitlan S. 

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