Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Atypical Day in the Sbitar

An Atypical Day in the Sbitar

Sbitar is the name for a health center. My town of 400 has one sbitar, which is staffed by a female and male nurse (the male nurse is currently on a month long vacation). The sbitar also services a nearby (1.5km) town of 800.
I go to the sbitar most every weekday that I’m in my town. I don’t do much there, but it’s important for my community to associate me with health care. So I go there every day and sit. There aren’t very many patients, so most of the time I talk to the nurse (in French) or study my flashcards. When a patient does come in, I greet them, but the nurse does all the work. Recently, I’ve been able to help a little with translation (my nurse speaks only a little Tamazight and some people in my town don’t speak any Arabic). But for the most part I’m like a bump on a log and it’s pretty boring.
Well not yesterday! First, a woman from my town came into the room with her child. After getting some pills for the child, she asked for her birth control pills. The nurse looked at her charts and found that she wasn’t due for more pills for another three weeks, so refused to give her the pills. A huge argument started with both women yelling at one another. The pills were not given in the end.
Next, another woman came in. She shut the door behind her and, after greeting us, started crying. My nurse (a woman) hugged her and comforted her. I didn’t know what to do; physical contact was definitely out of the question, so I just sat there. Eventually it came out that the woman’s young (2 months) daughter had just died. The details were a little foggy, but it sounds like the woman’s family made her go to another town to work, leaving the daughter behind. The daughter got sick (with diarrhea) and received little care from the family. Without her mother’s care (and milk), she died. It was heartbreaking.
Then, a few minutes later, another woman came in with her daughter, age of 4 or 5 years. The daughter had something stuck in her big toe, which was causing her pain. When the nurse tried to look at the toe, she would scream and kick her feet. So the nurse told me to hold the child down while she worked on the toe. Oh man, I didn’t feel good about holding the kid’s legs down while she screamed bloody murder. But I didn’t know what else to do – am I going to refuse my nurse’s request? And maybe it had to be done. So that was an atypical day in the sbitar.

SIDA testing update
In my last post I talked about some SIDA (AIDS) education that me and some other volunteers did in a nearby city/town (Boumia), which happens to be a prostitution hub. There was free testing available to anyone who wanted it.
Out of 105 people tested, 30 positive for an STI. 30! Honestly, I was expecting that no one would test positive. Or maybe a person or two. I thought that the value of our work was mostly educating people about a disease that they were unaware of and hopefully protecting future generations from the disease. But the problem is here and now. I hadn’t thought I would do any SIDA education in my town, but I’m going to reconsider now. Men from my town definitely visit prostitutes in Boumia so it is a problem.

I’m still waiting for my house to be finished. Hopefully it will be done in a week or so. I’ve been buying stuff (refrigerator, stove, dishes, etc) to put in it once it’s finished. I also bought a TV and satellite dish for 1,400 Dh (less than $200). There is no monthly payment, once you buy the dish you have the channels for life. My monthly wage is 2,000 Dh. We get an additional one time payment of 5,000 Dh to furnish the house (which is barely enough, considering the house is empty). So 1,400 Dh is no small thing – I’m the only volunteer I know who has one. But I don’t spend a lot of money out here in the country and I think the TV will be worth it. It gets BBC world news. Also, I’ll be able to watch a soccer game every week. So I think it’s a good investment. And, I’ll be able to work on my Arabic, which I’m not exposed to very much here.
My Program Assistant came and visited my site today. Peace Corps sends someone to every site in the first few months to check in on us. When he was here, he talked to some of the people that I’ve been working with in my town and he was very excited by the experience. He thinks that people in my town are motivated and that there’s a lot of work for me to do. I had thought the same thing, but seeing him get so excited has energized me. Pretty soon, I should be doing a lot of work – probably after Ramadan (September). So I’m excited.
Heres my host family

1 comment:

Franny said...

dunc! im finally caught up with your blog! it all sounds very exciting. im working on a letter right now to send to you that tells you all about europe and how our plane almost crashed. its very exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat.