Finding Humor in Language Barriers

In Liberia, the English language is like a child who emigrated young to the West Coast of Africa and comes of age with all kinds of personality. It sounds and feels entirely different than the family it came from. The English of Liberia resembles his uncle in the United States, but louder, swallowing the ends of his sentences with increased spunk. It is like an excited adolescent that doesn’t bother with formalities and knocks off letters it doesn’t need, but says exactly what he means, with ingenuity and efficiency. At turns, spitfire or sweet depending on what the occasion calls for. (more…)

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Pride and Pericardiocentesis

There are no paintings on the walls in the hospitals I have worked at in the capital of Liberia.  The bareness of the walls parallels the limited equipment I have on hand.   Listening to some of these patients, or looking at their X-rays without the benefit of modern technology, I get the feeling I am seeing pathology in its most extreme form – the way people saw it when the diseases we now treat routinely in the West were first discovered. Listening to the sandpaper sound of one man’s pericardial rub, caused by fluid moving around the heart muscle from an infection or cancer, I think, “Oh! That’s why we call it a ‘rub!’”  Sometimes the challenges of this work, such as helping a grandmother survive a simple asthma attack, are rewarding.   Other times my co-workers and I face the horror of losing a two year-old before we have even made a diagnosis. (more…)

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