Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Patient Stories Series #1: Donald’s Story

I figure pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows me, since I’ve only written about 6 posts total, and I doubt anyone who doesn’t know me would care.
In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if you do know me and don’t care.

But just in case any of you internet randoms have stumbled on my humble blog, here’s a few things you should know before I launch into this story:

I am a nurse. 
I just graduated from nursing school in May and recently started my first real nursing job (praise God!).
And I HATED nursing school.
As in, almost quit multiple times.
What kept me going was both the confidence I had that God had put me in nursing school for a reason, as well as the people I got to interact with and play a small part in their lives.

Donald is one of those people.
Last October/November I was in Rwanda (which is in East Africa, for those of you about to google it), doing my nursing preceptorship (where we get to choose a specialty).
I was working in the surgery and wound care ward of the district hospital in rural Kibuye, Rwanda. 
You can check out a video of the hospital my friend Alex and I made here.

If you ever have the opportunity to go to Rwanda, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, GO. 
It’s beautiful. 
The people are incredible.
The food is kind of gross, unless you like goat (which I do), tiny little weird fishes (which I don’t), and this thing called Ugali (which I tolerate). 
I can’t even begin to describe Ugali, besides that you feel like you have a  rock in your stomach for the 6 hours after you eat it.
This is the best google could do:

Donald was one of our patients. 
My partner in wound care, Alex, and I fell in love with him immediately.
And we thought his name was Donate (pronounced DOUGH-NAUGHT-AY) for the ENTIRE time we were there. 
I’m not kidding.
We called him Donate every day for two weeks.
And no one corrected us.
We thought it was French.
We were so, so wrong.

He's the one on the left with the crutch.
Donald had osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bone. 
It’s not commonly seen in the states, but over there, due to lack of medical treatment we see it frequently.
Donald was 9 years old.
He had been in and out of the hospital for the past 6 months with this infection. 
He had a cast on his leg that went up to his knee. 
For the 6 months before we got there the cast had gone all the way up to his hip.
And he had the cutest crutch (see above).

He always wore that yellow shirt with the ladybugs on it.
The cast had a flap cut in it so we could perform wound care on the infected bone and tissue every day.
This was all the treatment he got.
Once a day, his wound was cleaned and his dressing changed.

Alex and I would play with him and another young patient, Marie, when we were bored, or trying to avoid some really gross wound or procedure.

Alex liked to dress him up as a nurse.

Our last morning at the hospital Alex and I cried, and tried to say goodbye.
Donald told the nurses that he didn’t want us to leave.
I didn’t want us to leave either.

A month or so after we got home I got a facebook message from Bernard, one of the Rwandan nursing students, telling me that my friend Donald was still there.
Donald…. Who is Donald???”
It was then Alex and I realized our mistake.
But, you know, I think he’ll always be Donate to us.

A few months later, another message came through from Bernard, saying that Donald had finally gone home, but that his leg was permanently deformed.

Donald spent almost 9 months in that hospital.
9 months out of school.
His mother spent 9 months in that hospital cooking his meals, cleaning his bed, sheet and few precious articles of clothing, and sharing a bed with him at night.

 Whenever I picture Donald in my head, he's always smiling. 
Because he always was. 
Despite his circumstances, despite the possibility of amputation if the infection wasn't able to be controlled, he crutched around the hospital, joked with the nurses, played with Marie and smiled his sweet quiet smile through it all. 
I'm sure Donald is back in school, still smiling as he watches the other kids run around, while he sits on the sidelines because of the deformity of his leg.
So many things I learned from that boy, so many memories we shared. 

Jesus, be with Donald.