Friday, August 16, 2013

Gross Ouwie

The people of Congo like to say the bite came from Uganda. The Ugandans…Congo. Whatever the case, the bite became infected. I’m not saying this is what happened but…all the stuck truck situations often resulted in sitting on the ground in the dirt waiting to be unstuck and…well…that couldn’t have helped the situation.

I felt the lump grow and become tender under the skin and eventually that growth got hot…infection. Well, it’s a good thing I’m well versed in squatty potty because that lump took over my hind quarter (okay, it was only the size of a lemon with an opening the size of a quarter). Sitting was no longer an option and so I found myself lounging on my side as my companions became more curious at my odd behavior.

At first I used the camera as a means to see what the ouwie looked like and then Kizombo Jr. mentioned to Pr Mike that he’d brought a framed mirror – the only one in the house – to help with shaving. And so I snuck into the washroom and stood perched with one foot up on the small table holding the bathing basin, one hand holding back my skirt and a flashlight, and the other hand holding the mirror. I contorted my body just enough to see what was causing the anguish…I giant green lump. No, I couldn’t just squeeze it and get the goop out…my hands were occupied. Setting down the flashlight and the mirror I squeezed in the dark to see if anything would come out…no luck, lots of pain. What was I thinking!

Two more days and that Thing was no longer bearable. I was going to have to tell someone and hope that way out in the post-jungle surroundings there’d be some kind of medicine. As God had prepared, one of the people who came with us from Bukavu to Kitindi in the hot box was a nurse. The thought crossed my mind that medical practices in the developed world differ significantly from those in developing nations. But…what were my choices particularly given that I couldn’t even see this Thing.

Thoroughly and completely embarrassed, Kizombo Jr. asked Simone to look at my gross ouwie. He came quickly and willingly, and with Kizombo Sr. looking on (more embarrassment for me), he made an “eeew” face. Speaking only French and Kiswahili, Simone promised to send someone to find medicine for me.

The next day sometime late in the afternoon some salve arrived along with antibiotics. Salve, great! I know that stuff…it draws out the infection. Question…any bandages around? The next day I perched in my now practiced position in the wash room to see if the salve had done its work. Yep, a nice big green ball awaited me. Now…extricating that ball. A Q-tip was my preferred instrument but unlike the Chin Baby, this glob refused to let go. I finally resorted to using my fingernails to grab that nasty bundle. Apparently that green blob still had some tentacles down into my flesh because I almost passed out at the pain of yanking on that Thing.

I got it, though, the big green blob now laid on a small piece of TP and smaller green blobs remained inside the gaping flesh wound which was now dripping with blood. Guess I shoulda waited another day before yanking on that nasty Thing. That evening presented me with a fever. Sigh, what else? I’m the rough and tumble American who’s familiar with the challenges of life in Africa and yet I’m getting all kinds of sick. Malaria? Infection? Who knew. I had a few doses of ibuprophen with me and kept my mouth shut about the fever in hopes that it’d subside by itself and yet watching for the malaria signs. Kizombo Sr. asked why I was coughing the night before. I had to tell the truth. The cough was the result of the fever, an attempt to ease the internal pain. When the doses were gone and the fever remained, I was forced to admit that yet again I was in need of some care. The malaria specific meds helped immediately.

The next few days were filled with salve, antibiotics, and lots of very uncomfortable sitting positions. Kizombo Jr.’s first aid kit contained four bandages large enough to cover this wound and I strategically applied them so as to have one ready for our one-day return hot box journey. Problem…Africa is hot and bandages don’t stick in the hot. Three times I found myself stepping on that giant Band-Aid after it slid off my hind quarter and onto the ground. Uh-oh…the ride home.

We were confident that the journey out of Kitindi and back to Bukavu would be just one day and so my plan was to sit on that last bandage to keep it in place. No sense in adding infection to infection by having my dirty traveling pants in direct contact with that big hole in my leg. But wait…did I say one day? After the first time getting stuck the bandage came off. In and out of the hot box at least 10 times…the first day…went something like this.

Sit on the gaping flesh wound. Pants stick to wound and the wound starts to dry. Stand to get out of the truck because we’re stuck and rip the pants out of the wound…blood runs down my leg. Back in the truck to sit on the wound again. Pants stick to the wound and the wound starts to dry. Stand to get out of the truck because we’re stuck…again…and rip the pants out of the wound. Blood runs down my leg. Multiply this paragraph by three days – yes, DAYS – and at least 20 stick-and-rips and I really just wanted to cry it hurt so badly.

Our final arrival in Bukavu sent my heart into a little happy dance. Again with no mirror, I carefully cleaned this Thing I could not see with ice cold water from the bucket in my bathroom at the hotel. I donned my pajama shorts and washed the nasty out of my traveling pants, which would be needed the next day for the flight home. Thankfully, Simone came to the hotel one last time to check on me and pronounced the wound okay…at least that’s what I thought he said in French. He gave me one final bandage and I prayed for its stickiness during my final journey.

As I walked between the Congo exit and Rwanda entry, I felt something flapping on the back of my shoe. Good grief…no bandages left. Was I allowed to cry just at the thought of another stick-and-rip situation?

Now, just four days after returning home, the hole is dried enough that it doesn’t rip when I sit. I still can’t see it, but a gentle probe suggests it’s actually closing up. Whew! Honestly, I’m surprised this is only the second such infection in my three years here.