If only I were

Building Great Software

Thanks Mom

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In The Kite Runner story there is a part where you meet Soraya’s father. Back in Afghanistan he was a well known general and now in California he peddles goods at a flea market. It struck me that anyone walking into the flea market would have had no clue what he had been in a previous life – that he had been very important and and had fought in battles.

This is what it would be like if you walked into a grocery store in northern Minnesota and and ran across my mom.  You wouldn’t know that she spent almost 1/2 her life overseas.  You wouldn’t know that she is tri-lingual (English is native and she can speak two other languages at near native levels). Two of the languages were picked up as an adult which is considerably harder than learning them as a kid.  One of the languages is spoken only by a few thousand people.  She is one of 5-10 non-native speakers in the world that can speak it well. Pretty cool eh?

She is an LPN, and if she actually made a resume to reflect all of the diseases she has successfully treated I think doctors at the CDC would be jealous. Seriously, she has treated so much malaria she should have an honorary title from the Gates Foundation. Two of the cases were mine. If you can avoid malaria, please do; the head-aches, body-aches and high fevers aren’t any fun. :)

She’s treated cases of meningitis (not a good disease to have to battle), tuberculosis and pneumonia. She helped fight a big outbreak of whooping cough and saved a lot of lives. You know the vaccine you get called the DPT? Well pertussis is the “P” in that acronymn and is another name for whooping cough – so named because of the rough cough that develops.

She’s set bones without real splints or any real equipment, stitched up significant wounds (one I remember seeing was a deep axe cut in a guy’s foot). She and my dad stitched (more like patched) up a guy’s neck who had nearly blown his head off with a shotgun. He had taken nature’s version of LSD and thought he was in hell (those were his words) so he figured he would end it. Luckily he missed but left quite a mess for my parents to clean up. They has to remove all of the buck shot and stitch together a very ragged wound probably 12-16 inches long.  If you met him today (he is alive and well) you would never know what happened because of the great patch up job.  Neck skin is very tough by the way, so it is no small feat to stitch fragments of really strong skin.

She got ready to fight cholera when there was an outbreak in a neighboring country. It could have been bad, but it left our area alone. Mom even taught us how to make the oral rehydration solution in case we needed it. A yellow fever scare passed us by as well luckily.

She significantly reduced the newborn infant death rate, bringing it down to almost zero.

She knew the Merck Manual as well as anybody and I remember the copies of Where There is No Doctor or Onde Não Há Médico. Us kids used to periodically peruse the illustrations – you’d have to get a copy of it and flip though it to understand :)

She taught kids how to read in the national language and their own native language.  I could go on, but this is getting long for a blog post.

Mom is compassionate and kind and tough all at once. Mom, we love you and respect you. Happy mother’s day.

Written by Chris Sutton

May 11, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Life, Thoughts

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Chris,

    What a great tribute to your mother, who is lucky in her son! I work at Hesperian, the small nonprofit publisher of Where There Is No Doctor and 12 other health books for community health workers like your mom in areas of the world where people don’t have medical resources. We publish our books in English and Spanish, and work with community groups to get them translated into other languages. Ten of our titles are currently available as free downloads from our website, http://www.hesperian.org. We also send books free to health workers who cannot afford to buy them through our Gratis program. We’d appreciate it if you could direct people to our website instead of Amazon… Thanks, and thanks again for blog!

    Edith Friedman

    May 13, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  2. @Edith,

    Thanks for the comments – my mom is pretty cool. I updated the link to hesperian.org instead of amazon.com.

    That’s great that you can download WTIND in PDF format now. I might go and flip back through it. I haven’t actually see the book a few years since I live in the US now.


    Chris Sutton

    May 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm

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