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All About Oatmeal (by Becky Carlton, CNM)

Dear Granny - I was going to write you a letter on Sunday, but I was sitting down with a cup of porridge about 8am when I got a call on the radio from the medical assistant . . . "Can you come help me resuscitate this baby . . .” I left my porridge with the cinnamon on top and ran to find the driver to take me to the hospital. 10 hours later when I came home, the porridge was sitting there on the table. Someone thoughtfully put a makeshift lid on it to save it for me. You know what they say about old porridge . . . well . . . maybe no one says anything about day-old porridge, but it's not fit for human consumption. I'm trying to imagine what sort of fantastic African bacteria might grow in a medium of milk/oats at a temperature of about 103F in a span of 10 hours. Not really a good idea to eat it. I was a little bummed because we hadn'’t had oatmeal for weeks. Fred, the logistics supply guy went to Wau this week and found some. Richard, Australian-Who-Lived-In-Antarctica-And-Is-Now-Resident-Fix-Everything-Broken-Guy, makes us porridge on Sundays if we have any, so I felt disappointed at not getting to eat the oatmeal. Eileen, the new OR nurse, dared me to eat it. Even I have my limits. Is that enough about oatmeal? I guess I could tell you about the day that I had, but it was rather depressing. Seemed like every baby I touched, died. They were in bad shape to begin with, but it didn't make me feel good about life/death in general. There was the baby that was 900 grams . . . too small . . . he was tough for a little dude, but that's too small to make it. And the baby that I went to resuscitate - well, I didn't have hopes of arriving in time, but it's horrible to try to resuscitate a baby by yourself . . . I went to be supportive of my medical assistant. That baby couldn't decide if it wanted to live with the humans or not. He would breathe, then stop breathing. His heart seemed strong, but I was worried that he already had brain damage. How do I decide when to give up? When is it better for him? So, he finally decided to try to live and we sent him off to pediatrics to be monitored. His mother had issues, too. She was combative before delivery and went completely nuts after. I've never seen post-partum psychosis, but 10mg of Valium (would have knocked me out completely) didn't touch her. We didn't know what to do and she was escalating to the point where four people had to hold her down and we had to send Abby to the pharmacy to pick up some Haldol (a heavy antipsychotic). Meanwhile, dozens of people came to be seen, I discharged bunches and they still kept coming. The resuscitated baby in pediatrics decided that he didn't want to stay after all and died. His mother's family (all 20 that were there in the ward with their friends and extended family) decided to take her home to let a traditional healer work with her. We weren't seeming to have any progress with our treatment and people have a right to do what they want, so they took her away. I'd be surprised if she is still alive. The malaria cases are getting more frequent. Even Shin our pharmacist caught it. I'd just as soon avoid it, but what more can a person do than wear repellant, take prophylaxis, and sleep with a mosquito net. I think I'll be fine. Well, I must give the computer to someone else, but I thought I'd write you a note. Sorry if it is a bit graphic or makes me sound matter-of-fact about the difficult things that happen here. It helps me to process to write it down sometimes. I'm doing well--all things considered. I'm going to miss this place when I leave. I'm making good friends. -written by Becky Carlton, CNM as a Facebook post May 15th, 2009 (shared with permission). Becky is a (now) friend who reached out to medelita in 2008 for medical uniform donations.  Numerous scrubs and lab coats were sent to her remote location at Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia, where she was recently promoted to Nursing Director of the new nursing school.  Becky frequently posts poignant stories - such as this - on Facebook and gave the "ok" for me to share with others who read our blog.  I am moved by her willingness to overcome tremendous obstacles under very challenging circumstances, and yet still find humor/perspective/postivity in all of it in order to maintain her strength and leadership.  You can read more about Becky on the "women in healthcare" page of the www.medelita.com web site.