|Tool of the trade|
After hearing of my exotic adventures in foreign health care, Jason’s subconscious thought it might be fun to go find some kangaroos, too. Luckily for him, his body had other intentions.
|The weapon and victim|
On Good Friday, we had a lovely picnic on the beach with Jason’s family. We went snorkeling and Jason got to try spearfishing for a bit. He didn’t catch anything because he was too noisy, though he says it was because the rope was too short. (The spearfishing is done with a “gun.” The harpoon has a rope attached so when the fish gets speared, it doesn’t swim off with the harpoon. The rope is about 9 feet long, which is the distance the elastic or spring mechanism can shoot underwater with accuracy and force. Jason would like it pointed out that the gun he was using was shorter than 9 feet and the man who’s gun it was also didn’t catch anything. I think his manhood is hurting. Now he is glaring at me.)
As we were getting ready to head back to Melsisi, Jason decided to make a potty run and feed the cats while he was at the house. We hadn’t been home in a day and we weren’t planning on coming back that night, so we gave the cats some tin tuna. It keeps them happy, though they are such good hunters they don’t really need the supplemental food we give them.
While opening the tuna can, Jason cut his left index finger. He didn’t think much of it then, he just rinsed it out quick and stuck some cotton balls and tape on to staunch the bleeding and got back down to the boat. We were already running late.
We went through the rest of our day without any further incidents. Jason’s hand was thoroughly taped up, so I didn’t give it a second thought. It got to be bed time and I went to go shower. I came back from the shower to find Jason sitting on the front step saying, “uh oh” and looking pale. I asked him what was wrong and he looked away before showing me his hand. Please keep in mind, I just got out of the shower, which means I am holding a sarong around myself with one hand and my towel in the other. I was not in a state to deal with a large, fainting man or blood.
I told him to apply pressure and stop thinking about it until I got some clothes on. He did that and I got dressed. Then I took a proper look at his hand. The cut ran from one side to the other and looked pretty deep. No bone showing and only a little bit of fatty flesh I could see, but there was blood still coming out. That probably wasn’t helped by him pulling the cotton balls off.
Jason is not a squeamish person. He wouldn’t survive living with me if he were. He isn’t squicked out by poop, menstration, vomit, or any other gross things. However, he is very, very firmly convinced that his blood belongs inside his body. He is in fact, so convinced of this that he has fainted when giving three vials of blood for tests. The blood coming out of his finger really didn’t sit well with him.
While he stuck his head between his knees, I tried to figure out how I was going to get it cleaned up and whether or not I needed to call the Medical Officers. Jason being woozy finally convinced me to call. I put him in the shower to rinse off everything except his hand and went to call. I couldn’t get through, because our reception is that great.
I pretty much bathed Jason, because he was holding onto the wall. I tried the Medical Officers again and didn’t get through. This was Friday evening, which meant that if Jason was going to get Medevaced, he would be going on the Saturday morning flight. I knew I needed to get through to them, but I also wanted to get the cut cleaned and dressed.
For the sake of not trying to pry him off the floor, I decided cleaning and dressing first. Jason has lost a lot of weight here, but he is still a big guy and I didn’t want to try to move him if he fainted. As soon as I unwrapped the bandages again, he started complaining of dizziness, light-headedness and general fainting symptoms. I gave up.
I soaked three cotton balls in iodine, unwrapped his hand, put the cotton balls on and covered it in gauze and tape. It applied cleaning solution and he didn’t faint. I figured I’d either clean it better in the morning or he’d be heading to Vila where they could find someone his size to hold him up.
I did finally get through to our Medical Officer, who decided that since he had sensation and movement, he could stay on Pentecost. She put him on antibiotics, because things grow at a really impressive rate and told him to call in the morning after I’d re-dressed it.
The next morning, he did much better. There was less blood involved, which helped. We got it thoroughly rinsed with iodine and held shut with steristrips. Those things are awesome. Now, a little over a week later, he is wearing only a bandaid and not complaining of any pain.
Part of my struggle with this experience of being medevaced has been the ridiculousness of it. The cut is superficial. The damage is to a very small part of my nervous system, and it isn’t even a really necessary part. The back of the thumb is not nearly as important as the front.
I do understand that the risk of serious damage from infection is there and that Pentecost is not the place to avoid infection. I understand that nerve damage is not to be scoffed at and it could get worse without treatment. I didn’t say it was useless, just that I feel dumb.
Part of that feeling of dumb comes from a sort of shame or guilt about receiving this level of care. What have I done to deserve this? The only reason I have this is because I was lucky enough to be born to middle-class American parents.
I know that no Ni-Van would get this kind of care. No one on Pentecost would be flown out to Vila on a chartered flight and then sent to Australia for surgery. These are the people I live with, this is my community, yet they would never expect the kind of treatment I’ve been receiving here. When one of the men in the next village over broke his leg on New Year’s Day, he was left at the Health Center until the next flight came and then sent to Vila where he is staying with friends until he can walk again. This is not the same caliber of care.
My struggle here is multi-faceted. Part of it is guilt about having access to high-quality care. Part of it is frustration that I have pulled myself out of my community and proved that I am not one of them when I have been trying so hard to be one of them. Part of it is shame that I did this, that I called, that I asked for help even if it was appropriate. Part of it is shame that it is so minor a thing that is having such an explosion of expense and activity. Part of it is shame that I am taking Peace Corps funds away from more useful things and spending them on something I shouldn’t have done in the first place.
Behind all of that mess, is a building rage, too. Yes, I am receiving top of the line care. But shouldn’t this be the standard across the world? Not the first world, not the lucky few who can pay for it, but rather shouldn’t this be an option for anyone any time this sort of thing happens? Isn’t this “appropriate care” that we talk about as being the lowest level of what everyone is entitled to?
I don’t think I should feel shame for having access. I think this level of access should be every baby’s birthright.
|This was a good place|
I did eventually get free of the hospital in Brisbane. It took a long time. Once I got my freedom, I went exploring. I left at 11:30. I got to the hotel around 8. I didn’t stop moving through those eight and a half hours.
|I’m holding a koala.
My life has these moments of AWESOME!
|These guys were pretty lively,
the rest of them were all asleep.
|And then they peed on me.
Pretty though, aren’t they?
I finally had surgery. They came to get me around 3 today. I was down in the surgical unit until 7. I missed dinner which was really too bad since I was damn hungry.
I more or less have a functional brain again. Despite repeatedly trying to get a local anesthetic with a nerve block, I ended up under general anesthesia. I was out for about 3 hours. When I woke up, I confused the nurse. I wasn’t speaking English.
I was speaking Bislama.
I think I’ve learned the language pretty well.
This is short because my hand hurts and typing is both difficult and a little painful. As far as I know, they cut open my hand, looked at the nerve, decided it wasn’t damaged, cleaned it out and sewed it back up. I still have no sensation on my thumb. I’m a bit concerned.
I’m still on IV antibiotics. I’m really thirsty and my throat hurts. Stupid anesthesia.
|Sorry it is sideways.
But this is my fashion statement.
Around 10:30 pm Saturday night, I woke up completely when they told my neighbor they’d be closing the ward and we were all moving. I put my things back in my bag and fell back asleep until they came to move me. That ward was a six-bed room with three men, two women and me. My cubicle didn’t have a curtain, my neighbor was using it to double block his cubicle. My neighbor was also a bouncer, used to bouncer’s hours with bouncer friends who also keep bouncer’s hours. They were talking while I was trying to sleep. (It was probably like 8:30 at night, really.)
|Dinner. Not appetizing.|
|There were lots of signs, that one is above the bus station|