Sunday, 1 March 2009

the awaited update

Well it’s been awhile since I sat down and wrote my blog. I have been here now 8 months (which is crazy to think time has gone so fast). We are coming to the end of the rainy season. Every is so green and lush with maize popping up everywhere. In the dry season I always passed lots of random pieces of land with nothing growing there and wondered what they were used for. Then Well it’s been awhile since I sat down and wrote my blog. I have been here now 8 months (which is crazy to think time has gone so fast). We are coming to the end of the rainy season. Every is so green and lush with maize popping up everywhere. In the dry season I always passed lots of random pieces of land with nothing growing there and wondered what they were used for. Then I survived the rainy season a lot better then I expected I had this horrible idea of rain 24/7. But it was not at all that bad and I love the thunder and lighting storms. The sound of the thunder is amazing and the sky fills with lighting coming from all the clouds. I think my Irish blood helps with the rain, when the rain stops the sun always comes out, no cold rain here. I did get these great plastic shoes that helped with all the water. Imagine children's jelly shoes with style. There are so the fashion here and cost around one euro. Zambians got a great kick from the musongo (white person) wearing plastic shoes.
Well now you have had the weather update let me take you back to December and give you an update on the last few months. In December Michelle arrived after a three day trip from Jo’berg through Botswana to Zambia and in true Michelle style had lots of stories to tell. I went to meet her in Livingstone and we had a fun few days in there, Michelle jumped of the bridge – bungee jump and I stood on top more nervous then she was. It is the second high bungee jump in the world. When jumping back on the bus for Lusaka our 8 hour bus journey turned into a 12 hour journey 4 of those spent motionless on the road as a truck had crashed and created a knife jack turn and the trailer had taken up the whole road. The truck was full of bags of flour and so before the truck could be moved off the road all the flour bags were offloaded and then the truck was dragged of the road, all was done in the dark by other motorists that wanted to continue on their journey. So eventually we got back to Kabwe. Christmas then came around very fast, I think I felt slightly Christmassy for one day (though I did decorate my little house with Christmas decoration I receive in parcels and some fairy lights.) One evening my friend Chozmo and her little girl came over for a pre Christmas meal and Lucy and me sat and listened to the Snowman story, which was really nice. On Christmas day Michelle and me woke and opened some pressies then headed to work, Christmas morning 7 am and about 25 degrees very strange. Then we had the nicest morning at work and felt very much like Christmas. We had a little Christmas celebration with first the bible reading then lots of beautiful singing. Put 30 Zambians in a room who have never sung together and the singing and harmonizing is amazing. Then all the patients received a present and had fun with Christmas crackers and hats. Then the staff had another little party with Christmas cake made by Mary. Then a local lodge came and donated Christmas day Lunch for all the staff and patients. Mary and Michelle and I then headed to Mary’s neighbor and had a big Christmas dinner. It was so great to have Michelle to share Christmas in Zambia. For News Years a few of us from Kabwe all headed to Lake Kariba in Southern Zambian and camped by the lake for a few days. Had a funny New Years trying first to find a good party and all the parties were boring and full of white farmers, so in the end we had to just make our on fun, which we did and we got to watch the New Year sun raise over the Lake. Lake Kariba is a man made lake created in the 1950s with the building of a dam on the Zambezi river. It is now 5,200km2 and very beautiful. The lake is between Zambia and Zimbabwe and sadly like many of these big dams when it was built there was the displacement of thousands of people, rumor has it that you can still hear bells from on of the villages ringing. It does though now provide fish for the locals to sell. January saw the end of Mary’s time in Hospice. Mary set the hospice up 6 years ago when her and her husband had come here to retire on a farm, Mary got bored and opened the hospice. She has now moved back to Ireland to spend time with and family and get her well deserved retirement. Gabriel is now the coordinator of the hospice he has worked in the children’s centre as a social worker for two year, he Zambian. He is really good and motivated. We all miss Mary (especially me) but everyone is keeping her work alive and the hospice is working well with full beds. This January I complied stats from the hospice for the last year. In 2008 we had 304 admissions to the hospice, of those 91 died. Of those 91 deaths 53% of the patients were already taking ARV’s (Treatment people living with HIV/AIDS take) this shows that even though ARV treatment is very important for a person living with HIV/AIDS is not the only thing. Poverty is still a huge problem in Zambia and without adequate nutrition it is very hard to adhere to ones treatment, as the drugs are very strong, people are still dying of poverty, HIV/AIDS is just speeding up the process. Before medication in the hospice we focus on nutrition. And through good nutrition, medication and care and support we have many success stories and high percentage of patients are discharged in good health and happy excepting their status so they can live positively. One of our aspects is terminal and palliative care but the other side of care is Return to Life Care. We have amazing stories where patients come with CD4 counts as low as 1 (this means they have no immune system what so ever – a healthy person has a CD4 count of 1000) and after a few months in the hospice are able to go home and continue living life. Those are the stories that keep me going on the hard days. In January my cousin and her friend came to stay for a month and a half. They worked in the children’s centers and street children’s centre. It was great having Alie here, we have spent all our childhood summers playing together so it is nice now to hangout as adults. Alice and I spent a fun day in the local market picking out a dress and shoes for the Paddies Day ball, which is in March and organized by the Irish Embassy. Big fancy ball so I had to get some appropriate clothing. Well I bought a lovely dress for 10 euros and my high heels in between the chickens and fruit and veg for 6 euros!! So cheap cheap but really great! Everyone in work had great fun watching me totter around in my new shoes. They were all amazed that I could walk in them or even that I would wear them, they are not used to a glamorous Siobhan. Yesterday I first watched my first Six Nations match since I have been here and my friends got to see the crazy rugby fan I turn into with lots of screaming at the screen. It was great fun and good to fill the beating heart and adrenaline that comes with watching rugby (well for me) Ok enough for now. I will try and keep this more updated!!!! Love Siobhan

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A picture of the first rain from the door in my house Well my promise about more regular updates did not happen. It is now November and I have been here nearly 5 months. The weather is very hot with the occasional break of rain here and there! I never thought I would be so happy to see rain after four months of no rain. I am sure though once the rainy season gets into full swing I wont be so excited about it. With the rains though come the mangos! The tree in my garden has little baby mangos on it! I can’t wait!! Spring in Zambia is really beautiful with lots of trees in bloom. My two favorites are the Jacaranda tree, which is cover in little purple flowers, and the Flame tree that is covered in red flowers. The bloomed way before the rains, its amazing how with no water in 6 months that the trees can flower so beautifully. Also the thunders storms are spectacular with the sky full of flashes of lighting and thundering loud thunder. The last two months have been full with lots happening at the hospice with lots of outreach and daily comings and goings at the hospice. The hot weather brings lots of illness with virus vesturing in the heat. We have had a full hospice, with a few of staff being admitted for periods to get better and recuperate. This month we turned one of our side wards that have two into a little children’s ward with fun curtains and children friendly posters. My friend Nicole is coming in next week to paint fun pictures on the walls. At the moment we have two little girls in and this week they change roles with me and instead of me listen to their chests they had a go with the seiscope and listened to my chat. We had great fun and took pictures using my camera on my computer and took lots of photos. I have put some up with this blog. Last month Rachel, Stephan and I went to Malawi for a ten day holiday. We drove from Kabwe to Malawi, which took a whole day. We spent the first weekend at a music festival by the lake. The Lake of Stars festival has been running for the last 5 years, it is set up by a UK groups so had a mixture of English and Malawian music. The music was ok. But the weekend was great. Lying on the beach listening to music, swimming, talking, meeting great people, playing lots of cards game and of course lots of drinking. There were aprox 2000 – 3000 people at it. The whole set up was great with clean toilets and showers. We were camping so with the heat you were woken very early after few hours sleep in a very hot tent with house music still being pumped out. It was a great weekend. On the Monday we drove 6 hours north along the lake to Nkata Bay where we stayed a few days in a great hostel. The hostel was set up by a co-op of 18 people, it now has 54 workers and everyone has the same share of the hostel. The atmosphere is great with brilliant staff, food and scenery. The hostel is built on the rocks, which go down to the lake. There are rafts on the lake, which you can swim out to, and lye on. We very reluctantly headed back to Zambia and our little holiday soon seemed like a dream once back to busy life in Kabwe. Christmas is coming up soon and could not feel more like that it is along why away with the heat. My local supermarket though is there to remind me. Last week I went in to find the shop covered in Santa’s and tinsel with silent night and other Christmas songs wafting out of the speakers. I was in shock as I thought I would skip all the Christmas hype. I was talking to one of my friends who work there saying what is going on, she replied, “we are just doing what you do at home” I could not argue there. At Christmas we have a Christmas party for the 140 children that attend the two Children centers, with fun and games and all the children receive a present. On Christmas day in the hospice there is a little celebration with carols and nice food, all the patients receive a presents. So this is where I ask you if you would like to donate a few euros for presents and Christmas goodies. I know it’s not a pig or anything sustainable that all the NGOs are asking for donations. But it will put smiles on lots of children’s and patients faces and let them have a little Christmas. To all my classmates who will all be going to graduation next week, I will be sad to be there and miss the reunion but I will be partying in Lusaka in honor of our graduation. Next Monday is Worlds AIDS Day the 1st of December, so all wear red in support. At the Hospice we are holding a candle light evening in memory of all our friends we have lost to AIDS. Lots of love for now, Siobhan

Saturday, 27 September 2008

September news

This evening I was coming home from work in a taxi with Harrison (a taxi driver) and Matilda and Towela (care givers at the hospice). Harrison was going on about how he wanted to move to Ireland and I was telling him its too cold and there was no meal meal (what is used here to make the staple food nshima). Then he was saying to the ladies that you know what I want Siobhan to be. I was waiting for him to give me one of many daily marriage proposals but no he wants me to be Pastor. He said as I have such a good heart that I should be a Pastor. All the Zambians trying to convert me to religion is funny. There is a Pastor on my street that knows that I’m not religious and he said over the year he would counsel me to become religious…… I love the taxi men in Zambia. It is in Taxis that I learn most about politics and about the upcoming election at the end of October. Talking of culture thinkings, today in work we were talking about relationships and I was saying how in Ireland couples live together before marriage and they were so shocked. On the other hand here they think it normal for men to cheat on their wives, which in Ireland we are shocked by and think is wrong (well I think it is more the men then the women that think it is acceptable). It is interesting how sometimes we can judge and think something is unacceptable in another culture but then that same culture finds things that we view as acceptable as totally unacceptable. Today I was on Outreach. Twice a week we go on Outreach, which means we go into the bush and have clinics in the villages. We offer medical care, family planning, VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV), Nutrition assistance, Chlorine (to help with clean water) and Health Talks on everything from TB to cooking demonstrations. It is always a social outing for the communities and large numbers come so they are very busy. On Wednesday I saw 188 people in my clinic and today I saw 107 sitting under a tree. They are very tiring but I enjoy them. A lot of people come with the same symptom just wanting to get medicine. In Zambia they are very into giving out antibiotics to everyone from babies to old people. We are trying to change this attitude but it can be frustrating at times to try and convince a mother that her child does not need an antibiotic or that for a headache you only need 2 panadol and to drink water and not a week supply of panadol. We give out a lot of multivitamin’s so at least they are mot leaving empty handed. My favorites are the babies and the older people in their 70s/80s. Who have all lived to at least double the life expectancy in Zambia, which is 37. The babies too are so cute, today I had the joy of having one pee on me, which happens a lot to me. I was told that in Zambia tradition that if a baby pees on you, you are either a mother or going to one. (Don’t worry not now in the future!!) Well I haven’t written since before going to Livingstone so I should update you all on our week in Livingstone. After another week of night duty Michelle and I headed to Lusaka where we picked Donna up who had just been in Kenya for a month and we took the bumpy long bus journey to Livingstone. We had a great week there very chilled out and relaxing. We meet four lovely Irish guys (I know we are everywhere) they were kayaking on the Nile in Uganda and the Zambezi in Zambia. SO we had lots of fun with them and roped them into many a game of scrabble how cool are we. Victoria falls water was very low as it is dry season. Which meant that you could walk along the top of the falls and look over! Scary but also very exciting. There is also a pool on the edge that you can swim in. I have put up a photo of the guys doing the YMCA on top of the falls. We then all came back to Kabwe and Michelle went home beginning of September and Donna in the middle. It is now just me in my little house. It is not at all as bad as I thought it might be. There are lots of great people in Kabwe so there is always someone to hang out with if I don’t want to be alone. Well I can’t believe that it is the end of September and that I have now been here three months! Time has flown; it is also about 35 degrees so hard to think of it as September. It is getting hotter by the day and I am slowly melting. Chozmo a friend of mine the other gave out to me for complaining about the heat. She said “Siobhan look at me I am black and what color attracts heat black our white so if you think I you are hot I am even hotter.” The pace of everything here has slowed down even more in the heat (if that is possible). Well till next, I will try to write more regularly… Love Siobhan

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Night Duty Stories

This week the President of Zambia died in a Paris Hospital from complications of a stroke he had two months ago at the African Summit in Egypt. The country is now in 7 days of mourning. One of the things in the day of mourning is that there is now public music. Kabwe is so quite walking around everything is quite, as usually there is a house close by blaring out music at all times of the day! It is hard as this is the first former or past President ever to die in Zambia so it is all new. Next week his body is traveling around Zambia visiting every main town. In three months they will hold elections to elect the next president. Michelle and I are on our last night duty. The porridge is cooked, the medication is given and the sun has raised. We are now waiting for the day staff to come on shift. It has been a good week with many stories but also a long week and I am ready to sleep. 98 hours of night duty!!!! One thing that I am always aware of in Zambia is how brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons all care for their relatives. On night though one really sees the extant of this care. As through out the night they spend the night with the patient helping their every need including getting up and down to toilet, washing them, dressing them, feeding them etc. It is an amazing thing to see the care and one that makes you realise the importance of family. It is the cultural thing to care for your family and sometimes it is sad as some patients do not have a bedsidder due to not having family or being stigmatised due to their HIV status. One of the patients mum is in and she is 4 foot nothing and the funniest women I have ever met. We call her Bambau (grandmother). Every evening when we come on duty she checks our pockets for any goodies. She doesn’t speak English but talks away to us in bemba and usually we can get the drift that she is asking for our tops. She also usually has a feel of our breasts and puts her hand down our tops to feel our bra and proceeds to tell us that she wants our bras. If that happened at home we would have them up for assault but here we just laugh. Breast are nothing special here as women's breast are often out breastfeeding. So having your breast felt up by an little old lady here seems normal! TIA (This is Africa) She will usually have a little dance with you as well. I have added a photo of me and her we just took! Watch out for sleepy head Siobhan. We now have a week off and we are heading to Lusaka on Sunday to pick up Donna (a good friend from our nursing class)who arrives from Kenya and is staying for two months to work in the hospice. Then the three of us head to Livingstone and Victora falls for few days rest. Then back up to Kabwe. Michelle then fly’s home on the 2nd of September! Very sad…….

Thursday, 14 August 2008

trip to south luwanga

Well so much has happened since my last entry. We worked a week of night duty at the end of July, which involves 7 shifts of 14 hours (6pm to 8am). Whilst going through them it felt like they would never end but when we were finished it didn’t seem to bad. When all the patients were settled and sleeping we watched 6 feet under to get us through the hours usually of 11 till 4. At 4 then we made the porridge and medication rounds etc. Most nights one of the little babies spent the night in the clinical room in one of our arms whilst we giggled up and down to try and get her to sleep. She seemed to prefer to sleep in one of our arms then her bed. On the last night though she slept the whole night through without a peep. So after our nights we had 7 days off. We headed down to Lusaka where I had my first latte in a month and we even ventured to the cinema to see the Dark Knight it was a treat. On the Monday we headed to South Luwanga National Park, which is in the eastern province of Zambia and rather then traveling the bumpy 2 day ride by bus we opted for the 1 hour plane journey. Equipped with tent, mats and sleeping bags we arrived at our campsite. We were staying in Flat dogs campsite, we put up our little tent and went explored it was well set up with bar, restaurant and swimming pool. We spent a lot of our week by the pool reading. We did go on a game drive, which started at the early hour of 6. As we drove sleepily through the camp we got to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, hyenas, buffalos and other birds and animals. Michelle went on an evening drive and got to see lions eat their supper of a Zebra. However one did not really need to go on a drive, as elephants, hippos and giraffes were regular visitors around the camp. It is amazing to see animals in the wild. We had a scary experience one night I woke up and realised that an elephant was out side our tent. I woke poor Michelle who was in dreamland and we both lay there with adrenaline running through our bodies as this elephant sniffed our little yellow tent thinking what if he decided to stand on our tent. He didn’t though. The next night I think it happened again but we didn’t pay much attention to it. We were back to Kabwe on Friday and back to work on Saturday. This week the influx of Irish continues there are 6 medical students and two doctors and their children all visiting the Hospice (all Irish). This week we had an issue around breastfeeding with one of the mums. Breast milk contains a high percentage of HIV viruses. In the west women are told not to breastfeed. Here in Africa that is impractical as sterilizing bottles and clean water are not always available and powder milk cost a lot of money. So women here are advised to breastfeed till the baby is 6 months and then stop totally. In the west mother to child transmission is as low as 1-2%. Here not every child contracts HIV from their mother but it is higher due to breastfeeding. We are off today as we start nights again tomorrow. You may ask nights again so soon. It is because Donna arrives next Sunday and Michelle leaves in two weeks and wanted to go to see Livingstone and Vic falls before she goes. So rather then me going once with Michelle and once with Donna we are all going to go together next week.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Well another Sunday in Kabwe and the washing is done! Today we washed our sheets and as you can see from the picture it is not the usual throw in the machine wash but rather the hand – no well foot washing! It is a great day for drying though! I think everyday here is nearly a great day for drying. The weather lately has been cold in the mornings and at nights. For Irish standards it is brilliant and everyone would be out in t-shirts and shorts, Michelle and I are already zambianised and are wearing hoodies and complaining about the cold. Well I am finishing this blog on Monday evening and another mad night in Kabwe in bed before 9pm. Today we were finished work early so we sat out in the sun reading in what is the Zambian winter (I know how Irish to mentions of weather in one blog). I had such a happy moment in work today, I was going into the men’s ward today and there on the bed was a boy and in my head I was like that is Alpha. Alpha is a boy who was an inpatient in the Hospice the last time I was here. He was very sick with bad head sores, he was a little cutie as well as a little grumpy kid. Sometimes one would spend the whole morning coaxing him from a bad mood cause something hadn’t gone his way. But when he smiled he really smiled and I still have one of his pictures he drew me. Well today standing in front of me was a boy with a head of hair no sores looking strong and taller (if still very small for his age). If he wasn’t a teenager now I would have taken him up in my arms. It was amazing to sit and chat to him about how he was, he has good English. He is now 13 going to school with the dream of being a doctor and working in the hospice, on ARV’s and his only complaint was a cough. So I got him some medication and some lunch I ran around finding him things for school etc. I never wanted to spoil someone more. In all the hard stories of the hospice especially in recent times as we have had a lot of deaths there is hope and happiness. After work we went to the market, the last time I was here I never went to the local market and always had an idea that it would be a busy mad place where people hassled you a lot. It was surprising calm, with Zambian ladies with their stall set up with little pyramids of tomatoes, onions, potatoes with dried weird looking fish or caterpillars. One thing though is that every woman is selling exactly the same thing as the next women. So I wonder how they make money? They don’t market their things or call out wanting you to buy. So it is a mystery how they make money? I will try and discover more about these market women. On Friday Michelle and me are starting night duty 7, 14-hour night shift! Oh the joy. But then we get to do something exciting and we are heading to South Luangwa National Park to camp for a few days. Well till next time and keep me updated on what’s happening in your lives. Siobhan xxx

Monday, 14 July 2008

I have a zambian phone which you can text or phone. I have being having problems recieving texts from some phones. so if I dont text back it is probable that I didnt recive. my number is 00260979982119
This blog will give you an insight into my life in Kabwe, Zambia as a work as a nurse in the Ranchhod Hospice, caring for patients living with HIV. Mary Chiddgey an Irish nurse 4 years ago founded the Ranchhod Hospice. The facility has 20 beds and cares for Adults and Children living with HIV/AIDS. Four Zambian nurses, care givers, cook, cleaners and laundry man all work in the Hospice. The Hospice provides a warm, friendly and peaceful environment for the patients and staff. With all the hardship of life and illness both patients and staff endure there is never a shortage of smiles and laughter. Affiliated with the hospice are also two children day centers that provide health care, nutrition and support to 120 orphaned children. The hospice also has an out reach programme that provides health care, food supplements and social support to the surrounding communities.