Surgery in a First World Country

First I’d like to thank all of you who prayed for me this past Friday while I was in the hospital for umbilical hernia surgery repair.  I went in a 12:30 pm expecting to be taken back for surgery around 2 pm.  Unfortunately the dr. has some “complications” with his first 3 patients of the day which put him about 6 hours behind schedule.  I must admit I didn’t mind too much.  I enjoyed some “me” time while I sat/laid in the not-so-comfortable hospital bed.  I watched a little tv, studied some Jula, read a book, and dozed.

I finally was wheeled back to my next stop along the way to the operating room.  Here they put in my IV, asked more questions, and I got to meet the anaesthesiologist.  I was shocked at the quality of a US hospital.  After being in Africa for 6 years (and not having been in a US hospital since 2004), it’s easy to get used to life over there.  I was flabbergasted when the LPN warned me about a “bee sting” shot he was gonna give me BEFORE sticking me with the IV needle.  The goal was to numb my hand so I wouldn’t feel the pain of the larger needle.  WHAT?!  My mind immediately flew back to the clinic in Ouagadougou where the sweet nurse was trying to get the IV taped down onto JJ’s hand.  I remember cringing as I watched the needle jostle around in his vein, almost coming out several times.  I prayed that she wouldn’t have to stick him again and make him go through that pain all over.  I politely asked if I could help.  The poor quality of tape she was using kept sticking to her rubber gloves, preventing her from doing her job.  I was very thankful that she didn’t mind the help and we tag-teamed that IV together!

I was also shocked at how much information the doctors and nurses were willing to impart.  In Africa I’m used to the “cliff note” responses which subliminally mean, “Mind your own business!”.  My experience here was so different.  They all but drew a diagram of my procedure, explaining in detail what was going to happen.  The dr. reassured me over and over again that he was gonna “take care of me” and that “everything would be alright”.  Even though my trust was first and foremost in God, the doctor’s confidence was relieving.

There are so many differences I could talk about…but I’ll only list one more.  Massaging leg warmers people!  Oh the bliss.  I wanted to take those babies home!  When the RN told me they would be massaging my legs during surgery, my response was:  “I won’t say no to a massage!”  He quickly reminded me that it was just on my legs.  Hey…I’ll take whatever I can get!  The goal was to prevent blood clots during surgery.  I was astonished.  And I got to keep them on all the way through recovery until I was discharged.  Amazing!

I was so overwhelmed by the care and concern shown to me that I almost cried.  That would’ve been so strange to the nurses there because they haven’t seen the alternative.  They haven’t been where I’ve been.  I wanted to scoop them all up and drop them in our village.  I wanted to give them just a glimpse of the realities of life in West Africa.  After my surgery my heart was divided.  I was thankful for the privilege of growing up in the USA and having the option of health care here when we’re home.  But I was also sad.  Sad for those who die from a lack of medicine and technology.  Sad for those who will never see concern in the eyes of a health care worker, telling them their life matters.

Oh God…help us be grateful and teach us how to love.