The Hospital of Hope is the Mayo Clinic of the northern part of Togo, serving people throughout this region, including Togo, Burkino Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigera and beyond. As many as 28 languages are spoken daily at the hospital, requiring an entire department of translators. The translators seem at times to be in bigger demand than the doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.
The challenges of communicating can sometimes be more demanding than the art of medicine. As my nurse and physician colleages can see on this vital sign temperature graph, the diagnosis could be a bacterial infection, or a viral infection, or perhaps a parasitic infection. Well, in this case it is all three. Post op infection plus malaria plus chicken pox. And yet, because of language barriers, I am completely dependent on the nursing staff to communicate with this patient, because the only gestures she understands from me is the smile on my face, perhaps a nod, and a gentle touch.
Although lately it seems as if the diagnosis is always either just malaria or malaria plus pregnancy or malaria plus pneumonia. Even though we are in the dry season and malaria is "less" common now than during the rainy season, it seems that we are treating malaria on nearly every patient. I actually thought I was getting pretty good at diagnosing malaria until one of my surgeon colleagues here laughed out loud and remarked, "that's because everyone has malaria." My ego was quickly deflated with the realization that he was absolutely correct.
This reality reminded me of when a Chick-fil-a restaurant recently was opening near our home at 59th Avenue and Thunderbird Road in Glendale, Arizona, and they announced that the first 100 people through the door on opening day would receive free Chick-fil-a for a year. People started camping out for two or three days before the restaurant opened. But that is a restaurant and not a hospital. But as word of the excellence of this hospital spreads across the region, people are coming to the hospital in buses and vans and bring dropped off in front of the hospital in hopes that they can be seen by a doctor here. The needs are overwhelming.
We just continue to see patients; caring for the patient that is in front of us at the moment; loving them and serving them. We strive to bring not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual healing as well. We treat the whole patient and not just their physical needs. Often these appointments end in tears, not only for the patient and their family or friends, but often also for our own team members. No tears were held back recently when a young child had lost it's mother due to an acute viral syndrome, leaving this child without a source of breast milk, and the challenges that such a problem creates in a society such as this. This was a difficult situation to fathom, and struck a blow to the hearts of the health care team members caring for this young mother and her baby.
Behind me in this last picture is the "waiting area" by the front gate of the hospital where people camp out for days waiting for their chance to be seen.
This is the front entrance of the hospital. The patient waiting area is behind me to the right. This is a dry and dusty place during the dry season, and then green and muddy during the rainy season. It has been my pleasure to serve here and to try to bring health and healing to these people and to serve my colleagues who work here full time.
In just a few short weeks I will be returning home to my family. It has been difficult being away from them for the past month, and I still have a few more weeks to go. However, I have cherished the opportunity to serve here for this season, and pray that I have served here well.