Growing Pains


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A lot of the challenges of life in Africa really are small, but seem enormous. For example, if a person had an ingrown big toenail in Europe or the States, it would probably be painful and inconvenient, but you probably wouldn’t have a moto driver stomp on it with full force as he tries to fire up his bike to take you home. And in daily life, you might stub it on everything in sight, but one of those things in your daily path would probably not be the grapefruit-sized rock that is used to prop open the doors of your compound gate which you must open each time you leave home and return again. And at least in the developed world, most of the staircases are carpeted with a foam pad underneath or at least with rubber/linoleum on top to form at least the thinnest of barriers in hopes that your poor late-for-class toe will not be crushed against the unforgiving cement.

So, an ingrown toenail is never fun, but in Africa it’s way worse. Or at least it seems that way. Ironically, it’s not so bad that you interrupt your busy teacher-life to find a clinic within a week after realizing that it’s infected. It’s not even bad enough to find a clinic after six weeks. No, no matter how bad it is you just can’t seem to step away from your routine.

Suffice it to say that there were many factors working against me and my poor toe as Amy and I finally went into the clinic a week ago Friday, lower standards of medical care in Africa notwithstanding. Imagine our surprise when, after only fifteen minutes of waiting, we were called back and able to undergo “surgery” right there in a small medical room on a bed with a green plastic coating and layers of white antiseptic material underneath my foot. The worst part was definitely the four-inch needle injection of anesthetic (ironic, of course, that prevention of future pain causes the most immediate pain). The doctor (surgeon?) spoke English and had a charming bedside manner… he kept me talking during the scariest parts and didn’t allow me to see anything (per Amy’s goading) until everything was finished. The bill for everything wasn’t too crippling and the bandage/dressing he prepared for my toe was very clean and tight. Also, Amy made sure that every instrument he used was sterile – wasn’t really a big concern, but something she took special care to notice each time he got out something new.

Last Monday we went in for a check-up and he gave us some antibiotic cream and told us to come back on Thursday. “Thursday? Christmas?” we said. He didn’t seem fazed at all, so on Thursday, after our first Christmas morning as a married couple, we drove together downtown again for one final follow-up. We are both extraordinarily thankful that this process was so smooth – let all detractors of basic outpatient medical care in Kigali take heed!

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One Response to “Growing Pains”

  1. It’s so good when your other half knows you well enough to tell your doctor not to let you see anything. It’s so lovely that they can protect you against yourself! Hurrah for good spouses! (and good medicine!)

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