Saturday, September 21, 2013


Before my wife freaks out, this is funny, I am fine, my stuff is accounted for, there really is no big problem here.

So it rained last night. Not unusual here. Heard voices talking outside this morning and so walked into the back yard. The person I am renting a room from was talking to Monique next to the two outside sinks that serve as laundry facility, cleaning area, etc. The water was running in those two sinks non-stop, and my landlord told me there is no water pressure in the house. 

In the middle of the night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, someone had stolen the two cheap faucets that turn the water on and off in those outdoor sinks, and the water was draining out the large black cistern that supplies the house. 
The missing items look like this:
They stole nothing else. Just two very expensive faucets that probably cost $5 each. So now I get to take a bucket shower and pee on a tree in the corner of the yard until we can get a couple taps.

Alright then.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day um, 24 I think?

Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been almost two weeks since my last confession...

So I have been negligent when it comes to this blog. And I apologize. Not last Sunday but the Sunday before, I moved into a new place. Previously I was staying in a hotel, which was great because clean room, hot shower, free breakfast and good Internet. Bad because the price, while as expensive as your average Motel 6 in the States, was still above my budget. So moved into the house of a couple of US docs here. No hot showers,  not as close to the hospital, and my excuse for being negligent: the Internet is much worse. 

But this is the view:

And we have a housekeeper named Monique. Monique makes crepes. Monique also does laundry. And irons my underwear, even though I tell her not to. Casey could learn a lot from Monique. 

Not much different to say about CHUK. Still ridiculous wait time for patients to get care. I have been learning to multitask and operate while performing anesthesia. Often I will look I over and try to tell the anesthetist the the blood pressure or O2 sat is too low and how to fix it. Little crazy. 

My operating room. The black stuff on the ceiling is, um, smoke. Yeah, smoke. Not mold, that would be crazy...

Crazy things I have seen lately:
Yes that's a femur in an above the knee amputation. And yes it is supposed to be on the inside. 
The rare scalp urinary catheter. For the patient who pees out their blowhole. 
A little bit of free air and fluid. Perforated gastric ulcer that had been hanging out for about a week. He did fine after we repaired him. Oh, and I got to treat his gonnorhea too. BONUS!

Will be more diligent about posting. Off to get lost in Kigali. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 9: Goats gave their lives for this.

So pretty slow on Saturdays here. Just a skeleton crew to do all the work, no "consultant surgeons" -- or in Americanese: "attendings" -- show up for work, usually. I came on in to figure out how things work on the weekend and to see if I could help. The only thing really going on was a simulation lab on thoracic surgery that was being put on by Dr. Tom Daniels from UVa. He has been involved in the thoracic surgery boot camp, so he put the surgical residents through the paces. They performed five procedures on the viscera from some freshly-killed goat from the local abattoir.

Here two residents are practicing performing a Nissen fundoplication. This is made a little more difficult  by the fact that the residents also need to pick the correct stomach fundus; goats have four of them. Usually Dr. Daniels does these sims with pigs in the United States, but pork is hard to come by here and thus is expensive.

Plus: goat brochettes afterward.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day 9: I found the banana "beer."

So this is important: I found the local spirit known as urwagwa, brewed from fermented bananas. Went to a local place called Republika, and saw it listed beside "local wine" - urwagwa. Naturally I had to get this magical banana-flavored nectar of the gods.

Claude the waiter looked at me line I was insane. A muzungu drinking urwagwa? Before pouring his finest, he suggested I just try a little first. First off, it's thick, like egg nog, and coats the tongue. There is a slight taste of bananas, but much more of a coffee flavor. Like banana-infused kaluha. Not especially potent, but it will probably do the job. More urwagwa, please. And hold the banana-flavored methanol, please. 

Wonder if you could make a White Russian with the stuff? Yellow Russian?

Dinner: goat brochettes. Let's do this thing!

Goat was good, not tough at all, as it sometimes could be. Great African vibe to the place, but a little expensive. One of the busiest restaurants I have been to here, with a mix of ex-pats and locals. Not bad at all, especially since it was an easy half-mile walk down the road. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 8: Okay, fine, medical stuff too.

So fairly uneventful day. Salvador, the senior resident on the service I am on is post call and looked a little dead. Long hard night. Just before I left the night before there was a guy in the A&E (accident and emergency department; quite British and sophisticated) who looked to be in the late stages of brain herniation after sitting around for about a day. Salvador and the on call neurosurgeon took him back, did a craniectomy and evacuated 500 cc's of clot, and sent him to the icu, where he went into cardiac arrest and died. Dammit, stop that...

So Salvador is tired. Salvador also looks a little like Eddie Murphy. Salvador is secretly the crown prince of Zamunda. "Bark like a dog..."

Had a plastic surgeon come here for the day from another local hospital. Looked at some cases with him that we wanted input on: melanoma of the foot, facial burns, and a 5 month old child with a large sarcoma on his left forearm. Should be resectable, is the good news. He may have some deficits in extending his fingers, but his tendons could come out of this just fine. 

I know, it's a little graphic, so sorry. But think it is important for people to see what people are living with and how some good can be done here by just getting people to the doctor faster. 

To make up for that, here is a random picture of a kitten:
Happy Friday everyone. And impressive showing by Peyton Manning yesterday: seven touchdowns in a game has not been done since 1969. 

Day 8: Yes medical stuff, but what did you eat?

So at the restaurant New Cactus. There is country music playing. A definite southwestern theme. Mexican in Africa? Dare we hope for a chimichanga?

Nope, Afro-French cuisine. 

As a side note, every waiter I have come across is laughing at me when I ask for their recommendation and then immediately say that's what I want. Very confusing for them, I guess. But I figure they know the restaurant and the menu better than me, so why not let them do the choosing?

Aaanyway, got a grilled tilapia in a butter garlic sauce with the fried chips (freedom fries for you patriots at home). Fish was well-cooked, flaky and firm but not dry.  Decent, but the sauce overpowered it, in my opinion. 

Beernerdness: ordered Pression beer. Oooh, draught beer in Africa! How is it, John? While doing my due diligence online on the place of origin, etc., I soon realized that Pression is actually french for draught. So it's draught beer. Okay but what type, please? Well, think it is Mutzig, a local Budweiser variant, essentially. A lager that's main point of emphasis is that it exists. 

You have now tricked me twice, New Cactus. 

The place is worth it just for the view, however. 

This is looking east toward many of the suburbs. 

Overall okay, but a little too ex-pat for my tastes. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 6: Get used to the feeling.

Barring an organ procurement where it is obviously expected, I have never had a patient die on the table in the operating room before yesterday. I was told to get used to the feeling.

A man in his mid-twenties was involved in a motorcycle accident. Not sure what time, not totally sure of the mechanism. Some reports said that he was hit by a car. Came into the Emergency Room, and the General Practitioners there gave him about 1.5 liters of fluid. Think he got blood as well, but not sure. When I came into the ED at 7am, an American ER physician was just taking over his care. They were trying to intubate. No blood pressure, had a carotid pulse, but no others, and couldn't get an O2 saturation. He had a massive injury to his perineum that he was exsanguinating from. No other large injuries. The ED docs got him intubated, and soon after we lost pulses, and had to start CPR. Pushed epinephrine, the only drug we have in a code, it seems. Worked though, we got him back that time. We took him to the OR as fast as we could.

Got him on the OR table, and he coded again. More chest compressions, more epinephrine, more volume given. We now have blood available, and he gets it. Get his legs up in stirrups so we could access this perineal injury. Trauma ex-lap found only a large retroperitoneal hematoma that was extending from his pelvis all the way to the SMA. Turned our attention to the still-bleeding large hole in the man's perineum. It is approximately 5 inches, right next to the anus, and a steady stream of blood is pouring out despite the packs we put in there and my hand holding pressure. Rectal wall has been sheared off to the mucosa, but not fully penetrated. The hole extends into the pelvic retroperitoneum and the sacral plexus of vessels is bleeding. Try to cauterize what we can, try to tie off what we can, decide to pack and get out of there as quick as possible. We intraperitoneally pack the pelvis, pack the wound, and close skin on both sites.

Anesthesia can't find pulses. PEA arrest. Two rounds of chest compressions, epinephrine. Nothing. We keep going. Nothing. Twenty minutes later we call it.

Oh, and a two-year old kid with 50% of his body surface area burned who is on our service died the night before. Probably pneumonia.

Went to bed fairly early last night. Got to get up now and get back in the game. It's 4:30 am.

I've decided to not let myself get used to that particular feeling.