The Amazing Africa, Part Three

May 27, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A Student Spotlight about Hospital Shadowing Experience in Iringa, Tanzania

Jamieson in full gear while on placement in Tanzania. On one three-hour night shift in obstetrics and gynecology, I observed a C-section, a natural birth, and an ectopic pregnancy. Looking back on that night, it still doesn’t seem real to me. You would never get that kind of experience in the United States!

Being the first person to hold the baby after the natural birth was the most surreal experience yet. It was as if the world around me stood still and all I could see were the soft brown eyes of that newborn baby. Sitting here, writing this, it’s hard to even describe the day-to-day emotions you feel in Iringa Regional Hospital. Africa may just be another continent, but it feels like a whole other world.

Yesterday, while I was shadowing in surgery, I saw an orthopedic procedure where the doctors removed a device in a man’s leg. The device straightened a fracture caused by a motorcycle accident, which is the most common cause of fractures here. The next surgery was also orthopedic and involved removing a metal plate from a woman’s femur. The doctor had to cut five inches deep into her thigh before he could get the plate out. It was a very interesting procedure to watch.

The last surgery I saw that day was unimaginable in the United States—the patient was a malnourished fifty-year-old man with an oversized abdomen. The doctors originally thought it was caused by a tumor, but once they opened him up, they could tell it was not a tumor by any means. This poor man had a twisted large intestine, and the organ had swollen to a massive size.

Many people ask me how I can handle seeing such graphic scenes here, and to be honest, you just have to look at things scientifically. As a nurse or a doctor, you have to be prepared for anything that walks through the door. Being scared or grossed out isn’t an option—you have to be brave and ready for anything. Otherwise, your patients can’t trust you to do the best you can. I give credit to all those willing to go into the medical field. It’s either something for which you have to prepare yourself or something that you’re just born to do. Being in the hospital every day, I know I am destined to be a nurse.

“Barbie!” This past Thursday at the orphanage, Barbie was my name until I taught the children how to say Jamieson. Even then, all the little ones still preferred to refer to me as Barbie. As we all walked through the gates, about 100 kids from the ages of two to five came running towards us, grinning from ear to ear. For them, seeing us was like seeing your favorite actor showing up at your doorstep—I got more hugs that day than I think I have in an entire year!

There was one girl I practically fell in love with. She was four years old—an orphan with Down’s syndrome and the biggest and brightest smile of them all. She was perfect in every way. I’m not one to pick favorites, but if I had it my way, I would have brought her home with me in a heartbeat.

Two weeks down, six more to go. I cannot wait to see what this crazy adventure has to offer me.