When I called up my best friend Steve on Tuesday and told him I was about to go in to surgery to have my appendix removed he said, “Well, you will always be able to say that you left a part of yourself in Haiti”. I replied to him that actually there would always be a part of myself in a medical incinerator in Haiti, but that doesn’t have quite such a poetic ring to it, does it?
It has been a very strange and unexpected week. I travelled to Port au Prince on Monday afternoon to have a meeting on Tuesday about the annual budget. It was a change, actually – we were originally planning to have the meeting on Monday, but a clash with some interviews meant that it was changed to Tuesday. If that hadn’t happened, then Monday night when my appendix started to burst, I would have been back in Leogane and facing a much more painful situation than I actually found myself in on Monday night, in pain in Port au Prince. Call it luck or the providence of God, but on the one night of the week when I was in the main city which had internationally trained surgeons, that was the night my appendix gave in.
Tuesday was surreal. I thought perhaps I was over-reacting, it couldn’t possibly actually be my appendix could it? That would be rather over-dramatic. If I had been in Leogane I might not even have gone to the Doctors when I did, but because I was here, with good Doctors readily available, I thought I would go and have it checked out. The Doctor is a rather eccentric woman called Margaret who liked to demonstrate to the colleagues who were with me that it was appendicitus by repeatedly demonstrating how much pressing my appendix was hurting me. “You see, I press here and when I release – she is in great pain! Let me show you again …”. At least I was rewarded with a large shot of morphine. I was sent for an ultrasound to confirm appendicitus, and along with seeing the inflamed appendix in question I also got to see my own heart beating. It wasn’t until I took the ultrasound pictures back to the Doctor and she said, “OK, it’s coming out. This is an emergency” that I thought, “Huh. I guess my life really has become over-dramatic today”. The diagnosis was confirmed at 1pm and at 4pm I was in anaesthesia. At last, 3 years of over-priced medical insurance has finally paid its way.
The leats said about the op itself and the 24 hours afterwards, the better. Not something I want to repeat. Ever. But since then I have gradually been getting better and apart from hobbling around clutching my stomach and having a permanatly aching back from only being able to sleep in that one position, I am doing really well now. I have got 3 weeks of bed rest stretched out before me, but at least my hands are free of IV drips now so I can type.
The book I have been reading is ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot, in which one of the charactors is a medical reformer in the early 19th century. I sat reading in the days after the op, as he decried the outdated practise of starving and dehydrating a post operative patient …… as I sat, with no food or liquid for 3 days after the op myself. I guess different countries have differant approaches. When I came out of general anaesthetic after a minor surgery in the UK, a cup of tea and two slices of hot buttered toast were waiting for me. The cup of tea I had today, when I got back to the team house, has never tasted so good.
I find myself on an unexpected go-slow. I do not like to go slow. I am sure that God has something to teach me through this, and I hope I have the patience to learn it. I certainly have the gratitude that my appendix burst here in Port au Prince this week, and not last year when I was living 2 days flights away from the nearest surgeon in Darfur. Life can sometimes be unexpected, and those unexpected turns are not always pleasant. The people of Haiti know that better than anyone. At least my unexpected turn, although painful, will affect me only for a short while. Meanwhile, the people of Haiti continue to recover and rebuilt after the unexpected turn of January 12th …… I hope that, soon, I can return to join them in that work.