Amy's Adventures in Darfur

I started this blog when I left for Darfur in June 2006. I was working as a midwife with MSF aka "Medecins Sans Frontiers" aka "Doctors without Borders" but this blog contains my own opinions and stories- not those of MSF. It is less political than I want it to be and I have been unable to post stories about certain topics due to the fact that this is on the internet and accessible to anyone. I wish I could tell you all of the stories but since I can't, I will tell you the ones that I can...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The human suction-machine

this story contains a moment that was, simultaneously, the funniest and yet the most disgusting moment in my entire 5 months in darfur. it was one of those moments that isn't funny at all when you really think about the situation it occurred in, but we were so tense and so stressed out that when it happened all we could do was laugh. and laugh we did (and by "we" i mean "me". milena wasn't laughing nearly as much, or at all really :) i was literally doubled over and couldn't stand up because i was laughing so hard i could barely breathe. we had a four year old boy arrive at our hospital, unconscious and febrile. his symptoms didn't point specifically to any one thing so it was a bit of a process of elimination. it was late, we were exhausted and we were tense. it didn't look like he was going to make it and no one wants to watch a four year old die. he started to choke on his secretions so milena went to suction out the back of his throat. our suction machine was broken so i had lent the pediatric ward the delee suction device from the delivery room. note: the delee is used by au naturel midwives, or those of us who work overseas and are ever at the mercy of sporadic power-supplies. it is a simple contraption, consisting of one hollow cylinder with a lid on it. there are two holes in the lid and each hole has a tube running out of it. when the baby is born you place one tube into their mouth and nose and you suck on the other tube. when you inhale through one tube you are creating a vacuum in the cylinder which then creates suction in the other tube and it sucks the mucous from the baby's orifices into the cylinder. milena had never used a delee before and it hadn't occurred to me that she may need some instructions on how to use it. she put one tube in the child's mouth, the other tube in her own mouth and she started to suck in. it was all going very well until the cylinder filled up with mucous and saliva- i guess sick four year olds have much more secretions than a newborn. what milena didn't know was that once the cylinder is full of fluid, when you continue to suck on your tube you are essentially using it as a straw. that straw brings whatever fluid is in the cylinder directly in to your mouth- and you are sucking hard to create suction so you end up with a huge mouthful before you realize what's happening (it's never happened to me, thank God). i was watching milena suction him when suddenly her eyes went wide with horror and she dropped the delee and ran from the room. i found her outside spitting violently and repeatedly filling her mouth with water, swishing it around and spitting it out. i am now laughing so hard that i have to sit down. milena is screaming with disgust between each mouthful of water. she asks me what she should do and i say that if it had been me i would be gargling with bleach by now. then i tell her that she can gargle with the vinegar we use for sterilizations, because vinegar is acid. she runs to the sterilization room, grabs the vinegar and takes a huge swig. it did NOT look like a pleasant experience, let me tell you. i, on the other hand, was having a great time. not only did i laugh about it for days, i took pictures of the entire episode. and yes, before my older sister points this out to me, i know that i am a terrible person and there is a special place in hell reserved for people like me (the same place that is reserved for people who swallow live unborn ducklings, apparently even if they didn't know it was alive and were tricked into doing it. long story).

gargling with vinegar


Post a Comment

<< Home