Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Toilet Seat


‘What is WRONG with these people?!?!?!’

Who doesn’t have a toilet seat? Why would somebody not take the very simple measure to install a toilet seat, so they can enjoy a creature comfort?

So we ask Jessica, our first volunteer to really ‘belong’ to us and not our predecessor, to bring us a toilet seat from America, since they weren’t able to be acquired in-country.

A week or so later, we have a toilet seat!

As we luxuriate in our frivolity, we recall the toilet in the back of our house, the guest quarters, also lacks a toilet seat. So why not ask my aunt and uncle to bring another one with them, so they can also appreciate tushy-delight? They oblige.

This is just one example of the myriad scenarios that left us shaking our heads, wondering, ‘What were James and Sarah thinking???’

James and Sarah were here for seven years before our arrival. Before we came, even from America, I would hear stories of how they had changed Bere from a run-down chicken coop into a fully-functioning and nationally-renowned hospital. But all I saw was the busted stuff!

At one point, I stepped back and looked at old pictures and listened to the local stories about what Bere Adventist Hospital actually was ‘back in the day.’

It’s impressive.

New wards were built, people were trained, reputations were elevated, etc. But they clearly had been here too long. They were willing to accept toilets without seats!!!

Well, well, well. The times they were a-changin’. We installed toilet seats. We improved this place drastically. No more toleration for frozen fannies.

Never mind nurses didn’t show up for work, or work when they did show up for that matter. Never mind we ran a tiny freezer chest on a timer to keep it forty degrees. Never mind we had chicken wire poking up through our counter top. Never mind there was no tub or hot water. Never mind our water ran out and our generator was off frequently.

We had plush seats for our keisters. 

Fast forward nine years.

We have fresh meat. Six new people with which to share our blessings and challenges. Diana, Sarah, Gabriel, Staci, Megan, Andrew… we can even toss in Elijah and Adelaide. Gone are the days of the family business, with Rollin and Dolores. Even down at the airport, we’ve had a bit of a changing of the guard. Gary and Wendy are long gone. Keith and Tammy and team have arrived. Only Jonathan and Melody are of our vintage.

To us, of course, the old days don’t seem so long ago.

But I think this new team has identified some ‘toilet seats’ of their own.

I can see James and Sarah now, faces cradled in their palms and eyes rolling, as they marvel at our inability to function without a 2-inch wide resting place for our bums instead of the standard single inch.

It would seem our new team has some hangups. They are so needy and high-maintenance. They insist on things like ‘electricity’ and ‘water’ in order to provide adequate care to patients. They get all whiny every time they need to repair a perforated gastric ulcer by dying headlamp, or deliver a baby by candlelight, or go eight days without water for a shower, or don’t have water to drink in the African heat, or can’t bathe their baby and keep them mosquito free and comfortable, or can’t perform an ultrasound on a pelvic mass, or can’t get laboratory testing, or can’t order medications, or… you see where I’m going? This new generation is just plain soft.

They also seem genuinely befuddled on why I insist on push-starting our car every time. Having a busted starter is a fantastic anti-theft device! Or why another couple cars haven’t worked in months to years. Or motorcycles. Or…

We simply take public transit if we must. Or we set up the tent and hammock in the back yard and sleep out there. Or light candles. Why fix stuff? We remember the old days when we didn’t have a toilet seat!

We just went through a week and half with essentially no electricity. It was frankly dangerous for the patients, not to mention lost income and lost reputation for the hospital.

And it was the right thing to do for the newbies to get frustrated, even angry. It was an unfortunate series of events and oversights that led to all three generators breaking down at the same time, something that should never happen. But it did. And our newbies were capable of both rolling with the punches and surviving, but also getting downright righteously indignant that the scenario would come to pass, and resolute it would never happen again.

We have such a great team now, a team able to see all our missing toilet seats, amenities normal to any remotely-modern hospital, but lacking here, and things we have grown accustomed to living without. This is the team to take the hospital to the next level. This is the team that will put lovely seats on all the barren rims.

And from where I type, although I can assure you my literal bum is quite well supported at the moment and my legs are not numb at all… it’s my figurative bum getting all worked up over the figurative seats this team will put on all our figurative toilets. It will be awesome. 

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