• 3wheels2legs

Can't touch this and Conservation - A trip to the Clinic in Rwanda 

* With thanks to the lovely staff who patched me up and conserved my thumb. 

I have always been two things, easily distracted and clumsy... Very... One could argue that the latter is due to the distraction, or one could not, but the combination caused one of the most amusing clinic trips I have ever had in Musanze Rwanda.  

The day started off brilliantly some of our hostel staff invited us along with them on a trip to the local market, where there was the opportunity to purchase my all time favourite snack food Sugar Cane. I love sugar cane with a passion that nearly rivals my adoration of fanta (anywhere other than the UK: the fanta there sucks, hard). Still armed with my 2 meter stick of sugar cane I was living the high life chilling outside the hostel, petting the cute dog (Blue) and slicing myself some of that sugary goodness. Until I managed to slice my thumb in half, personally I blame the dog... And Julie, she laughed.

After Julies fits of giggles subsided, once she realised that I was not just making a fuss and was genuinely concerned half of my thumb might fall off, we alerted the hostel staff (RedRocks Rwanda you are angels) and headed over to the local clinic. My experience thus far had been that cliinics were somewhat more reliable than hospitals so when given the option thats what I punted for, with hindsight this may have been an error.  Having discovered the correct entrance, there were an obscene number, we sit down to wait, me playing with my severed thumb as though its a toy and consequently getting yelled at by Julie, Harriet from the hostel and the occasional doctor. One of whom stops. 

"Tetanus!" He says loudly, 

"No, no," I assure him, "I had to have stiches in my head last month (In Uganda) so I don't need another tetanus jab" 

"You have to have it!" He replies, 

"No I don't and I'm not paying for it." 

The doctor frowns at me, "Do you have any proof you had the injection?" 

I stare at him and push back my over-the-top side parting to reveal the stiches in my head, he harrumphs at this and walks away. 

After an age loitering in the corridor the door opens and we are beckoned into a small room, the doctor inside promptly vanishes and we are left to look around. I take a step forward and stare at the ground in disbelief. 

"Ummm," I say, "There is a lot of blood on the floor here." 

Julie stares at me like I am being overdramatic, from her perspective behind me the blood looks like a few drops rather than the puddle I can see. 

"Oh." She says taking a step forward, "oh" 

I frown at her vaguely wondering if i can just stick my thumb back together myself, I mean I have a needle how hard can it be. 

"Okay." The doctor has reappeared with some bedding, "The man with the key had gone so I could only get this." He lays the ridiculously crumpled sheet out on the bed and begins rambling about how in Africa the man with the key never seems to be where he should be. He pats the table and takes a look at my thumb before laying some things out on a small table. At this point another Doctor enters. 

"So." He says, "Shall we conserve it or remove it?"

What the f***?! I thought they were just going to give me some stiches not cut off my thumb. I like my thumb, admittedly its a bit of an odd shape but I am rather attached. Julie and Harriet have slack jawed looks on their faces behind me as the conversation continues between the two doctors. Ahhh I realise all at once, they don't mean my thumb, they are talking about someone else. It takes Julie a bit longer to catch on and she 'ohs' audibly when the penny drops. The new Doctor turns round frowning. 

"We thought you meant my thumb." I explain, 

"Why?" He takes a look at my hand, "Oh I see, it is almost the same." 

There is a pause and he looks at me, 

"Would you like to remove or conserve it." 

"I dunno," I hesitate, thinking, "I mean if it would be easier to chop it off, I suppose I don't really mind." 

"I think we'll conserve it." 

I lie back, the doctor is still chattering away, his colleague having departed. 

"I don't think I would like to stay a doctor." He says as he cleans the wound, "Do you have any jobs Harriet? I could be a driver." 

This is not exactly what you want to hear from your physician, nor is:

"There aren't enough nurses today so I need one of you to be my assistant." 

Harriet takes a few steps forward hesitantly and the doctor gives her an apron secured at the back with a pair of surgical scissors - he tells her she doesn't need gloves, to my relief, she puts them on anyway. 

My least favourite part, the local anaesthetic injection, and he prepares to get to work. 

"Errrr," I say as he begins to push with the needle, whilst harriet pours iodine as instructed, "I can feel that" 

"No you can't." 

"Yes I can!" 

He pushes harder with the needle. 

"OWWW" I yell, "I can definately feel that." 

The doctor looks at me, pausing from chatting up the increasingly uncomfortable 'Nurse' Harriet and moves towards the local anaesthetic needle once more, 

"Oh no" I bolt upright from my prone position, "Not that again, Its fine really I mumble, I can't feel it at all." 

"It won't hurt." He says soothingly, my sudden display of an emotion other than sarcastic amusement seems to have unsettled him. 

"Yes it will, you're lying." I retort, 

I can hear Julie in the corner giggling to herself "Why you always lying" she sings and I shoot her a glare lying back down. 

He's nearly finished stiching now but his glamorous assistant has given up retreating to the corner sans gloves and apron. 

"I need my nurse again" he twinkles at her, 

"She's retired." Retorts Harriet, 

I look at Julie, who is obviously in no mood to help out, 

"Don't worry," I say reaching across for the Iodine bottle "I can do it myself." 

The doctor shrugs holding up bandage for me to pour the iodine, 

"Don't touch it." 

"I wasn't going to touch it." I reply, although the angle is a little tricky, He begins to sing, 

"Nuh nuhnuhnuh nuhnuh nuhnuh Can't touch this." 

I stare at him, Julie and Harriet stare at him, he continues to sing. 

"Right then." He says finally, "I will come to England and see you are better." 

"Great." I reply, "Thats Great." 

He then proceeds to make a great show of giving Harriet his phone number, before ushering us out into the corridor. 

We look at the form he has given us to hand in at the desk to pay, on it is written a single word, 


Well, I think, its hardly surprising from a clinic next door to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.


©2020 All content and images are copyright of 3wheels2legs (Megan O'Brien and Julie Olsen)