Friday, May 31, 2019


‘Depuis, docteur !’
I cringe. It’s such a simple word. Depuis. It best translates as ‘since’. And I absolutely loathe the word. Hearing ‘depuis’ makes my fists clench.
Every time I hear it, it’s carrying a sentiment of malcontentedness. ‘Je suis malade depuis, docteur !’ Doctor, I’ve been sick since!
I couldn’t really makes sense of it at first, using it’s typical translation, but then quickly realized depuis simply means ‘for a long time’ here in Tchad. I used to try to clarify. Depuis an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, since birth? Nope, just depuis. I doubt this is it’s proper usage in France, but it’s undoubtedly it’s most consistent employ in Tchad.
But there’s a particular instance that has grown over the years from being a simple nuisance to positively making my blood boil.
‘Je suis là depuis !’ I’ve been here since ! The implication is, I’ve been waiting for you a very long time and you clearly aren’t doing a good job at satisfying my needs. Perhaps I take it a bit more personally than I should.
And the most common instance is going home at night, walking out of the operating room with a wife who is exhausted. ‘Docteur, j’attends la chirurgie depuis !’ Doctor, I’ve been waiting for my surgery since!
My weary wife manages a smile and an apology and tries to get home to her children before they fall asleep. But they stop her with all their complaints. She tries to listen to their stories. She tries to make sure nobody is an emergency. She tries to be compassionate.
I’m tired. I don’t try anymore.
‘Mais vous êtes là depuis quand ?’ You’re here since when?
‘Depuis, docteur !’ Since, doctor!
‘Depuis quand précisément ?’ Since when, exactly?
‘Depuis le matin.’ Since this morning.
‘Et vous êtes venu à l’hôpital pourquoi ?’ And why are you at the hospital?
‘Pour la chirurgie !’ For surgery!
‘C’est claire. Mais quelle maladie précisément ?’ Clearly. But what surgery precisely? ‘Pour l’hernie.’ For my hernia.
‘Et vous aviez l’hernie depuis quand ?’ And how long have you had this hernia? ‘Depuis des années !’ For years!
 I look in the computer. He literally just paid for his surgery an hour ago.
‘So lemme get this straight... you’ve had a hernia for years and you just arrived to the hospital this morning and just paid for your surgery this evening and you feel my wife should operate on you today?’
‘It’s 8pm.’
‘But you don’t think the surgeon should be able to go home until she operates on the problem you’ve had for years and just paid for this evening?’
‘So what time should she be able to go home?’
‘Maybe midnight.’ These are very real conversations I’ve had with patients.
And I want to scream. I want to grab these patients by the neck and shake them, but I’ve been told that’s not really culturally-appropriate in this particular corner of Chad.
And instead of my voice screaming, my brain screams.
‘Do you know my wife has been in the hospital depuis 5am, when she got called up for a Cesarean?’
‘Do you know my wife operates over 1000 cases per year, more than anybody else in the country?’
‘Do you know my wife hasn’t eaten depuis yesterday, since she’s effectively given up on breakfast since her first pregnancy ten years ago?’
‘Do you know my wife hasn’t peed depuis yesterday?’
‘Do you know my wife probably hasn’t had anything to drink depuis yesterday, unless she
remembered to stick her head under the faucet?’
‘Do you know my wife hasn’t seen her children depuis yesterday morning, since she got home last night after they were asleep and she left this morning while they were still dreaming?’
‘Do you know we’ve been in Tchad now depuis over eight years, being on call 24/7?’ ‘Do you know we haven’t been paid a local salary depuis ten months?’
‘Do you know we haven’t seen our extended family depuis?’
‘Do you know we haven’t been able to work in a *real* hospital depuis because we’ve been here trying our best to help over a hundred thousand patients in the last eight years?’

 ‘Do you know patients have come from all surrounding countries for surgery because they’ve heard of our excellence and there’s a waitlist of 30 patients for surgery? Do you have any reason for me why your years-old hernia should take priority over the others?’
The patient senses my brain screaming and tries to make his case more evident.
‘Mais docteur. Je souffre !’ But doctor, I’m suffering!
‘Your hernia is not strangulated or incarcerated. Why are you suffering? Is your suffering any more than it’s been for years? See that guy over there with the *fill in the blank drastically more painful surgical illness* awaiting surgery? Are you suffering more than he is?’
‘Mais docteur. Je viens de loin !’ But doctor, I come from far! Oh don’t get me started on ‘loin’.
‘Farther than me?’
‘Well, no.’
‘So you really want a surgeon who’s been operating for fifteen hours solid, who hasn’t eaten in 24 hours or taken so much as a pee break, to be operating on your chronic problem?’
‘Ok, then your ability to think rationally is seriously impaired and I’m ending this conversation
and walking past you to my house. Demain.’ Tomorrow. ‘Demain ?’ Tomorrow?
‘Inshallah.’ If God wills it.
And with that I go home, holding my tired wife’s amazingly-talented hand in mine. That hand which has healed thousands upon thousands. That hand which intuitively knows where to cut, what to tie, what to... do surgeryish kinda stuff.
And while walking home in fatigued silence, my brain reflects on these impatient Tchadians. And how maybe they aren’t just impatient Tchadians, but impatient humans. And maybe, just maybe, I’m still human too.
‘God, we’ve been here depuis! When will you call us somewhere else?’
‘God, we’ve been waiting for our replacements depuis!’
‘God, we haven’t been paid depuis! What will we do?’
‘God, I’ve been trying to homeschool my kids depuis! Can’t you grant me a few days without hourly knocks on the door throwing off our schedule?’
‘God, our hospital has been disastrous depuis, despite our very best! When will You come and sort out all our nursing and administrative and legal issues?’
‘God, the local authorities have been harassing me depuis! When will they learn I’m only here to help?’

‘God, everybody has been saying we are here for the money depuis! Won’t you come and show them the truth?’
‘God... depuis. I’m just tired. Where’s the respite you promised me?’
As if God takes vacation. As if God forgets. As if God gets tired. As if God has no plan for us. As if my depuis, measured in weeks and months and years, is His depuis, He who is infinite. We’ve put Him to the test over and over again. And He answers. In His own time. In His own way. Showing us He’s been behind things all along. In control. It’s no longer our worry.
We’re still tired. We’re still frustrated. We’re still burned out. But maybe just a hair less so. Because in my frustrations and fatigues of the day, I was reminded... My God has loved me depuis.