He now has more time to think abstractly and write blogs.
I grew up in Oceana in a relatively poor family with no radio, bathroom and an outside toilet. A toilet, that when the bucket was full, was emptied into a hole dug specifically for that purpose. As soon as we were old enough, old enough to dig, this became one of my chores. We all lived in a small country cottage, a bed for the parents, a smaller bed for the kids; a large enough yard to play cricket and kick a football – all you could ever need as a small boy growing up in the country. Continue reading “Introductory Regime”→
We travelled for the first time to Shashemane in April 1968. We had arrived in Ethiopia 16 days earlier and we were taken down the 250 Km ride by a couple of missionaries who were travelling further south to their station (another hospital 120Km on the road leading to Kenya). It was good to hear of their experiences in Ethiopia where they had been for many years. Our mission station was big and very busy. There follows an ‘Excerpt From: Barry L Hicks. “Have Scalpel – Will Travel.” Apple Books.’
We arrived in Shashemane at about three o’clock in the afternoon and were taken straight to the home of Dr Lindsay and Mrs. Marion McClenny, some of the loveliest people one could ever wish to meet. They were due to go on furlough in a few weeks and we just had that time to be inducted into the work. As we arrived and were introduced Lin, usually called ‘Mac’, told me that he had a patient he wanted me to see urgently – but we had time for a cup of tea first. (Tea provided by Americans! And hot tea at that.) By 3.30 we were in the hospital and we eventually got home for the evening meal at about 11.30.
In the mean time we had seen the patient he wanted me to see – a teenager with a right sided large bowel obstruction due to a huge caecal tumour – and two obstetrical emergencies both of whom needed surgical intervention; we had also seen a couple of other lesser emergencies. Mac dealt with the obstetrical cases – a high forceps and a Caesarean – and I did the right hemi- colectomy for the teenager.
I knew that I was going to have to deal with the obstetrical and gynae procedures as soon as he left and so was keen to learn all I could before he departed on furlough. The specimen of bowel removed from the girl, containing the large mass in the caecum, was sent to the only pathology laboratory available in Ethiopia at that time at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. The report arrived exactly one year to the day after the operation. It was fortunate that the patient was not kept in the hospital until the report came back. Typical of patients in countryside Ethiopia, she never returned for any follow up anyhow, so I don’t know what happened to her in the long run.
Very early in my stay there I was asked to review the seven hundred inpatient lepers. I think that I was the first one with any specific leprosy surgical training who had ever been there and if not the first then certainly the first for a long while. In India I had learned a lot of reconstructive procedures and doing this review I had the twofold objective of finding those who could be helped by surgery and to discharge those who did not require inpatient therapy. Thinking about long term hospitalisation had changed rapidly in the few years prior to this period of time.
On the first count I found few who wanted surgery, basically because as farmers they valued strength in their hands above the restoration of the finer movements such as those used in writing – the majority couldn’t write in any case. Sadly also they were valued in their families because of the loss of sensation which allowed them to lift hot things, such as cooking pots, off the fire without pain. Many of them, although the infectious element of their disease had been cured, were left with marked deformity and shortening of their fingers.
I am, I guess, getting a bit lazy with the hot, muggy weather and the aging process. So what I am doing today, and may continue to do for a while, is posting a segment of Chapter 20 from my book ‘Have Scalpel Will Travel.
The chapter is entitled ‘A Different Culture’. I was working on a Mission Station as a Surgeon, which was a full time job. But soon I discovered that people had to be assessed and treated taking into account different things. One of these was their religion. For instance i) the dietary requirements can cause real problems treating a post operative case during Ramadan or ii) the strong religious commitment of some created unwillingness to be seen for examination particularly by a foreign infidel iii) There was a very high incidence of low large bowel obstruction due to volvulus and in treating this certain procedures, of necessity, needed the creation of a colostomy. This stopped them going into the mosque to pray. Sometimes they chose to die, although with experience we were able to reduce the incidence of needing a colostomy. This led to one of my areas of disagreement with the Surgical Department in Addis. I am delighted that my way has won the day all over Ethiopia by this time. As seen in the picture below patients, they often presented with infected burns on their abdomens – burnt to try and drive out the evil spirits causing the problem. Or often the patient had drunk the blood of an animal sacrificed to appease the spirits causing the problem. These last two situations were seen because of the animist background of the community.
My book is an ebook, presented through Smashwords. The author is Barry Hicks and you’ll have to decide if this article or the ebook is written under a pseudonym. It is easily found on internet by typing in Smashwords.com Have Scalpel Will Travel. Memoirs of an Older Surgeon. It’s cheap and I think an interesting read; you may or may not agree on that! There are no gruesome pictures, although I have many!
I grew up on a sheep farm in the Adelaide Hills. During WWII, while dad was away in the army, my mother, brother and I lived with her parents on their sheep farm. We had pet sheep. They were rescued, bottle fed and then for months hung around the place. Even later they would run up to you when they had been placed back in the flock, treating you like their brother! Dipping, shearing, crutching, tailing, castrating the little males was all part of the richness of growing up on the farm.
Life took us into a different stream when Dad came home from the war and my parents moved into a country store and post office that they purchased. It was in the same district as my grandparents so I had times of helping on the farm until education and then job situations took me away from the store, the farm and the area.
Later I had bought a little farm of my own for one of our sons to live on and look after. It was small and was an after hours job for him and his family. When I retired from Ethiopia, aged 78, we moved onto the farm. Now we are trying to make it work as a small sheep farm. That son still lives on the farm as does our youngest adopted son. So, due to a few problems of aging I’m really a watcher as my wife and the boys make things work. Both the boys have other jobs but we manage somehow. We have chosen to have dorper sheep as they don’t need to be shorn which for our small crop would be financially a major loss. So we are into the market for meat. Now we come to the problems: –
Dingoes – protected animals – live in the area. They can dig and jump but don’t do so often, and we have scores of wallabies that they can chew on. Nevertheless we have put in high quality fences both in an attempt to stop them getting in and the sheep, which sometimes think like goats, from getting out! So far we have not had problems although we have seen dingoes in the area.
Sadly we have had to have our two beautiful dogs put down as they developed a taste for meat and killed one lamb. Having developed the taste we couldn’t take the risk.
Eagles look and are majestic. We have, besides the fellow pictured at the bottom of the page, a couple of wedge tail eagles living in a tree overlooking the sheep. We have lost one lamb that we suspect as being taken by them.
One lamb was still born.
So from 12 ewes we’ve had 10 lambs but only 7 are surviving.
Following on from yesterday’s post, here are several more Ethiopian proverbs from the list my wife laid on my desk…
A mouse that wants to die goes to sniff the cat’s nose.
When spiders’ webs unite they can tie up a lion.
A house can’t be built for a rainy season that is past.
The person who grew up without correction shall find his mouth slipping instead of his foot.
No explanation comes with them but I think the meanings are pretty universally understood. I just imagined, after maybe a family evening dinner or sitting around a BBQ on the weekend, putting them up for a family discussion. Sadly our kids are all grown up and flown the coop, but with them as late pre-teens or teenagers I think we could have had some interesting discussions.
My wife is a hoarder. This doesn’t help when you live in a smallish house and are trying to downsize, but today she lay several old papers in front of me. One of them was a list of Ethiopian proverbs. I’ve a bit of interest in proverbs at the moment as in another blog I’m writing daily posts alternating roughly weekly between the book of Proverbs and the book of Luke from the Bible. It is under another name and the title of the blog is ‘As i read it! – Plainly understanding the Bible’. You can just use the following link – http://as-i-read-it.com
‘After the hyena has gone, the dog barks’. The interpretation of a proverb is meant to be pretty clear but leaves a little room for different opinions. Here I think it means that you are gutless if you stay silent when danger is near. What do you think?
‘Don’t catch a leopard by the tail, but if you do – don’t let go.‘ as concerned with leopards this is good advice. It is isn’t going to be easy for a leopard to get at you if you hanging on to its tail for grim life. Better not to have touched it at all. And I translate it to mean in life that you’re not advised to challenge a problem issue until you are prepared to chase it to the end. And it may be a very uncomfortable time. Avoid it – unless you are are sure that you want to challenge this person or issue. Again I ask, what do you think?
‘One who plants grapes by the roadside and one who marries a pretty wife share the same problem!’ Grapes are tasty but planted by the roadside are going to be tempting to every passer-by. You’re going to place you wife in the eyes of the public and her looks make her as tasty as grapes. I don’t think that the advice is to marry ‘ugly’, but to earn her faithfulness.