You know how when someone you love is hurting and you go into super-hyper-overdrive and have to DO something to try to help? My phone call with Prisca catapulted me into that mode and I couldn’t sit still. The following day, I boarded a bus with my 9 month old daughter and made the 8 hour trip home while Mike stayed behind in Dar to finish up our business there.
Prisca was facing surgery. Not just any surgery. A hysterectomy.
I needed to go home so I could understand the situation better. If you’ve ever tried to have a phone conversation in a language other than your first, you know it is very difficult. There are no context clues, facial expressions or hand gestures to help you follow the conversation. Background noise and crummy reception only add to the difficulty. Throw in some tears and it’s a recipe for miscommunication.
In my scrambling-super-hyper-overdrive, I contacted a friend of a friend—a missionary doctor who lived in the remote Tanzanian bush. We emailed back and forth several times and I explained to him what I thought was going on. (Side note, isn’t it amazing that even a missionary doctor who lives in the bush can have access to email?! Technology is incredible.) He actually had plans to come to Dodoma a few days later for his monthly trip to buy supplies. He was willing to meet with Prisca and examine her.
I was relieved. I thought for sure that he would consult with her, have a miraculous solution and everything would be fine.
I met the doctor at our office a couple days later and we chatted while we waited for Prisca to arrive. Mike and I had only been delayed in the city for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t believe the difference in Prisca’s condition.
She was pale.
She could barely walk.
She had no energy.
And she was in visible pain.
Her husband held her up and escorted her to the nearest couch. I made a brief introduction between Prisca and the doctor and then busied myself in the other room so that they could talk privately.
What seemed like an eternity later, the doctor came to find me. Prisca had said that it was ok for him to explain everything to me and I was so thankful that the conversation was in English.
To the best of his knowledge, it looked like Prisca had a rather large mass on her uterus. It was unclear whether it was on the outside or inside. Whether it was cancerous or benign. Her condition had deteriorated so quickly that he thought the mass was probably growing very quickly. She was obviously anemic, so he suspected that she was bleeding somewhere. “And,” he told me,