Wednesday, 14 October 2015


At work in the ward one night shift, it was just past midnight when my co-worker’s patient started screaming her lungs out. It was a 5 year old girl, who’d had a cyst removed from her tongue only a few hours prior. She was writhing in her bed, screaming in the darkness. Her grandma and the Malagasy day crew working with us were both holding her down in the bed. Her nurse went over to her bed in the darkness, behind the blue curtain that shielded the light from the patients. Her nurse had a tiny baby already in her arms, as she was just about to feed her. I went behind the curtain also to see what was going on. At seeing her patient’s distress and not knowing what was causing it, the nurse turned to me and passed me the baby. I looked around for somewhere to put this tiny baby girl. There were no other day crew present as they were eating their midnight dinner, so I hurried back to the baby’s bed where her mama was. I tapped the mama on the shoulder, “Azafady mama” (excuse me) and I dumped the baby into her arms and hurried away.

The screaming and writhing of this 5yo continued and we shone a flashlight into her mouth to see if we could find the problem. There was something in there. Was it a nasogastric tube? I thought, no, she doesn’t have one. OH MY GOSH, it’s a worm! I could see the worm moving around in her mouth as we shone the light inside.
I left the drama at the bedside and went and put gloves on, wondering how on earth I was going to get the worm out without breaking it into pieces since it was so soft and instruments to reach it would be hard and sharp. I called another ward for a third nurse to come for back-up as this little girl was just beside herself, terrified.
I asked God for help as I walked back to the bedside where the nurse, day crew and grandma were struggling to keep the girl in her bed as she fought them, gagging, coughing, screaming, saliva flinging in every direction. When we turned the flashlight back on and shone it in her mouth, the worm had moved from inside her mouth up the back of her throat and was in her nose. In fact, the worm was looped in and out her nose, partly down her throat but part of the body hung outside the nose and so I scooped my gloved hand in and with a swift move, pulled the whole worm out of her nose. I held it gently with my thumb and index finger as we told our little girl, “vita, vita vita” (it’s finished, it’s finished, it’s finished). She eventually calmed down and the wild, terrified look in her eyes calmed and she fell asleep again. The worm died immediately and we left it in a kidney basin for the doctors to view in the morning.

The culprit measured up against a penlight


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