You may not know that for the last 6 weeks Bob has had a cast on his arm. This means, as you might have experienced yourself, that doing even simple tasks like typing or bathing became much more laborious as he adjusted to having to do them with one hand. Bob has valiantly and patiently persevered through the six weeks, answering graciously the perpetual question of “What happened to you?”
This week, the six weeks came to an end and we took the cast off. Our doctor colleague told us that we could immerse the cast in water, and the plaster would gradually weaken to the point that we could unwrap the bands that held it in place. It was a slow and messy process, but it worked! Bob’s hand and wrist “looked like he came out of a nuclear shower”, as he described it, but after some time and several washings it is now looking more normal.
Somehow, it seemed that I was more excited about this event than Bob was. Perhaps because I am more optimistic and Bob is more realistic. I was thrilled that he would finally be able to use two hands again, and wouldn’t have to type by pecking around with just one hand one letter at a time. In reality, using the hand again is a slow process as he gains flexibility and strength again. But, it does seem to be better, and we praise God for the healing. Sometimes you don’t appreciate something until it is gone (or hindered for awhile!).
One interesting aspect of this experience is that SO MANY people have told Bob that he could have avoided having a cast for several weeks by using the traditional Kasaian treatment for a broken bone, called "Kalunga." In this practice, white clay or palm oil is first lathered on the broken limb. Then fibers from the strong branches of palm trees is tightly wrapped and secured to immobilize the arm or leg. Lastly and most interestingly, they then ceremoniously break the leg of a chicken! Bad for the chicken, but good for you because when the chicken's leg heals so do you! (this generally takes less than a week). When Bob was asked why he didn’t use kalunga, he sometimes said “sorry – you have to forgive us for our skin color and different culture!” Interesting learning process though – we had some wise locals tell us that kalunga often does work, but it is best to get an x-ray first, to make sure that the bone will actually heal correctly.
Ah yes – and you might wonder exactly what happened to cause Bob to have a broken arm. He was walking in Kananga one morning, and his feet got caught in some box binding. He came quickly crashing to the ground, breaking his fall with his hands. In the process, he injured his wrist. We thought it was just sprained at first, but when it didn’t heal, x-rays confirmed that a small bone was broken. So – if you are walking in Kananga, always always watch the ground in front of you!