26 September 2012

When It's Not Worth It to Go to the Doctor

Sometimes, it's just not worth the trip to the doctor.

Case Study #1:

Last year, Elias managed to gash his head during French class (of all the dangerous places).  He had a neat, inch+, long, gaping wound and instead of going to the doctor...we'll, I fixed him up myself.  Today, he has a pretty little scar right above his left eyebrow.  He loves that scar.

Before anyone gets too worked up, let me just say that this was a well-informed choice.  Had I been in the U.S., I probably would have taken him to the doctor for a few stitches.  But, I'm not in the States.  I'm in Kinshasa.  Where we have perfectly reasonable doctors and hospitals more than capable of stitching up my kid. (And another facility just for serious emergencies.) But...the drama of it (the traffic, the wait, the uncertainty that anesthetic would be used, etc.) just wasn't worth a cosmetic scar.  I had a nurse-practitioner friend come check it out and after a lifetime living and practicing in the Congo, she agreed that my home patch-up job was an okay choice.

Case Study #2:

Neighbor James (remember him?) came over the other night.  At first, I couldn't tell what was wrong.  He still refuses to divulge the dirty details, but somehow, he managed to really screw up his finger.  It was swelling and James was an uncomfortable shade of green.

He was really worried that it was broken.  Over ice packs and deep breathing (and I threw in a Tembo for old-school good measure), we considered the facts:
  • It was late afternoon on a Thursday.  This meant that a.) it was probably the second shift at the nearby hospital with the xray machine, which could mean a long wait and and b.) there was always the option to go the next morning if things were looking bad.  
  • James could easily bend his finger.  This comforted me, or at least convinced me that the finger wouldn't fall off if we delayed.  

I have no idea why Johan is wearing a tie.  Don't ask me.

Now, for my second disclaimer of this post:  I told James I would go with him to the doctor that minute if he would like.  Happily.  Really.

But, I also supported his hesitation to immediately run to the doctor over his finger.  Maybe if it were the States, James would have jumped in the car and tried to make it to his family doctor before the office closed.  But, in Kinshasa, we decided to wait.

I buddy taped that finger to the one closest, prescribed RICE, and told him to check in with me in the morning.

In the morning, we admired the various shades of purple a finger can turn...and looked at it repeatedly from several different angles.  But, James could still move it and the pain was significantly better.  So, we made a splint and wrapped it in a florescent green bandage to soothe him.

The fact is that, living here is way safer for us than most would assume.  We have the luxury of choice in non-life-threatening situations.  We can hem and haw about whether or not traffic and lack of anesthetic is "worth it."  Because, if we really need to, we have the money, the transportation, the connections to get the help that we need. Most people around here don't even consider the option because there isn't one.

James' finger is still a little weird.  And, as an old arthritic man, he may grumpily curse my support of his decision to not get an x-ray.  And Elias might grow out of his Harry Potter stage and hate his faint forehead scar.  But, the way I look at it (after-the-fact), these details are reminders of what Kin is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Elias, you are one of the brightest stars in our whole entire galaxy. And I love your decisions here and your stories/case studies, Jill. Wonderful post, dear Jill. You and Sarah are doing a stellar job here!


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