Last Night on Call
It’s my last night on call. Joseph, the night guard at the hospital knocks on the door and hands me a note from Sister Assumpta, the emergency room nurse. “Dr. Stephen, please come now. There is a man with arm and head injuries from a hippo attack.” I’m thinking “last night on call, this must be a joke.” But I put on my white coat and follow Joseph down to the hospital watching my step with a flashlight. It’s no joke, the man’s right arm is lacerated and fractured. He has a large scalp laceration but is otherwise alert and stable.
Dave Calloway, the emergency medicine resident from Harvard has recently arrived at Nyakibale and helps suture lacerations, perform a fasciotomy on the arm and place a back slab splint. This fisherman from Lake Edward, 100 kilometers away, was lucky. Last month two patients were brought in from the Queen Elizabeth Game Park after a leopard attack. A baby was killed. This is Africa.
Probably the most common injuries I saw at Nyakibale Hospital were from “boda-boda” accidents. These little motorcycles are the main means of transportation, carrying two or three riders at a time. Everyone drives too fast. Ponga (machete) injuries are also common. I treated open fractures, tendon injuries, electrical burns, spinal cord injuries, intracranial bleeds; an amazing assortment of severe injuries.
Dr. Bill Walsh and his wife, Kate have been at Nyakibale for three years. I just can’t say enough about this caring couple from Chicago. Through Bill’s efforts, the operating room and surgical wards are now functioning well. He has personally trained the surgical staff and continues to teach new groups of nursing students every month. There are many nights that he’s called to see patients, there are no days off. Kate takes care of Bill. She is also a staff nurse and nursing instructor at Nyakibale.
There are other long-term volunteers at the hospital who have my admiration and respect. Jeff Caiola from North Carolina has been Chief Administrator for a year and a half and has things running smoothly. His wife, Courtney, has recently taken on the job of administrating the nursing school and continues to instruct. Their three children, Ellis, Marie and Gabby are all well adjusted in the local schools and becoming fluent in Ruyencori, the local language. Diana Sherrod from California is six months into a three year commitment teaching at the nursing school. Trish Hopkins from Tasmania is also there for three years as a head nurse on the surgical wards.
My wife Kate, my daughter Emily and I were there for a month; nothing compared to these dedicated folks. They all took wonderful care of us. Back at home in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Gospel.
Reading at Mass today spoke of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus would have been happy with just the scraps from the rich man’s table. We throw away better stuff at my hospital here in Twin Falls than anything we had to work with in Nyakibale.
There are so many ways to help. Hats off to Bill and Kate, the other Mzungus and the staff at Nyakibale Hospital who are responding to Christ’s call.