I was sweating. From stress or the 90 degree heat, I can't be sure which. I gestured to the mother breastfeeding her baby that I needed to inject some medication into her little guys' left hand. She re-positioned herself so I could sit on the edge of the bed and reach his little wrist. I fumbled with the cap. In the U.S I flew through steps like this but here, with new equipment, I felt awkward and clunky. With my head bowed in concentration I pushed the fluid in the syringe into the vein and flushed it, comforting baby and telling the mom "kalas" - finished.
In my periphery I saw a flash of light. I looked up startled.
Seemingly out of nowhere there were at least a dozen people in the room. One prominent man, dressed in a suit was directly in front of me, several others looking just as dapper surrounded him, a news crew with a television camera pointed right at me, and several guards with AK47s surrounded the foot of the bed.
The first days of work at a new job are always a little nerve wracking. New co-workers, new names, new ways of doing things. My first three days at His House of Hope, however, take the cake, as my most memorable.
Due to the current conflict in South Sudan, the economy has plummeted, and the South Sudanese pound has devalued at an exponential rate. Many of the national staff have begun to struggle to feed their families and afford goods in the market. His House of Hope has tried to meet the needs of the staff by increasing salaries. But tensions came to head and a frustrated and demanding Sudanese staff went on strike...my first day of work.
The hospital was forced to stop accepting new patients, and sent all those waiting outside home. But the 50 or so mothers and children that were already admitted needed care - and there were only 5 missionary nurses available for the task (2 were brand new - one being me). Talk about orientation by fire! I was assigned A B & C wards (where I had never been) with 20 or so beds and left to fumble through paper charts and squint my eyes to read various doctors orders in scribbly handwriting. I calculated and re calculated my pediatric drug dosages before administering them...there was no fancy computer system or pharmacy to send me the right dosages to give here! I was spoiled almost to the point of crippling nursing in the States! Thankfully, in school I had a nursing professor who made us do manual drug calculations at every exam. I never thought I would be grateful for that ;)
But the icing on top of this crazy start to my job was about to happen.
With an entire hospital staff on strike and 5 missionary nurses scurrying around like mad, the Minister of Health for the nation of South Sudan arrived with his entourage for his inspection and to sign a MOU that HHH would be a national teaching hospital for the country! White land rovers pulled into the hospital compound and prominent dignitaries spilled out of the cars. The National Minister of Health, the State Governor, County Commissioner, Mayor, and the press.
The minister and his people began their tour of the hospital, and eventually wandered into A B & C wards where they found a wide eye, sweating, white nurse bent over a baby pushing some IV medicine. "God bless you. Thank you for what you are doing" said the minister of health to me.
I kept my face serious as I replied "Yes. Thank You". But all I was thinking was I was that I couldn't have told him where we kept IV tubing or how to take care of someone with malaria or how to deliver a baby! This was only my first day! The ridiculousness that he was thanking me, of all the people he could be thanking, made me crack up inside. The camera man finished his reel of me giving meds and the group swept out of the ward in a blur of suits, dresses and guns.