Birthday time! To celebrate three birthdays in September (Vladimir's, Chen's, and mine) we're having a pig roast. We've used some of the Couvent food kitty money to buy a live pig. Porky was living in the front yard for the last couple of days, feeding on scraps from our meals. This morning the butcher made a house call, cut the pig's throat, and scooped out its organs. Vladimir, a Norwegian ex-pat, has experience in All Things Pig Roast. He took charge and stuck a long pole all the way through the animal, built a fire, and has been roasting it for nine hours. It's become a beautiful honey color.
What follows the pig is even better. Sophie (my boss and co-worker, from Sweden) spent four hours this afternoon making us a birthday pankekentorten. She first cooked dozens of thin crepes. She then layered them with chocolate cream and banana slices. It's beautiful, huge, and heavy. I saw the cake when I went to the refrigerator to get a drink. Dominique (from Belgium) made a wonderful concoction of blended pineapple, orange, lime, banana, and papaya. It's a lovely mauve-yellow color. Two hours ago we started drinking it with Cuban rum or Absolut vodka. Yum.
Clouding this for me is the talk of some of the ex-pats. Like me, they've been injured of gotten ill while working for MSF. Some of them got better in the field. Some of them left their projects to seek medical care in a larger African city or Europe. They all warned me not to wait too long before leaving the project (at least temporarily) to get to a larger hospital.
Since my fall three days ago, I've been doing okay. Martine changed my massive dressing again today. As usual, the gauze was stuck to the wound and stitches by dried blood and serum. She carefully removed everything and then inspected her handiwork. Today she pronounced it healing but red and inflamed. So is it infected? She pressed the entire length of the suture line and got no pus. She stuck a forceps into the last small remaining hole, probed around, and got no pus. So it's probably inflammation "but stay on antibiotics a few more days."
This crazed brain of mine knows other facts. Martine leaves in four days. What then? I have become medically and emotionally dependent on her. If all goes well, no problem. But what if she leaves and things don't go well? If I am going to get to a bigger city for care, I need to leave Lubutu on Monday morning to catch a flight to Kinshasa. But leave for an uninfected cut? And what happens when I get to Kinshasa? They certainly aren't going to put me in the hospital for an uninfected cut. Do I go to Brussels? Do I just go home? For something that might go wrong?
I don't want to leave, at least right now. Of course, on one level I always want to go home, but just not right now. I'm finally getting into the groove of this place. I like what I am doing professionally. I like the people I'm doing it with. I like Lubutu. Throw away all of the anticipation, preparation, travel, and adjustment right now? Go home because of a big uninfected gash on your right elbow? It sounds unreasonable but several people are encouraging me to do exactly that.
I wonder if it is easier or harder to approach medical problems from inside the system. Is it easier to be knowledgeable or blind to the possibilities? I have to believe it is the former. The few times I've faced the medical system as an outsider, it has been paternalistic and functioned poorly.
I simply want someone to hug me and tell me what to do.