Getting Situated

7/5/12

I just got back from the municipal hospital. Today was short since it was our first day and we’re still getting adjusted to the time difference, the heat, the food… pretty much just being in a developing country on the other side of the world.

Alicia and I spent our time today in the pediatrics ward at the municipal hospital. (There are two hospitals in Ho, the municipal hospital and the regional hospital.) It was surprising at first to see such a stark difference between the hospital here and our hospitals back home. A large portion of the hospital is outdoors, covered merely by an awning. The wards, which are all indoors, held just the bare minimum needed for medical procedures. It was heartbreaking to see the kids just lying there in these beds that look like cages.

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The supply room at the pediatrics ward

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An example of the beds in the pediatrics ward

There was a baby with malnutrition (just born 3 weeks ago) that was so so tiny, I thought it was going to whither away. He was legitimately all skin and bones. At first, he couldnt even cry, but in the few hours we were there, with the help of some calorie rich baby formula and love from his mother, he started getting visibly better.

There weren’t many mothers or kids there that spoke English, but I chatted with one for awhile that did. She was 20 years old and was there with her second kid, a girl that had had malaria but was doing much better now. It was crazy to hear about her life and compare how different our worlds are. I can’t even imagine having 2 kids (one with malaria), no husband, no health insurance and no money to pay the hospital bill. And despite all this, she was happy and full of life.

It’s hard to bond with the patients when we can’t communicate, since many of them don’t speak English. I’ve been practicing a few phrases in the local language, Ewe, and can now say “hi”, “how are you”, “I’m fine”, “what’s your name?”, “how old are you?” and “where does it hurt?”. I’m trying to remember these and to learn more, but I keep butchering the pronunciation!

Coming back to our hostel after the hospital, I’m once again struck by how nice it is. The buildings seem to be only a few years old, and very clean. There is a communal kitchen, common room with wifi (!) and amazing, tiled, large SHOWERS! Alicia and I even have our own room. The area surrounding the hostel is so lush and green. It’s surreal.

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The Blue-Med hostel

There are 15 other volunteers here right now: 14 British college students and 1 American high school student. The Brits leave in about a week and then they’ll just be four of us.

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