Monthly Archives: October 2009

Update to Life Isn’t Fair, But God is Good

It has been way too long since I wrote an update on this story, but the saga continued for a while. A few weeks after this all happened, I went for a home visit late on a Friday afternoon to pay the caregiver and evaluate the beneficiary. The operative words here are “late on a Friday afternoon.” It was not a situation that anyone wanted to find at that hour, especially not here, where medical care at best is iffy and psychiatric care, in particular. She was completely out of her mind, walking around like a duck, trying to escape and trying to strangle herself with her clothes. A phone call to the doctor at the psychiatric hospital was useless; she couldn’t be admitted there because of her medical problems and there didn’t seem to be any concern that her only caregivers for the weekend were her teenage sons.

So what to do? The hired caregiver and her son should have gotten “combat” pay for having to deal with this. We went back to the office, just beating the rain, to consult with other co-workers. We found a private psychiatric clinic that would see her on Saturday morning (not obviously ideal, but the best we could do) and for about $8 -10 USD, were able to get a diagnosis of INH (a TB medicine) psychosis. My favorite antipsychotic, haloperidol was prescribed and stated.

I’m happy to say that she is doing much better, has no need for a daytime caregiver and is now able to manage her household chores with some help from her sons. There will probably be more updates to this story as time goes on; I have a feeling that the end of this story has not yet been written!

I wish I could send this headline in to the National Enquirer! One of the things I have to do here is to come up with easy and inexpensive solutions for sometimes annoying or vexing problems that our beneficiaries have. And I don’t mean to make light of a problem by the title of this post. Not everything is fixable or treatable with medicine and some things just don’t need medicine, even though some of the beneficiaries think that I, the American, must have something better than is available here. But sometimes, something simple and generally available to everyone is the easiest.

Case in point. I saw one of our beneficiaries, Dinkenesh, a few weeks ago for a variety of problems. Some were easily treated, like a urinary tract infection. Numbness in her feet is a little less easy to treat as it is due to one of the HIV medications. But a big problem was her ears. Her elderly mother was with her and did most of the talking. The patient herself was very quiet, rarely spoke and just seemed aloof. A look in her ears showed that there was impacted wax–very common here. I’ve learned that trying to get this out with irrigation can be painful and it doesn’t always work–unless the wax can be softened up enough to come out easily. So, I’ve been prescribing a few drops of cooking oil to be put into the ear canal at bedtime, with a piece of Kleenex stuck into the ear to keep it in there.

Well, a few weeks later, we made another home visit to Dinkenesh and her mother. Mama was so happy that Dinkenesh could hear again and was convinced that a miracle had occurred. And the change in Dinkenesh was very obvious. She was interactive with us, conversant and was generally happier. And a look in her ears revealed they were clean as a whistle, with no wax and normal appearing ear drums! And the best part was I didn’t have to irrigate out wax!

September Update in October!

When I sent this out, I had been in Ethiopia for 5 months, but this week was 6 months. The time has really flown by and I am very thankful to be here. I am enjoying my work with the HIV/AIDS project; I am still figuring out my role, but it has become much clearer as time goes on. So let me give you some glimpses of what life is like here in the various places I find myself.

WORK: As a nurse practitioner, I am the highest level medical provider for the project. I’m thankful for the three Ethiopian nurses I work with and rely on their expertise a lot–some of the things we see here, I’ve never seen in the US or don’t have all the possible differential diagnoses for. Over the course of the summer, I’ve seen all of the HIV positive kids in the project, updating their health status and getting to know them a bit. For all their problems, including HIV, poverty, some being orphaned and one being deaf, they are pretty normal kids–fun-loving, shy, out-going, affectionate, impish, scheming, and any other adjective you could think of to describe a child. We’ve seen a lot of the kids this summer, as we had a volunteer here tutoring them, which they really enjoyed–hard to believe that American kids would like summer school, but these kids were anxious to learn and often showed up an hour early.

I spend time weekly in each of the three neighborhoods where we work. This involves making home visits with the nurse; some visits are more social and some are more medical, depending on the need. Making home visits is probably my favorite part of the project; I get out in the neighborhoods, see how people live and the challenges they have to face, which are many. I also see some of our beneficiaries in the offices, either filling prescriptions or providing medical care.

I work with a great Ethiopian staff, who help me tremendously by translating, reading prescriptions for me–which are in English, but I either can’t read them or don’t know what the drug is because of a different name over here. They accompany me on home visits and help me with diagnosing and prescribing. We’ve had some sick beneficiaries lately and we work together to come up with the best treatment plan. Some things are not any different here than in the US. The worst problems seem to happen on late Friday afternoons–like a recent psychiatric emergency, treatment doesn’t always work, people aren’t always happy with their treatment, and some people can be hypochondriacs!

LANGUAGE SCHOOL: I started Amharic language school on August 17th, which has made my life more crazy and busy. My brain is tired as I write this. For the first two weeks, we have been listening only and recording what our teacher says; listening to the recordings is my homework. By the time you get this we will be speaking some. The method this school uses is called the “Growing Participant Approach”–in other words, you learn a language like you do as a child, listening first, then speaking, then writing and reading. We’ve probably learned 350 words in the past two weeks, though I don’t recognize or remember them all. One of the fun things about language school is meeting people from different parts of the world who work in different organizations from me. I am the only American in my class group of 6 (though there are other Americans in the school); the others are from S. Africa, Korea, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland–our common language is English. We have a great teacher and are constantly being told we are “betam gobez” (very clever) when we get something right–I just wish it were really true!

LIFE IN GENERAL: I have to say that my life here is quite good, thanks be to God. I have a comfortable apartment, though I’ve been without running water and hot water for most of the rainy season and a lot of my electrical outlets don’t work. I’m getting to know the people who live here with me, as well as others outside of here. I just joined a community chorus, called the “Motley Singers”, which will be a good way to get to know people outside of the missionary community and give me some relief from studying.

I go to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church and am getting to know people there, albeit slowly. Many people leave during the rainy season and are starting to return now. I’ve been volunteering to read scripture during worship and hope to get in the regular rotation soon. It is a multi-national church, of course with many from the British Commonwealth nations, and many from various African nations, India and the US. The morning worship is very traditional and liturgical, with a more informal contemporary service in the evening.

I’ve mentioned rainy season a couple of times. The rains were late in coming this year, but come they have. It rains, and sometimes hails, every day, and has since the beginning of June. My umbrella and my rain jacket are my constant companions, because it can be not raining one minute and pouring the next. We’ve recently had a few days of sunshine which has been wonderful, with rain only at night. The dust of the dry season has turned to mud and muck! It hasn’t been too unbearable, overall. But the time of year I consider to be summer is completely out of context–it is cool, in the 60’s and long sleeves, fleece and warm socks are in order. During the cooler days a scarf was definitely a needed accessory–and very much the style here anyway.

Again, thanks to you all for your prayers, financial support, emails and letters, and care packages. I couldn’t be here without all of that support and certainly not without the conviction that this is the place God has for me to be right now. I am really enjoying my life and work here and am so thankful for that. Here are some praises and prayer requests for you:


  • For work I am enjoying.
  • For the knowledge that I am where God wants me to be.
  • For the great people that I work with and the help and support they are to me.
  • That my house in Baltimore was rented for a year in mid-July.


  • For my language learning and diligence in studying.
  • For the beneficiaries I care for and my interactions with them, that they would see the light of Christ in me.
  • For ongoing funding for our project here–we are working on child sponsorship.
  • For new team members Emily, Michael & Caleb Treadwell who arrived 9/7/09 and their adjustment to life here.