This has been a week of firsts for me here in Mzuzu! Some fun, some, well read on…

Local scenery on our ride
Local scenery on our ride

Sunday was the bike inaugural ride, first an hour with Carol, then a 4 hour ride with new friend Sara, the head of optometry at the University. We meandered on dirt roads for several hours, not quite knowing where we were or where we were going. Saw some monkeys, nice farm country, a dairy farm with VERY skinny cows, people meandering to and from church, and lots of washboard roads.

bike ride with Sara and friendly gent
bike ride with Sara and friendly gent

On returning Sara loaned me a voltage converter so Monday morning was the first time I was able to blow my hair dry since leaving DC on July 23rd.   Felt really good to look like myself for a change, though I haven’t had a haircut, pedicure or anything resembling a beauty treatment in well over 2 months.

First blow dry with a converter!
First blow dry with a converter!

Heard my first owl in the tree in our backyard…haven’t identified yet as she comes at night.

First nasturtiums, watermelon and eggplant poking through in the garden.

First date, wouldn’t you all like to know…J))

Bonus Care Package!!!
Bonus Care Package!!!

First care package, OMG! My amazing sister Mary sent me a huge box filled with my favorite things that I am now hoarding in my room, and not sharing!

Men's ward, overcrowded
Men’s ward, overcrowded

Officially assigned my first group of clinical students, all 6 of them, in the male surgical unit. I will be supervising them for 5 weeks during their rotation here. They are adorable and so eager to work with me. They are like sponges and I really enjoy seeing them light up when we start digging into a case. The male surgical ward is not exactly the most pleasant. It is overcrowded now and there are people sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor.

The worst first this week occurred when I was assisting the students with a dressing change on a burn patient. He had started a fire at home and fell asleep and his blanket caught fire and he had massive burns on his chest, neck , arms and abdomen. This happens frequently, or people fall asleep and “fall” into their fire.

Pavilion where patient guardians sleep and prepare food for patients
Pavilion where patient guardians sleep and prepare food for patients

As the students were cleaning his wound, several very large maggots emerged from under a skin flap on his chest. Yes, folks, I almost lost it. The students were calm as it was obviously not a first for them. In trying to maintain some kind of professional demeanor, I asked them to kindly grab the forceps and pull them out, all 6-7 of them. UGH!!! Not a peep from the students. Luckily we all had masks on so the grimacing was most likely not evident. Took me most of the day to recover from that!

I learned something from the students. They knew what to do and set out to treat the situation immediately with a very concentrated salt solution. Imagine that going into raw flesh, OUCH! We then had to strip the bed, change the mattress and treat the dilapidated wooden bedframe with a salt solution (see photo)

Bed being treated with salt
Bed being treated with salt

Today I saw a 17 month old child who had both a penis, and a vagina, interesting, and definitely a first for me. More testing needed to actually determine what sex this child is and how to proceed from here.

I know this is hard to believe but I began to construct my first PowerPoint presentation for a lecture. YUP! Never used it before and I am having fun experimenting with it. Just wish the topic was more interesting, Fundamentals of Nursing, How to Give a Bedbath!

Two more days of hospital orientation and we are turned loose to supervise clinically full time. What a relief that will be.

In the meantime, Nenita and I are still waiting for a toilet seat that we can actually sit on without getting pinched. It has three cracks across the seat and is plastic so if you sit just right, your skin gets pinched in the cracks, bummer. We have been asking for the seat since we arrived on the 12th of August. That’s just how things go in Malawi…

One thought on “FIRSTS

  1. I am so loving all your posts! I was telling Mark about this latest one and now he wants to sign up and follow you. There is so much I want to comment on: your weekend with the horses, the maggots crawling out of the patient, waiting for a toilet seat and so much more.

    And I’m wondering, will there be a second date??

    Sending much love. You are amazing. And your life is not dull. Thank you for inspiring me and everyone who reads about your adventures.


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