I know that I haven’t blogged in a while, so let me fill you in on what has been happening over the last week or so.

Last Thursday was a busy day, starting out with giving a presentation to all of the doctors here about the basics of physical therapy, especially in an orthopedic hospital setting. I gave the presentation with Tebogo, one of the full-time physiotherapists here (I work the closest with Tebogo in the spinal unit, he is a great therapist, I really admire him and respect him a lot). Physio is a very much developing profession here in South Africa, and many of the young doctors don’t have a full understanding of what the profession entails. The lecture was very basic, but well received. It was a good perspective check for me, as I have been trained to be on a collaborative level with the doctors that I work with as an autonomous professional. In South Africa, the profession is not yet as developed or respected, and the physiotherapists are struggling more to be accepted in their places of practice.

After the lecture, the physios all brought in cultural food for us to share. I had samp and beans, pap, maize, curry and even….tripe (sheep’s stomach!). We ate so much and had a good time together. However, the next morning, everyone who ate the tripe (including me)…had a severe case of the “runs”…two of the therapists were so bad, that they couldn’t even show up for work on friday! Luckly I had some immodium that did the trick, and my day wasn’t filled with mad dashes to the bathroom!

After work on Friday, Harry, Sue and I set off for a place called Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast. It took about 3 hours to get there, through some beautiful tea plantations and over some very rough, dirt roads. But, as is usually the case around here, the drive was worth it. The resort was on beach front, the weather was beautiful, the food was good and the bar was well stocked :). On Saturday, Jenny and her friend, Mariann met up with us and we really enjoyed ourselves as we layed on the beach, went swimming and had many nice meals (including chocolate muffins in the morning!). Susan and I even went on an early morning beach walk. The weekend was also filled with what Harry would call “DMCs” (Deep Meaningful Conversations), I just really love these guys. What a great way to spend the weekend! I am getting so spoiled!

Tuesday was Dr. Francsisco’s and Eugene’s birthday. We celebrated by eating delicious cuban food and dancing the night away (people here can REALLY dance!). I boiled up some maize that one of the Sisters in the female ward picked from her garden, especially for me and Harry. The concept of “Ubuntu” is very prevalent here, where people all look out for each other, and this Sister gave us the maize because she knew that Harry wasn’t feeling well and she wanted to help him get better. It was a great addition to the party.

On Wednesday, I was privileged enough to watch Harry and David (the CEO of Bedford Hospital) in action in the surgical theaters. I got to watch a hip relocation, an elbow ORIF (open-reduction-internal fixation), and a hip hemiarthroplasty (partial replacement). The coolest surgery was the elbow surgery. The patient had crushed her elbow and had only about 20 degrees of available range of motion. The surgeons first took out the radial head, and then wired the ulna together (it was in about 4 pieces), then they took tiny shavings from the radial head and filled in the “gaps” between the pieces of bone in the ulna so that the bone could heal strongly. It was kind of a crude surgery, but I was extremely impressed with the ability and precision of the surgeons. Orthopedic surgery must be so gratifying as you get to fix what is broken and sew it up nicely in the end. This experience just reiterated to me how much I love medicine, especially orthopedics. Harry and David are such fine surgeons, I am so grateful that I got to watch them in action.

Thursday was Harry and Susan’s last day here at Bedford. The goodbye was a difficult one, as I really have become so close to them during their short six weeks here. They are like family to me. How lucky am I that I randomly was here at the same time that they were? But, the goodbye comes with feelings of anticipation, they live in California (bay area), and I will soon be moving to Washington, not exactly a hop-skip-and-jump away, but close enough to make a visit.

And now, it is just me and Richard here in terms of volunteers. I have been here now for a little over 8 weeks. Looking back, I can kind of see “chapters” in my time here. It started out with me and Pete hitting it off and discovering Africa together. Then, Pete left and 8 other American volunteers came. All of a sudden, my time was jam-packed with social obligations, parties, and weekend trips. Then, many of the volunteers left, and the next two weeks were “bonding” weeks for me, Adam, Harry and Susan. Adam’s medical school is on strike, so he has spent a lot of time at Bedford, observing surgeries and just “soaking in the knowledge of the doctors”, as he would put it. Harry’s mandatory round of ARVs, secondary to an accidental needle prick during surgery, whopped him over the head with extreme fatigue. All of these circumstances, combined, gave us all a chance to really get to know each other better and become like family. Adam and I look similar anyway, and Harry and Sue adopted us as their pretend children. These memories I will cherish forever, I am so blessed.

Things here now are very very very quiet. I have about a week and a half left in South Africa. I think this next chapter will give me a chance to wind down, reflect, say goodbye and get ready for the next stage in my life. I will miss this place immensely, but I know that I will be able to take the lessons that I have learned here, to strengthen me for whatever comes next. Life is good 🙂

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