Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bennett is "Bented"! A woeful tale of a broken arm.

Remember how I posted this picture a month back? A picture of Bennett so proud to be able to make it all the way across the monkey cars, which his Daddy had built for a local playground?

Well it turns out those monkey bars are not his friend. On Sunday night, just as church was starting, Bennett was taking one last swing across the monkey bars when his feet slipped on the rung at the end and he fell down, landing on his left arm. His ulna and radius bones both snapped, just above the wrist joint.

The shirt he is wearing says it all.

“I do all my own stunts!”

Now there are a few things that the Niger health system does well, but we did not feel that putting a 5 year old under general anaesthesia and possible bone surgery is on that list. We are thankful that we work for an organization with good health insurance and member care. Thus the treating doctor told us our best choice was to go to a “First World Hospital” to get the bone set. If there are any complications from setting it and it requires surgery…at least we will already be in the best place for that!

Bennett has been in a clinic with a morphine drop since Sunday night and we fly out Tuesday night. The bones are still overlapping and not even set. His arm is braced to reduce movement and jars but nothing else has been done. He is such a trooper and is in decent good spirits, all things considered.

If all goes well, we hope to be back in Niger on Sunday night. If surgery is required we will be longer, but we will cross that bridge if we come to it!

So where are we going….I will give you a hint!

Ironic thing is, we ended up getting referred to the exact same hospital I went to in 2006 when I had Dengue fever! With several dozens of hospitals in Paris, I thought that was funny. Walking distance from the Luxembourg Parc where Bennett can sail little boats in a pond on the weekend if he is up to it!

Please pray for a safe trip tonight with no bumps or turbulence and that he could sleep. Also please pray they could easily set the bones and that surgery would not be required, then we will be home for Sunday!!

Thanks to many of you who have been so encouraging and supportive these last few days – from running errands and making phone calls for us, delivering coffee and hugs to the clinic and to your notes of encouragement. We appreciate it all very much.

See you from Paris!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Harriet’s Great Escape….attempt.

We recently sprayed insecticide in our yard and poor Harriet had to stay indoors for a few days. When it was safe to go out…she didn’t want to ever come back in!

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When i got down in front of her and she could see me, she would quickly turn around and head the other direction. You wouldn’t believe how fast that turtle could move!


To try and get her back into the house we had to call in the big guns. The Special Turtle Intelligence Lego Team (STILT for short)!

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One of the team set up surveillance on top of a large plant where he could get a good view


One STILT member hid waiting along the back wall until the suspect approached. It was a rough confrontation!


When they finally clashed heads, it was Harriet the turtle who got the best of the helicopter. His Lego greatness was no match for her solid shell and power legs! _MG_0914

The helicopter upside, thrown and discarded by the sneaky turtle foe!


The final helicopter was trying to block the narrow escape pathway to the turtle’s favourite hiding place behind the air conditioning compressor unit. They had only recently discovered this hiding place when Lucky Lizard the snitch cut a deal.

This path is only wide enough for one of us Turtle scum!


Once again the Turtle comes out triumphant!!


Finally they capture the fleeing suspect on a lonely stretch of Lego road where she can’t hide. Touch down!!

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Well….at least they serve lettuce in prison!!


Sooo………. what did you do on your Sunday afternoon!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is rainy season finally going to start?

Rainy season has been flirting with Niger. The rains are really late, we have gotten a few sad sprinklings, but nothing serious. Tonight maybe we have seen the start of rainy season?

In the late afternoon a sandstorm blew in and it went from daylight to dark eerie night in  a matter of minutes. I verified my camera was not set to change colors of bump up saturation- this was the real color of the sky as the winds brought in all that Sahara sand!


The the main sandstorm passed and it lightened up considerably to a crazy bright yellow


And then the torrents of rain began to fall. It rained hard for at least an hour, and as I write this a few hours later it is still drizzling.


The other star of the show was the thunder and lightning. It was loud and close! I was out just under the awning to avoid getting wet, but getting some shots. All were handheld so a little blurry on the edges. What a storm!

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Let’s hope rainy season has really begun! We can all use a break from the heat and humidity and the land of Niger needs rain for a good harvest and growth!    

Monday, June 14, 2010

End of year celebration for the KIDS hut class!

A week ago we had a little party to celebrate the end of the year for the kids hut class. Their school has finished and summer holidays have begun! For many of them this means travelling out into bush to the village of their extended families. There they will help put in the harvest and help their families.  12web

For the party, many of them stood up and sang a song, or repeated a monologue they had learned. Some were about naming body parts or the alphabet, some were about national pride (someone even sang the Nigerien anthem!) and others were about health related topics.


They were very proud to show off some of the things they had learned.

20web We have a wide range of ages in children who attend the program. Some of the older ones did a sketch about the importance of seeking adequate health care when sick, and some of the young ones, like Ibrahim below, just had fun goofing around.4web8web13web

We passed around baggies of cold water (this is how they drink it here in Niger from the little stores on every corner) and handed out candies and cookies, as well as we had a little prize table where they came and could choose items like stickers, hair bands, bracelets, toy cars, etc. All the kids were VERY excited for the party!7web

We had also invited many of the parents to come and watch the little celebration. Many of them were so proud to see their children recite the alphabet and take part in songs and activities.


And what party would be complete without games? In this game they had to “freeze” and not move a muscle when the “teacher” was watching, but dance when she turned her back! They were eliminated one by one, until only the boy in army fatigues in the front was left standing as the sole statue! You can see even Bennett joined in the fun.10web

We are so proud of all the joy and hard work that we see in this group of children. My heartfelt thanks go out to Joelle (Quebecoise), Elohise (Quebecoise) and Asku (Nigerien), without whom this class would not be such a success each week!

And thanks to all of you who support our hut class initiative! The kids class was a huge success for year one and they are all ready to return in the fall, and I think we will have even more children joining!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sandstorms, cereal and 10 great years!


In the past week we have had a few big sandstorms here in Niger. We are in rainy season, yet still awaiting any serious rain. The ground is still so parched and obviously covered in sand, and when the wind picks up for a storm, it picks up all that sand.

The storm approaching201006-p1010175


The storm begins to hit and the sky turns deep orange with all the sand in the area. Visibility drops drastically.


Instead of water, the few drops that fall are actually mud, since the sky is so full of dirt. We have never gotten enough rain yet to knock down the dust to give water instead of mud! See all the mud on the windows after the storm passed.


Deep in the storm. The sky turns to night in the middle of the afternoon. This way taken by our friend’s from their roof.29637_399027889050_526724050_4312832_6377599_n

Rebecca and I were downtown when the big one hit. The sky turned deep orange and dark and sellers were running everywhere yelling and packing up their wares. We were ushered into the little store of a rug seller to wait out the storm. We kept watching from the door and they thought we were a little crazy that we thought it was so fascinating! I have never seen anything like it, day to night in just a minutes time with howling wind and orange skies. Sadly I didn’t have a camera with me.



And now…for something completely different :) Cereal!! Must to our shock and surprise, we went into a tiny little local store this week and were greeted with a cereal surprise! They try to cater to expats somewhat, and someone must be telling him our cereal preferences! We snatched up 2 boxes of Rice Krispies and 3 boxes of whole grain Cheerios! What a treasure out here! Funny…cereal finds can make our day :) Hahah…you know you live in a third world when kinda moment :)

Anyhow…we will eat them slowly and enjoy every bite. For the $50 I paid for these boxes we sure better make them last!!



10 Great Years!

This past Thursday (June 10th) Paul and I officially hit the decade marker for our marriage. That’s right folks, 10 whole years of marriage!

Thank you for all the well-wishes we received. We are blessed to have found each other and work hard to make each year stronger, each day better, and each moment sweeter.

Here’s to the next 10! I can’t imagine living this adventure with anyone else!


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

An unexpected afternoon

HOPITAL-NATIONAL-DE-NIAMEY-ET-AUTRES-AVENTURES* all pictures not taken by me, I didn’t have my camera with me. But I did find some of our hospital here in Niamey to give you a feel for it!


Many of my days here turn out to be different than what I plan. Sometimes due to visitors, sometimes due to power cuts, sometimes due to illness, language errors, the battery in the truck dying, etc. Yesterday was one of those days. In the morning I went to Miriama’s hut like I do every Tuesday morning. She hadn’t been to hut class on Monday afternoon because she said her mom burned her hand. I assumed she burned it on a cooking pot or something since she didn’t say too much or seem worried. So when I arrived Tuesday morning I asked the mother how she was feeling and how her hand was. I noticed she was holding it covered under her shawl.

She pulled out her hand and I almost gasped. It was black and gnarled and looked AWFUL! I found out the full story.

*this is not her hand, but this is somewhat what it looked like, but spread across 4 fingerselectrical-burn

They live in a straw hut. They pull an electrical wire from their neighbour for one light, their tv set and to charge their cellphones. (can’t believe i just wrote that…) The wire runs through the roof of their outdoor straw open walled roof thing (we call them hangers) and into their hut. On Saturday there was a power cut in the city. When the power came on it started with a surge of electricity that started the wire sparking. Afraid that their hut would catch on fire (which is not uncommon here) Miriama’s mom grabbed the wire with her hand to pull it away from the hut. She was shocked with 220 volts. The wire and electricity cut right into her hand, gouging deep into 4 of her fingers. Apparently I am told she feel to the ground and was only semi-conscious for the next hour or so. They didn’t call an ambulance, or take her to the hospital or even to a doctor. Instead they smeared butter on it and rubbed charcoal over it.

SO my afternoon plans changed and instead of picking up the kids and heading home to paperwork and language studies, I got to experience an afternoon in the Niger health system.

First we went to a local clinic by our house, but were told it was too serious for them to treat there, and to go to the National Hospital in town. Off we went (Miriama’s mom’s name is Tamat) and Miriama and me.

The front receiving emergency room at the hospital is packed with people. It is thankfully slightly cool due to several hardworking air conditioners, and smells slightly damp with the unforgettable tinge of blood in the air. A skinny young woman with two children attached to her (one hanging off the front and one in a shawl off her back) comes up to me and tells me her two twins are sick. And she just looks at me and then follows us around as we go to the various windows. It is noon and we see lots of people bring in their own bowls of food and sit on the floor and eat while they wait.

We are then sent to the vehicular surgery wing. Vehicle accidents are one of the largest causes of death here, and apparently they think that wing will be best equipped to deal with electrical burns. (does it look like road rash to them? maybe picking charcoal out of a burn is like picking tar and rocks out of road rash?)


Thankfully this room also has a hard working a/c unit or the smell and people would be overwhelming. In a room a little bit bigger than my living room, I count 15 patients in various states of moaning/sleeping/unconscious/bleeding and just about as many family members hovering around. Makes for quite the cramped space! Finally I think the crowd gets a little out of hand, and the doctors/attendants/nurses on hand ask some of us to wait outside in the “waiting room”. The waiting room is a little hallway just outside. And it is under construction. Half the hallway is full of cement piled up, wheelbarrows, tools and sand. They are building a new wall. A handful of waiting people are dispersed against the wall wherever there is not a pile of construction debris. Miriama and I spy two open concrete cinder blocks and sit down for the long wait.

Miriama opens her purse and pulls out a small bottle of hand sanitizer and offers it to me. I had forgotten mine at home. Who is the teacher now! Go Miriama! And we wait.

In my head I think “wow…there would be some awesome pictures here, too bad I don’t have my camera with me” Then I continue to think and my question is- would I actually pull out my camera and take the pictures, surrounded by these conditions and this sea of humanity in various levels of discomfort and sadness? Truth is…the camera likely would have stayed in my bag anyhow. But the camera in my head goes “click, click, click”.

Before too long a nurse comes to us with two sheets of paper. She says they have looked at the wound and know how to proceed. However, first we must deal with these two sheets of paper. The first is the bill for the treatment/consults. It amounted to $5.00. Next was the list of supplies. You see, you buy your own supplies for medical procedures. The list they gave me to go buy included: tetanus shot, sterile gloves, tape, betadine, a box of 4x4 gauze pads, a stretchy fabric bandage wrap, tylenol, burn cream, and another antibiotic. Everything they needed to treat her. We paid the consultation bill at one window. The young woman with the twins finds me again and starts to follow us around again. Then off we went to the Pharmacy in the hospital. I say “pharmacy” but what I really mean is poorly stocked broom closet. The lady there only had half of the required supplies. After this we took our bag and list and walked out of the hospital to a pharmacy across the street. She had two more items. We were still missing two more. So we hailed a taxi out front of the hospital and headed into town to find another pharmacy. Thankfully they had the last two items. Then we hailed a second taxi to bring us back to the hospital to deliver all the items and proof paid to the room where Tamat was waiting.

At this point we are 3 hours in, and I am soooo very glad I took a minute before we left the house to go pee and grab a fresh bottle of water. I can’t imagine the facilities here.

We deliver the goods and I go back to my cinder block chair. My butt is not happy to re-discover this lovely chair. The smell of betadine, dirt and sweat mix together. In the hallway/waiting room/construction zone there is a woman praying. She has a yellowed mat on the floor under her and a small child strapped to her back. The child bobs up and down, like on a ride, as the Mom moves up and down faithfully saying her prayers and moves from standing up, to kneeling, to laying her forehead on the ground. While she prays, I pray for her.

I am called into the surgery room since they forgot to write something else on the list. Thankfully the in-hospital pharmacy/broom closet has it on hand and I return quickly with it. In the room there are a group of people yelling and some pushing going on. I am not sure what the commotion is. A run down ambulance arrives and two men are carried in on old blankets by their friends. I go back to find my cinder block occupied by someone else waiting and resign myself to leaning against the front of a wheelbarrow, not nearly as comfortable as my high quality cinder block! Thus far I am impressed with the staff, they have been professional and deal with people in a timely manner. I feel sorry for them that they work in such poor conditions with such a lack of supplies, but they are polite and well –trained as far as I can tell. Tamat comes out soon after that and we head on our way home, but not without another list of supplies we need to buy! (this set so she can get her bandages changed in 2 days time) So we hit two separate pharmacies on the way home to find those items.

After we got back I had some strong word for the family. After being with them weekly for almost 20 months now, I have earned the ability to speak freely. The doctors had already grilled into them that using charcoal in this wound was simply not a good idea, and it was so infected after several days that she could have risked losing fingers even! I also reminded them that they are my friends here, my “adoptive” African family. The mother has even whipped out her boob and wagged it at me and proclaimed “You are now my daughter now, like one I have nursed myself” to demonstrate our relationship (shocking mental picture i know!) SO i told them next time to phone me right away! If someone in their immediate family gets struck by electricity, knocked unconscious and has severe electrical burns, pick up the phone!! We are here to do life together and I would be heartbroken if she died or lost fingers simply because they didn’t seek help. There are things in my new African life that I cannot accomplish without them, like learning the language, the culture and training people. I need them. And because of their poverty there are some things they cannot do such as seek “expensive” medical treatment. I am honoured to carry some of the load for that for them. And the cost…all said and done including taxi, all medical supplies and medications, nurse care and consultations- just a little less than $50. But love- now that is priceless indeed.

To whom much has been given, much is required. We are in this life together.

I taught them a proverb that I am particularly fond of.

“If you want to go fast- go alone

If you want to go far- go together”


And to my own mom back in Canada- I was thinking of you!. Don’t worry, I would gladly sit on a cinder block, smell pee and run all around town for you too! Love you!



* I know I just posted this pic last week, but this is me and Tamat who burned her hand