Monday, May 27, 2013

Guest blogger: Full Of Hot, Dusty Air

The last blog entry by Dr. Katy Rivlin as she prepares to leave Ghana. Many thanks to Katy for sharing her experiences in Ghana. Stay tuned - I plan to have more residents blogging in the future.

5/24 -->  Full of hot, dusty air
    I’m packing to leave, just watched my last Ghanaian uterus extracted from an abdomen and gave a pile of NYU scrubs to Parker and Henry. I picked up my dress from Constance (definitely gonna wear it to my next garden party/wedding/Kentucky Derby) and made a salad of all the leftovers in Sari’s fridge which may have involved tuna fish and beans.
    Along with my dress, I had a pair of patterned pants with a drawstring made for Ari. I envision them also at the Kentucky Derby, or perhaps when he meets with an important client at his law firm. Constance surprised me with a matching shirt. She asked me again who it was for and I told her “It is for the man I am going to marry”.
“Ah” said Comfort (Constance’s co-seamstress), “But is he a tough man?”
“Umm, yes” I said, Constance and Comfort both nodding approvingly.
“But not too tough” I added.
We all three laughed hard. Surely any woman can agree on the value of a not too tough man.
    On my last day in the Family Planning Unit, I listened to a lecture on abortion put on by a few senior medical students. While abortion is technically only legal here if a certified health care provider decides that the maternal or fetal life is at risk, Emmanuel says they interpret that law very liberally, at least at Korle Bu.
     I watched this big group of medical students (not Ob-Gyn residents mind you, just plain old medical students) passing around manual vacuum aspirators, or suction devices used for early abortion, and cheering every time they did it right. I listened to them debate the perfect combination of medications for a medical abortion. The attending doctor gave a moving talk about the horrors of septic abortion (something they see frequently here in Ghana) and he praised cytotec, a medication for abortion that is now cheap and easy to get on the black market. This has completely changed the face of illegal abortion here in Ghana. “Thank God for cytotec” he said. Never thought I’d hear God and cytotec used in the same sentence.
    I can’t imagine an equivalent scenario in the US, even at a place like NYU and certainly not at the University of Mississippi where I went to medical school. We tiptoe around abortion, we apologize for it, we neglect to teach it. With septic abortion a thing of the past in the US, we’ve forgotten what it means. And don’t blame religion, because believe me, Ghanaians are as fiercely evangelical as any bible belter worth his spurs.  It’s funny how things go in circles.
    One more bucket shower, one more semi toilet flush, one more mouthful of dirt on the car ride to the airport. Thank you Sari, plastic chair lady, Dr. Ades, Maala, bleating sheep-goat Paka-Parker, bean maker lady,  Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Emmanuel and his family, thank you Ghana. You’ve breathed your hot, dusty air into me and I hope to have it with me always.

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