Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Welcome Home 2.0
After being away for four months (Danae and kids, nearly three months for me), we were ready to get back to the grindstone. And to get home. While we always appreciate our time in American civilization, we are similarly eager and ready to get back.
Four A.M. wake up call and getting on the road pre-dawn to head out the airport, our kids were their normal semi-nervous bundles of energy. We had the normal 24 hours of flying uneventfully and even had a stress-free passage through immigration (last ones through, literally, as per our usual). And as usual, the porters had already collected all our bags and were waiting for us.
As a bit of a surprise, we saw James at the airport! He had even arranged lodging for us at Guinebor hospital. That was nice of him! And he and Sarah fed us too!
Then James and I went to our AHI meeting, which started at 6pm. We do these meetings rarely, so there’s usually quite a bit of ground to cover. It really went about as well as could have been expected, but didn’t finish until after 11pm. The same day after I walked off a 24-hour set of flights that morning. Welcome home.
The next day we caught the air-conditioned bus to Kelo. All went well at the beginning. Then a couple hours in, we had a flat. Jacked up the bus. Dropped the spare tire out. Changed tires. Back on the road. Welcome home.
We arrived to Bongor finally with not too much hassle. Fortunately the police at the checkpoints seemed about as engaged as valley girls at a spelling bee, which always makes it easier on us. But once in Bongor, the bus company decided the bus wasn’t behaving appropriately and we needed to get on another bus. Welcome home.
Not to worry, they said. They had already called for another bus from N’Djamena to come pick us up. Well, quite a while later, the bus showed up. Just one problem. It was already full of people. Well, not Tchad-full. Somehow, we managed to squeeze 14 of our bags under the bus and three more bags inside and found a few seats and settled in, combining our busload with the pre-existing one. Welcome home.
After a few more hours of bone-crushing potholes big enough to hide a small elephant herd, we pulled into Kelo and met Rollin and Dolores, who had been waiting patiently for us for hours. Amazingly, all our bags were still with us. We strapped them down and drove home and got in about twelve hours after leaving N’Djamena. Welcome home.
Things went smoothly until Danae started shivering violently in the middle of the night, five days after landing in the country. It’s cold season, but rigors aren’t normal under a half dozen layers. I took her temperature and it was 102.4, which somebody once taught me in medical school is abnormal. So we did what we do. We put her on malaria treatment. Strange after just five days, but not unheard of. Welcome home.
Then a few days later, right after lunch, Zane decided to throw up. An hour later, while cutting a mass out of a man’s forehead, one of our volunteers doubled over and started tossing her cookies. I didn’t feel so hot, so I went home and found Zane passed out on the couch. Our cook had cloistered himself up in our second bathroom for a significant period of time. I hoped he was still alive. Our gardener was outside fertilizing our garden, but was doing it personally. From her mouth. An hour after that, Rollin started violently upchucking while ripping out a man’s prostate. I’ve been told patients don’t find it comforting when their surgeon blows chunks during a case, but I’ve never been in that position, so I can’t be sure. Rollin collected himself and, being the proud warrior he is, carried on. Then found himself vomiting again. I wasn’t present myself, but I was assured none of the emesis made its way into the open abdomen. No, I wasn’t present because, at that very moment, I was sitting at home with passed-out Zane. Well, Zane came to, stood up, walked halfway across the living room, pulled down his pants, and proceeded to let fly on the rug. ‘Came to’ might be an exaggeration. The poor kid was really still asleep. ‘Zane! That’s not the toilet! We don’t pee on the rug! Wake up!’ He gave me a blank stare. Lights on, nobody home. To his credit, however, he was able to manage to cut himself off midstream. Urinatus interruptus. I carried him to the toilet where he finished his business. That night, around 1am, Lyol came in to inform me he had barfed in his bed. I undressed him, showered him, put sheets on the couch for him, then took the sheets and pillow cases off his bed, threw them outside, and made a mental note to increase our laundry lady’s salary from $1.60/day to maybe $1.70/day, a mental note I’ve since forgotten. At that very moment, another volunteer was vomiting in the house next to us. Pretty much everybody ralphed. The next day, we threw away those beans. Welcome home.