This afternoon I took a poda poda from Regent village, where my church is, to Siaka Stevens street. From there, I walked through town to get to the eastern side of the city where the Children's Hospital is located. After cooling down from the hot and sweaty journey, I spent a couple of hours working on statistics and then went to the Africa Mercy to meet up with some friends from the IOC for dinner. After a good meal (it’s so nice not to have to cook!), tea, homemade peanut butter cookies and a good chat I headed to the lounge for the evening service, which was really good. This was followed by a quick visit to Starbucks before it was time to head home.
Unfortunately the driver that was going to pick me up called to say his car broke down. Fortunately some friends from the Aberdeen Center were onboard and could give me a lift part of the way home. However, I had to stop at the hospital on the way to pick up my laptop, bag, etc. I told them it would take about three minutes to run up to the office, get my bag and come down, but of course I was delayed, as often is the case.
While entering the hospital I noticed a group of people standing in triage; there was a lady holding an infant, surrounded by 3 or 4 others. I asked if the child was sick and they said ‘yes’. At the same time the lady holding the child told the man next to her (her brother) that she knows me. She then asked if I remember her. As I look at her face, she says ‘It’s me, Zainab.’ And sure enough, I do remember her. She is a former VVF patient who I have seen and spoken to many times in Aberdeen. She used to live near the center and come by to visit. I haven’t seen her in years.
Knowing they came with a sick child I looked at the child’s condition. It was bad. There were obvious signs of respiratory distress. Apparently she has been sick for 4 days. I quickly walked them up to the Emergency Room and alerted the nurse and house officer. We went about checking the blood sugar (which was fine) and getting the child some oxygen. Unsurprisingly, there was no connecting piece for the oxygen concentrator and so I ran up to the office to get one. It still seemed to take a long time to sort it out so I looked around at the other concentrators to see if any of them already had two connections. Sure enough there was a machine with two connections but only one patient actually connected. I asked who the second set of tubing belonged to (as not to steal another child’s oxygen) and was informed that the child that had been connected to that point died earlier in the evening. This is the reality at the hospital. Children die. And I knew that if this new infant didn’t get oxygen soon, the same fate would be hers. We moved her closer to the concentrator and got her connected right away. Meanwhile the house officer was getting a history from the father. I am not sure what will happen to this little girl tonight. I suspect she has severe pneumonia, severe malaria or sepsis.
So that was my Sunday evening encounter in triage: an unexpected reunion with a former patient who was bringing in a new patient. I left the hospital happy to have met up with Zainab again, but sad to see one of her relative’s children in such a bad condition. It is now 1-½ hours since I brought the little girl to the Emergency Room and I find myself wondering if she is still alive. I can only hope and pray that I will see her in the morning. I hope this child survives. And hopefully I will meet up with her aunt Zainab again as well.