Dr. Sawyer Serving with Samaritan's Purse

Dr. Sawyer Serving with Samaritan's Purse
Papua New Guinea

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Patient Patients

Togolese people have to be the most patient people, exhibiting patience rarely seen.  These patients will show up at the hospital at 6 o'clock in the morning and wait all day to see the doctor.  My day would start with rounds at 7 AM followed by surgeries sometimes filling the morning.  In between surgeries I would run over to the radiology department to do a hysterosalpingogram on an infertility patient to see if her tubes are open, then return to the operating room.  Often it would then be time for lunch, followed by ultrasound clinic starting at 1 PM and then I would finally get over to the gynecology clinic around 3 PM where the patient patients had been waiting all day to see me.  They would just be lined up on the benches outside of my room, which was room 9.

There was never ever a hint of anyone being frustrated about waiting all day to see me.  Often it was me that was feeling frustrated by a stack of charts, each representing a patient along with their family and translator sitting outside of my door.

Inside the clinic room the following scene would unfold, with Sylvie (my medical assistant and translator) translating my history from English to French and then another translator translating from French to the patients' heart language.  Fortunately much of the history had already been recorded in the paper chart, but sometimes even these notes were in English rather than French.

Word had gotten out prior to my arrival that the specialist gynecologist was coming to the Hospital of Hope.  One common problem here was the result of these women having so many babies.  The pelvic floor prolapse problems were the worst that I have ever seen.  Many women came into the clinic with their genitals completely inverted inside out.

It seems that once I did the surgery to fix the first two of these, then the word really got out.  On the last clinic Friday that I was serving in Togo, a woman came to the clinic begging to see me.  She managed to first get in to see the pediatrician and explained that she had been to the government hospital nearby and had some type of prolapse surgery three years ago.

Dr. Kelley Faber, the pediatrician, sent her immediately over to my clinic room and was the next to last patient to see me in my clinic that last Friday.  When I examined her I realized why Dr. Faber had referred her urgently to me.  This patient also had a complete genital prolapse, with her insides hanging out.

I knew that elective surgeries were not done on weekends, but I was not scheduled to leave until Monday morning.  I wondered if there was some way that I could schedule her for Saturday morning, the next day.  I spoke with the physician's assistant in charge of the hospital "Doctor" Todd DeKryger.  He made some phone calls and got the permission of everyone so that this patient would not have to wait until the next gynecologist came along.

We put her on the schedule for Saturday morning, and I did the surgery in about 90 minutes, doing a vaginal hysterectomy along with a surgery that tacks everything back up inside to a ligament called the sacrospinous ligament.  The surgery went beautifully, and when I saw this patient on Sunday morning before I went to a French speaking church service, she was all smiles and incredibly grateful.

As I reflect on my time at the hospital, I am still amazed at the degree of patience that these patients exhibited, without any tempers flaring.  Their patience was only surpassed by their gratitude.  I was humbled by both.

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