22 May 2012

A Girls Guide to Mastitis in the Congo

If you've spent any time at all in the non-Western medicine world, you've probably run into Where There Is No Doctor. The book that tells you how to deliver your own baby, sew your arm back on, etc. Complete with simple drawings so that if you're actually in one of these highly improbable situations, you conveniently don't even need to read.

Sometimes in Congo we like to pretend "there is no doctor" because often it's just easier. When I'm sick, the last thing I feel like doing is bumping over our washboard roads or worse yet, sitting in an embouteillage. And then reaching for sick-related French vocab. This is also another reason we have personally recruited a series of friends and family to serve as recent TASOK nurses. This comes in handy when "disaster" strikes.

Let me back up a bit, when I was pregnant with Charlotte, the one comment I remember from my mother (and I can say this because I don't think she has any idea Jill and I have a blog) was that a friend of hers asked in a panic, "Your daughter is going to have a baby in the Congo?! What if she gets mastitis!?" At the time I had no idea what this was, but it sounded awful. So this very helpful friend of my mother's, whom I have never even met before, successfully planted that in my mind as the absolute worst thing that could happen to me in the Congo.

Well it did. But not with Charlotte, with Baby #2. (Note to self: Stop referring to Ani as "Baby #2." She may read this drivel one day.)

Warning: This is where we may lose some of our "non-Mama" readers because I'm about to explain what mastitis is. It's a breast infection, folks. And it usually happens in women who are breastfeeding when your milk ducts get all messed up. I'm pretty sure this is how they explain it in Where There Is No Doctor.

This just happened to befall me when I was smack dab in the middle of a flu that's been going around. Perfect timing. My 103F fever (which I still claim was flu-related and not milk duct-related) compelled Jill to make me promise her that if I didn't get better tout de suite, I had to take myself over the washboard roads and through the inevitable embouteillage to the doctor. This was some serious motivation to kick this thing.

Forthwith is the Girls Guide to Getting Rid of Mastitis in the Congo.

#1 Update your very responsible nurse friend who lives 10 steps away from you about "how much better you're feeling" every few minutes.

 #2 Get said friend to draw a purple (because it's feminine) Sharpie line around the affected area. This way you can clearly see if it gets worse--and prove it's getting better. This process is much easier when the same friend has also assisted your childbirth related tasks, so drawing a line under your shirt is no biggie.

#3 Use disposable diapers as a warm compress to calm the inflammation. "Oh, just an old labor and delivery floor trick," says clever Nurse Jill.

Side note: This can be a little bit tricky in Congo where disposable diapers cost a pretty penny, or a bunch of dirty francs. Jill wisely recommended not trying to reheat the diapers in the microwave because they could melt or catch on fire. I ignored this because I'm too cheap to waste a bunch of disposable diapers on my infected boob. And I'm happy to say, yes, you can successfully put diapers in the microwave for reheating.

#4 Have your hero-of-a-nanny bring your baby to work as much as professionally possible so you can nurse, nurse, nurse!

 #5 Take antibiotics. This should probably be #1 because those babies worked like a charm.

I'm happy to report that all was healed in no time. And I did in fact end up seeing a doctor. A few days later Dr. Laure was visiting TASOK and I told her all about my woes. Mid-conversation she stuck her hand down my shirt to make sure everything was ok. That's good enough for me.

(Disposable diapers as ice packs too! - Jill)

1 comment:

  1. Bummer! Heating a rice bag (a little one in pretty African cloth) in the microwave and laying it on a washcloth in a plastic bag on your boob works, too. I might have been in Congo when I resorted to that method. Disposable diapers were like gold.

    I love the blue car perpendicular to all the other traffic in the metro Kinshasa pic!


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