Sunday, May 18, 2008

Just Google It

A few weeks ago, our main health post received an odd looking “sterilizer” pot. The two Socorristas (Health Workers) were quite excited about this new sterilizer but they weren’t sure how to use it. “You need to see it, Senhora,” they said, “then you can tell us how to use it.” I needed to go cover the shelves and tables with plastic later anyway, so that would be a good time to see the new item. We worked together to cover the wooden table first with cloth, then with the clear plastic. In the end were quite pleased with the result, and it will certainly be easier to disinfect than varnished wood! As we replaced medicine bottles on the table again we got busy discussing drug dosages and liquid concentrations and I nearly forgot all about the new sterilizer until I was halfway out the door. “Oh, hey, that new pot! Let’s have a quick look at it before I go.” They proudly pulled this shiny item out of its box for me to see.

“Some new instruments came with it: kidney basins and forceps” they said smiling wide. That was great news. But... I’d never seen a sterilizer pot/autoclave that looked like this. Actually, I’d never seen a small one in my life before! Any hospital I’ve ever worked in used huge, commercial sized electric ones. I was at a complete loss to know how to operate this odd item. I assumed that the clamps on the lid and on the side metal sheet were for sealing off the unit to create pressure inside. There were no gauges, dials or rubber rings though.

“So, did it happen to come with a user’s manual??” I asked hopefully.
“No. Nothing. It just came like that.”
“Hm. I’ll have to go home and google this!”

They don’t have computers and certainly not internet (yet), so I tried to briefly explain internet and google. Have you ever tried that before? Explaining something to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about? I’m sure I sounded like a raging lunatic. “First, you use a computer like the one in the mission office. Then, there’s a system for getting information from a place where other people put it, also using computers. It’s sort of like the radio you know? You can get text and photos and sound, but with a radio you only get sound. (I should have stopped after the first sentence. Things just got worse after that.) It’s like a library, but, you don’t go there. The information gets put into this sort of library, then comes to us from outer space through a dish, a satellite...” (note to self: next time, JUST google it). I’m sure they were quite lost with my weak explanation of internet and google, but they nodded politely anyway. Using a pot had never been so complicated before!

I went straight home and spent more time that I care to admit googling “autoclave manual stove top pressure-cooker type sterilizer”. I even threw in “Africa” and “rural health post” in for good measure. Of all the pages I searched, this was the most basic model I found online.

This was a little disconcerting, especially since the one clamp that was tack welded on the side is already broken on our “new” pot. I told the socorristas that for now, we’ll just keep it in its box and use cold sterilization methods for our dressing instruments.

Last Saturday, this young man came to speak to us. The mission sponsored him for a year to attend a special school for the blind where he learned to read and write in Braille. He has since returned home and is in a regular school now. But he has faced a few challenges, as you can well imagine. A few months ago, he requested a radio so he could know what time it was so he wouldn’t be late for school. An alarm clock is not quite as helpful as a radio since you usually have to set and check clocks. Radios just need new batteries from time to time. This week, he came to ask for assistance with a Braille typewriter. He’s been taking notes in class using his Braille tablet, but it’s too slow a process for him to be able to keep up with the teacher. Here he’s taking Dwight’s phone number, a process that took several minutes. We told him we would do what we could to help him find a Braille typewriter. A first good step would be to conduct a search using google to assess costs, etc. But I didn’t mention googling or internet because that would take me down a path I didn’t care to go again. Just google it.

Our week was much fuller than this, of course, so I’ll just leave you with a few more pictures before I close. Dad and Dwight doing some measuring on the old farm’s entrance road. We need a culvert like this one at the new farm to divert the huge volume of water we get flooded with during torrential downpours in the rainy season. Me getting medical boxes ready for the student nurses from Prairie who are due to arrive here at the beginning of June for a 2 ½ week practicum. It’s great to have the surplus of supplies left by the previous nursing team. Thank you USASK nursing program and those who sponsored them!

Until next time.


ruth said...

That thing looks like my camping cook pot. That's crazy! Can you use an electric autoclave there? I miss gramps. Harumph. Oh yeah, and you guys too...

Russoft said...

I get the same reaction when I go on about something electrical engineering related. I've learned not to try explaining myself.

Carmella Eaglin said...

“I’d never seen a sterilizer pot/autoclave that looked like this. Actually, I’d never seen a small one in my life before!” - Lucky you to see one in person! Like you, most of the autoclaves that I see are the commercial ones – huge and kinda complicated. And seeing an old one, even in photos, kinda make me smile. I wonder how that autoclave works.