Monday, 30 April 2012

29th April 2012

The Adventist hospital and Government hospital were playing against each other in a football match today. Despite the heat, we went along to cheer for whichever side was going to win. It was actually a very organised event – there’s a large stadium in Gimbie town, illustrating just how large the town actually is. As well as a range of refreshments (well actually some green oranges in a wheel barrow and goodness knows what kind of drink decanted into Mirinda bottles) they even had the equivalent of the Red Cross there, with a small tent and what looked like it might be an ambulance. For a moment, you could have closed your eyes and thought you were back in England enjoying the county show on a Sunday afternoon – OK, this really would have stretched the imagination a little far but there were some vague similarities… was Sunday afternoon at least.

By half time, no goals had been scored but we were provided with some interesting entertainment in the form of a display from the presumably local marshal arts school. They were really very good and I am pleased to say, there were some girls as well as boys in the group. The second half warmed up a bit ore and although the government hospital scored the first goal, the Gimbie Adventist hospital also managed to get a goal in before the whistle was blown.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

27th April 2012

After a largely uneventful journey back to Gimbie (the wheel skidding sensors seem to be a bit sensitive), we arrived back ‘home’ to one happy and one broody chicken. We settled into the routine of supper, a few glasses of wine and an episode of prison break. Thankfully, there are only 8 episodes to go as, although Jeremy looks forward to the viewings, I am getting rather bored and irritated by it.

Unfortunately, as I had feared, the 29-week baby didn’t survive, although the woman recovered from her liver disturbances and presumably, her high blood pressure. It’s very sad though as this was her 5th baby that hadn’t survived. I hope that her blood pressure will be managed in the community, although I have a horrible feeling that this may not be the case. I am beginning to feel that although we all aspire to do something that is sustainable, very few of us ever actually achieve this. When we are not there, things revert back.

The following day we had Jaba (now 6 months old and teething), who, by the way is getting rather podgy, and as usual, we entertained numerous visitors who arrived at the house.

26th April 2012

Having left Addis at 06.30, we find ourselves back here at 14.00. All was going well and I was just thinking about the lovely Indian meal we had the previous night – well, thinking that it was probably the last decent meal I would have for a while – when one of the car alarm lights appeared. An amber VSC TRC alarm flashed, accompanied by a high pitched sound, which thankfully stopped after a few minutes. The French written manual (you may recall that the car came from Belgium) seemed to suggest that there was one of 5 things that could be wrong but also seemed to suggest that it should be taken to an approved dealer. This is easier said than done. Puzzled by the problem, I was suspicious that the alarm had to relate to the fact that the garage in Addis had repaired the brakes and also carried out a service. So we phoned the garage, who claimed it had to be a ‘computer’ problem and suggested that we brought it back to be fixed over the next few days. Not happy with this suggestion – apart from anything else, Jeremy was due to operate in Gimbie tomorrow – I found a mechanic and asked him to check the car. He confirmed that it was safe to drive and that the brakes were fine. Having continued, with some reluctance, on our journey to Gimbie, we soon realised that this was the wrong decision. The car battery now seemed to be failing. So we turned around and headed back along the 2 hour journey to Addis.
The journey was really rather more eventful than I would have liked, with various car functions failing along the way. The battery continued to deteriorate and finally things like the windscreen wipers and windows and lights packed up. This was a little worrying as it started to pour with rain and vision became incredibly challenged. Still we continued – what choice do you have? – until we reached Addis. However, just as we were driving through, the car went into total failure and after several minutes of alarms and two rather anxious drivers, it came to a grinding halt. Luckily – yes, there’s always a luck side – we had a third battery in the car and were able to attach the jump leads (yes another stroke of luck) to the dead and alive battery. Having duck taped it all together and carefully balanced the bonnet on top of it all, we proceeded along the bumpy road to the garage.

It turns out that when the mechanics were doing the service or the brakes, they managed to disconnect the autonator, leaving us with a slowly dying battery that wasn’t being charged up. They re-attached it and then carried out a total electrical check of the car and for some reason also re-did the wheel bearings (I think these were a bit loose but to be honest I’m now out of my depth).

After many games of ‘bounce’ on my phone, we were finally given the all clear from the garage and we headed off to the Hilton as I decided to have a hair-cut. Well, Tony & Guy need to make an urgent trip out here. After being grunted at, I was taken to the wash room, where I expressed the need for hair conditioner. It appeared that this was translated to ‘no conditioner needed’ and so I was placed on the cutting chair with totally tangled hair. Having been returned to the wash basin for conditioning, I then met the hairdresser, who asked me how much he was to remove. He then proceeded to cut the required 4cm around the whole of my hair line, which to be honest would have been easier if he used a bucket. He protested about the different lengths of hair bit was not satisfied when I said that my hair was ‘shaped’ when cut in the UK. I was by now, thinking of the Tony & Guy experience back in the UK, where having a haircut is a totally enjoyable experience. Forget the offer of a cup of tea or even a glass of wine; I was lucky to have a word spoken to me. After cutting the 3cm round off, my hair was then attacked by 2 people, each with a hairdryer in hand. They managed to burn my scalp on a few occasions and then dry the entire moisture out of my hair. Having seen my head as a mop being scuffed along the floor, they proceeded to curl it under using a vicious metal rounded brush. I could hear the ends splitting at each tug through my hair. One side curled under but the other curled upwards – lovely look. The ‘pleasure’ of this haircut cost me 157 Birr (£6.00), which I guess is cheap enough but cannot be said to have been in any way a good experience.

22nd April 2012

Well, here we are back in Addis again! I’m pleased to say that the journey was not too bad and only took 9 hours as there had been a considerable rain storm last night and so the roads were not quite so dusty – just muddy instead. The car is being taken to the garage tomorrow to be ‘serviced’ and, more importantly, to have some brake discs and other rather important parts replaced. The roads here wreck the car and on the weekly inspection (not that I know what I am looking at), it is not uncommon to find that some bolt or another has been shaken off. Indeed, there was a rather important looking rod hanging down by the back wheel last week where the bolt had fallen out.
It’s a bit of a pain to have to take this break right now as I am in the middle of following up some of the women I have seen in the clinics. One woman, with a BP of 260/160 has just had an elective C-section as she was developing liver problems. The trouble is that the baby is just 29 weeks gestation and a bit growth retarded due to the high BP. Ideally, I would have liked to have been around to make sure that he receives good care and thus optimise his chances of survival. I worry that he won’t be kept warm and that the feeding regime will be a bit hit and miss. Talking of feeding, I was totally frustrated the other evening as yet again, the nurses had run out of baby milk, despite us sorting out a source of it from the hospital. All they have to do is to order it in advance but still they turn up at 10pm asking us for baby milk as they have run out. There is a 2-month old baby who should have gone to the orphanage but for some unknown reason, things have been delayed and so he remains in the ward being bottle-fed – when, that is, people remember to get him some milk.

Friday, 20 April 2012

20th April 2012

FINALLY, the internet is back on!!! Apparently, the fibre optic cable between Gimbie and Addis was broken (well, that’s what the word on the street was) and so we were ‘stranded’ for the best part of a couple of weeks. I think the phones were also playing up as we weren’t receiving text messages either. So, sorry to have ignored anyone. Hopefully, we’re back on full communication now.
 I’m pleased to report that I am much better now. I’ve no idea exactly what I had, but am guessing it was some odd viral illness. It lasted for several days and although it started with the worst unrelenting, 48 hour long headache I’ve ever had, it then left me with a cough that sounded worse than a 40-a-day smoker. Jeremy managed to escape it but there were a few other people here who fell ill as well.

 The trip to Lalibella and Gondor was great – we walked around all 11 rock hewn churches and since we were there for Easter week (it’s a week later here), we were exposed to endless praying in Geez. It was certainly very interesting and you have to be impressed with the level of praying that goes on within these Orthodox churches – they often start praying at 0500 am and go on until dark, which is when they are allowed to eat and drink. Even then, they only take ‘fasting’ food, which is basically food made without any animal products being used – this includes milk and butter. So basically, a diet of bread, injera, vegetables and shiro. This is practised for 50 days, leading up to Easter day, when there is an enormous feast after the final 10 hour or so prayer.

One of 11 rock hewn churches at Lalibella
A very long and steep walk to the monastry at Lalibella
All day prayers in the Lalibella churches
St Georges church at Lalibella - the last one to be built
Whilst we were in Gondor, we managed to get to the Simian mountains, where we walked for a couple of hours amidst really quite amazingly dramatic mountains. Apparently, you can walk across the mountains from Gondor to Lalibella, reaching a height of around 4500 metres at one point. This takes 17 days and isn’t something that I’m considering doing. As some of you will know, I’m not good at heights.

Castle at Gondor
Baths at Gondor
Waiting for sunset at the Goha hotel
Simian Mountains

Simian Mountains

Having enjoyed our holiday and dropped Hannah back in Addis to catch her flight back to London, I returned back to work at the health centres with a fresh approach – probably also managed to put back on a few pounds, which was just as well as I was beginning to look like a small Ethiopian child. I had a pretty amazing day at Ganjii, with 2 women being found to be very hypertensive and in need of treatment (one had a BP of 260/160 and the other 165/120). There was also a woman who was pregnant with twins, although she wasn’t too pleased when I told her this. Then a woman arrived at the clinic door, having walked for about 40 minutes from home whilst in labour. Apparently, her family had gone back to work/school and she started labour. She remembered being told at the clinics I run that she should come to the health centre to deliver and so she set off on foot to do just that. She arrived looking a little sweaty but managed to get onto the very wobbly couch that I use for scanning women. As she was pushing down, I thought I better have a look to see what was going on and was just in time to see a baby’s head appearing. I have to say at this point that I am not a midwife and delivering babies is not part of my repertoire. Unfortunately, the 2 medical students who were with me for the day were also feeling a little out of their depth and the alleged ‘midwife’ who works at the health centre had disappeared – I am convinced that he didn’t have a clue what to do and so ran as fast as he could. So there we were, 3 English novices and an Ethiopian woman who had come to receive help from us. The delivery room was locked (apparently because they want to keep the equipment safe) and the only equipment that we had was some gloves, which is standard equipment that most of us carry. The gloves went on and I remembered being told that you just have to wait for the head to turn and then the baby can be pulled out. The head turned, a few little tugs and out came a healthy looking baby girl. A few gentle taps on the back and she let out a fairly loud cry and the plug of mucus largely dislodged, allowing her to breath a little more easily.

End result; both mother and baby well, 3 rather bemused faranjis, and a missing midwife.

Quickest delivery I've ever seen
It was a very long day and we didn’t manage to leave for our 2 hour journey home until 4pm. However, as I was backing out of the health centre, which, by the way is at the top of a steep hill, the brakes on the car failed. I managed to stop us from totally sliding down the hill by using the hand brake and getting the car across the ‘road/dirt track’ rather than heading straight down. Then I had a very nerve-wracking 2 hour drive back to Gimbie with little in the way of ability to stop. This was all made more hazardous by numerous cows and donkeys simply walking out in front of the car. If you kill a cow, you have to pay at least 8 or 9000 Birr. Mind you, if you hit and kill a person, you go to prison – not a nice prospect, especially as Jeremy has been forcing me to watch endless episodes of prison break, where the Mexican prison is a fate worse than death and I think it may be similar to prison life here.

On a more cheery note, the boys are here at the moment watching Bee movie – this seems to be going down well, although I’m not sure quite what they are making of the talking bees. Whilst it is nice to see them enjoying themselves, I do wish their feet didn’t smell quite so badly. Everyone takes their shoes off on entrance to a house; largely because the ground outside is pretty dirty and you really don’t know quite what you may have stepped in. However, I think I would prefer the dirt from the ground to the smell that lingers for several hours after they have left.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

7th April 2012

Sorry not to have blogged for a while but it has been busy – I know it seems hard to believe but really, time flies here. I think it’s because everything takes so very long to get done. This must have been what it was like before we had all the machines to help with every aspect of life.

Anyway, things have been going well. I go out regularly to the clinics and am now considered to be something of a local. People recognise the car coming along and then women come to the clinics to be seen. I’m not sure whether it’s because I am actually doing something that they value of whether it is the belief that being seen by a faranji has to be a good thing. It’s possibly a mixture of the two, but I am hoping that the latter is less of an important factor as it suggests that things won’t continue once I leave here. Part of the work I am doing will look at this so perhaps I will understand it all more in time.

We are currently in Addis as we are off to Gondor and Lallibella to be tourists – this is the first time that we have actually been tourists here so it should be fun.

I have been rather ill over the past few days and for a while, I was concerned that I might have malaria – simply because I felt so very rough. I got Jeremy to take some blood and it came back negative for malaria so all is fine, but I have to say, it was a very nasty virus that left me feeling totally washed out and weak. So now one more kilo lost ….but time to eat loads of food on our trip.
I'm going to rely on pictures for the rest of this blog as I need to go out soon for supper.....
 The car journey to Gimbie is full of hazards, especially when you travel on markey day.

Being Easter (well, one week later here), there are lots of chickens for sale along the roads.

Hannah has been teaching in this elementary school. It's a very poor region and there are many challenges, not least of all, the fact that the teachers seem to spend more time outside of the classroom rather than inside where the children are.

This lady's grandchildren were at the school and she was collecting water from the stream at the end of the school.

Two boys were chasing monkeys with a spear. One of them wasn't looking where he was going and stuck the spear in his friend. All well in the end though as thankfully, his heart and liver were not damaged and so the spear was removed. Guess they won't do that again.....or will they?!?!?

In addition to carrying the children everywhere, women have to carry bundles of wood on their back - it often weighs 35Kg plus.

If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll remember the twins who were born in hospital and then I took them home when I was going to the clinic. I visited them a few days ago, only to find that the whole village had arrived to greet the faranji who came to ganji. It was lovely but really quite strange to be surrounded by so many people. there must have been around 50 peopl crammed in and around quite a small house.