Can you imagine having surgery in Tanzania? Well, me neither! That is until 2 weeks ago when I found myself doing just that.
My scheduled surgery time was 10:00 a.m, with a check in time of 9:30 a.m. We arrived at the local hospital and took our seat among many brightly dressed Tanzanians. Pregnant women slowly walked up and down the hall expectant to deliver their babies. Individuals busy on their phones letting family members know of a relative’s health. Nurses leisurely checking in patients, the occasional child screaming from a needle and the rap videos silently filling the t.v screen in front of us. All accompanied by water droplets falling from the ceiling into a bowl from the air conditioner and the occasional power outage that left the hospital dark for many seconds before the generator kicked in.
It was all intriguing at first. But 5 and a half hours later when I was still remaining in that same seat my patience began to grow thin and my adrenaline to “get this surgery done” was wearing out.
By now our children were needing to be picked up from school and so Luke left my side with a hug and a “Be brave, I love you.” reassurance. Within minutes the surgeon came out for some water and exclaimed “It is time.” (I thought it was going to be “time” at my scheduled 10 a.m. appointment slot. Oh how my western mindset of “time” continues to be tested!) I followed him deep into the long hallway, past the woman still sleeping on the table from her surgery and into the theater room.
I stopped in the entrance and scanned the room. The walls were stark white with just a table in the middle, big lights hovering above, a chair for the surgeon and a side table with masses of surgical tools laid on top. There were two assistants in the room who greeted me by asking if I speak Swahili. “Kidogo, Ninajifunza Kiswahili. Sema polepole” I replied, in fear that they would instruct me all in fast Swahili. (my reply: “A little, I am learning Swahili. Speak slowly.”)
Immediately, before I fully entered the room, one of the male assistants commanded me to “take off your clothes and then lay down.” My mind instantaneously started spinning and right then and there did I feel ever SO vulnerable. “Lord, I don’t want to do this right now” I cried out in a whisper.
With uneasiness but a bit of courage, I submitted. A man in green whose face was covered with a mask wrapped fabric around my body and another around my head and lead me to the table to lay down. Big deep breaths Amber, you can do this! With just my eyes peaking out, the surgery began.
The surgeon first lathered my foot in iodine and then quickly jammed a large needle into the crevasse of my second and third toe. OUCH. And then another jab…and another. I prayed that the numbness would arrive before he took the knife to my toe.
Suddenly there was what sounded like a lot of cutting and sawing and tying and stitching and splinting going on. They were speaking Swahili and I was trying so desperately to listen/understand what they were talking about. Twice one of the men walked over to me and started rubbing my cheek. I had no idea what this was about, but he probably was noticing my white hot knuckles and scrunched up face and was attempting to comfort me. Thank you sir!
After about 40 minutes, the surgeon wrapped my toe all up and called it “complete.”
All in one breath he explained to me that infection happens fast and furious here in Dar…to not get it wet for 14 days…to stay off of it and keep it high. And then, just like that that, the surgeon walked out of the room and the assistant commanded me to get off the table. Holding the awkward cloth around me, I slid down from the table and struggled to put clothes back on. I hobbled out the theater door and as I began to hobble down the long hallway, a nurse stopped me with the desire to wipe down my orange stained iodine feet so I didn’t track it throughout the halls.
Let me assure you that I was quite the show struggling down the hospital corridor on one foot all by myself. (No crutches or assistance provided).
When I put things in perspective, I know that I received better care than most people living in this country. I hear stories of individuals waiting 3+ days to even be seen by a nurse, as they lay bleeding to death on the table. I have friends who are sick and hurting but can’t go to the hospital because they have no money to. People who have no hope of healing from their ailments and literally have to stuff their feelings away and watch their sick child die. Some people just abandon their child so they don’t have to watch it happen. It is heartbreaking.
I do not take my ability to walk into a hospital and receive medical help for granted. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to have this surgery done and have been so blessed by your prayers, texts, emails, etc. THANK YOU. It was surreal experience that I will NEVER forget and I praise the Lord for His provision, protection and peace. I had to be brave and He helped me to do it.
Will you please continue to pray for me as I recover these next few weeks? That this surgery will relieve the problems I have had with my toe for the last few years and that I will have full function of my foot when it is all healed. I am trusting in Jesus for healing and thanking Him for hope, peace and courage.
*I wrote this last week and I have since been back to the hospital to get my stitches out and splint off. I wasn’t as graceful this time around. A stuffy and hot 4×10 foot room that had dim lighting combined with a long razor like blade that was searching my toe to pull the stitches threw me into a panic. Suddenly I was freezing cold and buckets of sweat were pouring off of me. I felt such a strong sickness come over me and I began to beg for a fan. I was so desperate to get out of there that I practically ran out of the room while nodding my head that I would come back in a week. I was a hot mess. I can laugh about it now as I Praise the Lord that there has been no infection, the splint is off and I am 4 days away from walking (slowly at first) on my own!The view from my window while resting for the last 14 days!