Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I’ve been back at work for a couple of weeks. In that time, I’ve spent 7 hours at a hospital one afternoon and evening (the person with whom I was there, and who needed to see the doctor, had arrived 7 hours before I did!); I spent 4 nights with a funeral going on right outside my window; spent a couple days moving a fellow-lay missionary to a new assignment (should have been one day, but she – the lay missionary – suffered a bad fall down 7 cement steps after our first trip, using her head to break her landing 4 steps down and her shoulder on the 7th step – and both head and shoulder for final landing on the ground – result: stitches in head, possible concussion, and dislocated shoulder. My first aid training – from boy scouts? CPR classes? – came in useful); I spent a day shopping with our physical education teacher for supplies for his class (we received a grant so we could have more than 1 flat soccer ball to use for his classes); started karate lessons; barely made it to email; and have actually started to establish some kind of routine in my life here. (These are just the highlites – there have also been office hours, other doctor visits, meetings and arrangements made for future meetings, car wash, following up on a break-in and robbery of a dutch lay missionary living in the same village as I do, starting a couple of books – and the list could go on, but why should I do that to you?) Anyway – it’s not as busy as it sounds – I’ve also had time to relax and watch some DVDs at night.

Funerals are interesting things here – and, if not in the right frame of mind (which, judging from the usual attendees, is probably intoxicated), the most annoying, frustrating, exasperating things in the world. The hugest loudspeakers to be found are found. The loudest music is found (made even louder thanks to the loudspeakers). And its distortedness is probably due to the music being played at the highest volume and most obnoxious base levels imaginable. Fortunately, I’ve been tired, so I can still get to sleep at 11 at night with the walls vibrating, the ceiling gyrating, and my bed acting as though I put a quarter in it for one of those 5 minute massages (but, with those beds the massage ends long before you wake up, probably before you fall asleep, and with my bed on the funeral nights the massage went on, and on, and on). I can sleep through a lot. But what’s hard is once the music cuts off and there’s silence for a period of time and I’m still sleeping – and SUDDENLY the LOUDEST, most distorted music with the most obnoxious base in the world starts up. Right outside my window. Um . . . yeah – that’s a bit hard for me to manage sleeping through.

The first night, ok, fine. But I woke up not realizing how completely fuzzy I was. I had told two people to meet me at the school for the deaf at 7:30. I completely forgot and showed up at 9:45. Yikes. I picked up a woman with her boy who has a chronic, nasty smelling cough (another story for another time) to take to the hospital in Accra for x-rays and for me to meet someone who had CT scans (the boy mentioned in the second sentence of this blog, who’s pictured here and whose name is Dixon) and was waiting to see his doctor to discuss the results. He had arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. so he could put his file in early and hopefully be one of the first that the doctor would see. (I’ll come back to this – it’s a crazy, corrupt, uncompassionate, cold, uncaring and prejudiced system that some hospital staff sometimes follows here.) I was almost to the hospital when I realized – YIKES! – the CT scan (which cost almost $200 – thank you everyone who has sent open donations for making this possible) was back in my office. AI YAI YAI – I love the idea of blaming the funeral for my total disorganization this particular day. (And, yes, I think it’s fair to do so.) Fortunately, Peter (a Liberian who works closely with me and the dutch lay missionary on the camp) was at the office and free for the rest of the day – and able to bring the CT scan to us at the hospital.

A couple of years ago, while he was in Guinea (another West African country, which borders Liberia and where Dixon first went as a refugee), Dixon was climbing a tree to get some coconuts for his family. He fell from the tree and has since been partially incontinent, in pain and unable to receive treatment. He was sent here for treatment, and, as with Abbie and others, was unable to get refugee status because he came here only for the management and treatment of his medical condition, so the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is unable to help him. This is where some of the open donations which have been sent to me in the past came in so useful – we were able to get Dixon the CT scan, which we finally had in our possession on this day when we found ourselves waiting 14 hours to see the doctor so that the scan could be read and treatment discussed. It turns out the first vertebrae in his lumbar section has been crushed, which has also caused nerve damage – explaining the incontinence. Some spacers can be put in to take care of the pain and give the nerves a chance to regenerate (he’s young, but it’s been two years – so it’s hard to say how much regeneration will take place). This surgery will also prevent further deformity for Dixon. Without the surgery, the pain will remain and increase, he will definitely remain incontinent, and he will become more and more hunched over. And he is now only 20 years old. The doctor has given us a date 2 months away to return for the surgery. He understands we may not have raised the money for it yet, but we need to start with something – so we’ve got the date. The doctor has agreed to wave his surgical fees, but the spacers cost a lot of money, and then there’s the cost of blood, medicine, I.V.s, the bed, treatment while in the hospital for a couple of weeks, etc. Total cost is going to be around $1,600. Anyone who wants to make a contribution towards Dixon receiving this surgery, removing his pain, preventing future deformities – I will definitely appreciate it – and, obviously, it will make a profound effect in Dixon’s future. I will keep everyone posted on how this fundraising effort goes. (I wasn’t going to use the blog for fundraising, but this is an exception – the time is short and the situation serious enough.)

So, after this day in the hospital and finding out this information about what’s needed for Dixon, I arrived home at 9:00 p.m. to my vibrating house. Anyway, I don’t want to sound cold about the funeral. It was a neighbor of mine. He wasn’t someone I ever really talked much to – truth is, he was one of several village drunks. He wandered onto the main road which goes by our village, connecting Accra with Winneba, and was hit by a car (cars fly down this road, pass other vehicles indiscriminately, and have serious, deadly accidents on a daily basis) . Like I said, I don’t want to sound cold. At the same time, it’s extremely hard to think straight while writing this with music shaking the walls, vibrating the ceiling, and rocking the floor I’m sitting on. My ears are ringing. I feel for him and his family – it’s just a little hard to express it while “SHAKE YOUR BODY! SHAKE YOUR BODY BABY! MOVE YOUR BODY!” is pounding through my closed windows on a steamy tropical night (and a school/work night at that!).

This has gotten long – so I may have to talk more of hospitals and funerals in a future entry. I could probably do daily entries and not run out of things to talk about. But I would probably run out of readers – a “too much information” kind of thing, tiring people out, frightening people away. So, if you want to help with Dixon getting the surgery he needs, please send a donation to:

c/o Theresa Hicks
256 N. Manor Circle
Takoma Park, MD 20912

In the memo section of the check just write it’s for Steve’s work with Dixon. And include a short note saying basically the same thing, that the enclosed check is for Steve Phillips’ work in Buduburam with Dixon.


At 4:57 AM, Blogger Anita said...

What a wonderful man of God you are. Oh my goodness! What rewards are stored up in heaven for you! After reading your letters, I can only think how wrapped up in my life and family while you are living life helping others. More to come, my wise friend! Guess who?

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Artem said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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