Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On Good Fortune, and an Introduction

Readers of this blog know that though I frequently opine on Central African politics and muse about the workings of witchcraft, I rarely write much about myself. The self-absorbed psychological wreck that a final-throes grad student becomes is not much fun to experience, much less read about. But events of the past week put me in touch with the tragedies I sometimes write about in a new, personal way.

About a year ago, a Central African friend of mine, Berenice, passed away, as I explained here. She had started hemorraging during a c-section and both she and the baby died. When I heard what had happened, it seemed a story from another century. Berenice was not a rural villager without access to health care; she was a university lecturer in Bangui who went to the (admittedly awfully shabby) hospitals of the capital. I knew the odds were against her, and yet the question remained: how could she simply bleed to death?

One week ago, I learned how. A truly last-minute c-section led to major tearing of my uterus, and, as a result, massive bleeding. Surgeons roused from their beds spent three hours figuring out how to stanch the flow and put me back together. Before they switched from epidural to general anaesthesia, I remember the surreal feeling of endless tugging on the inside of my abdomen, and the counts of the nurses as they placed sponge after sponge.

Not being in Bangui, where a move to the surgery is nearly always a move to the morgue, I woke up that morning with my daughter in my arms. And though major surgery takes a while to recover from wherever in the world one finds oneself, last week’s trauma is quickly fading under the inundation of small joys and steep learning curve of the new parent.

Still, I find myself thinking often of Berenice, and of the luck of the draw that led her to interment and me to a recovery presided over by angel-like nurses and soothed with painkillers. I don’t pretend to have unearthed profound new thoughts on western privilege. I simply feel fortunate. And less quick to take that for granted.

With baby Zuleika, day 2 on the outside. Photo credit Z's dad.