My 5th and 6th Operations At Mayo Clinic Saved My Life
Hospitals tend to release poor patients too soon, and I was no exception. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota saved my life, but they left a nasty scar on me and some loss of function, which in retrospect might have been resolved had I had money to stay and endure more operation(s). As it was my financial benefactors, Mayo Clinic and the United States Peace Corps, the latter in whose service and upon whose moped I had been injured, discharged me from care and service respectively, but strangely stipulated that I must return to my family. (What is it with the powers that be that they want women returned to their families, is that their only sense of order in the world with regard to women?) At any rate, no matter how I told them that my family would not provide for me at that point in my life, if I wanted a travel voucher, it would have to be to the residence of a family member. I telephoned my various family members but their noses were still out of joint that I had had the audacity to go and work in Africa, whereas none of them had been outside of the country. I sensed that they felt that I had gotten what I deserved, had suffered what was to be expected. In fact my father had stopped at Mayo Clinic on his way to visit his mother/my grandmother Throcky in St. Paul, Minnesota, but I only knew of this because Mayo Clinic hospital staff had told me that he looked in on me while I was sleeping and that he had behaved strangely before leaving abruptly. So he was only there long enough to give my caregivers a bad impression, not long enough to even say hello to me, much less to help me.
Finally, my married sister, Carla Throckmorton Hertz, agreed or at least did not say no when I asked if I could stay with her while I recuperated. I do not recall if I got to my sister's apartment by train or plane, but I remember taking a taxis to her house because she would not pick me up at the station. I was inside of her apartment approximately fifteen minutes. I told her I was passing out but she said she had no bed for me. When I sat on the floor, she put a blanket down for me. When I told her that I was too hot, she set up a fan beside me. I was in pain and very confused by the medications of a full half dozen operations that I had had within the past eighteen months.* My sister soon called a taxis to take me away, and I do not recall how I got back to Arizona, but I stayed there with a friend and her husband until I was well enough to find employment.
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* The sole means of transportation that the US Peace Corps provided while I was in service in Mali, West Africa was a moped (motor scooter), which was ill-suited for the 100+°F desert heat, the potholed dirt roads, and the distances that I was required to travel in my work. (Men in Peace Corp service were issued land rovers.) Not to mention that I had to ride "sidesaddle" because Islam in Mali required that I wear not only a head scarf but also ankle-length skirts.
The US Peace Corp serviced my moped, and when they picked it up to "paint" it, I was without transportation until they returned it to me. As soon as the US Peace Corps returned the freshly painted moped to me, I took it into the nearby town of Ségou to buy tinned sardines, fruit, and a baguette of bread if there was any. Within the first mile the moped handle bars fell off—they fell completely off of the moped. The moped collapsed under me, and I suffered a hematoma where it struck me. The US Peace Corps nurse was 149 miles away in the capital city of Bamako, and when I got there she stalled treatment for me. The hematoma developed into a fistula in anal which she instructed me to soak in water. Water borne diseases in Mali include river blindness, liver flukes, and others too numerous to list here, so I was fearful of it. And hauling water in a pail from a contaminated, communal open well to my mud brick house, then boiling it when fuel is scarce and expensive, was impossible for me.
My 1st operation was at the only hospital in the country of Mali, the Institut Marchoux. It was a run-down, ill-equipped, unsanitary facility primarily providing care to lepers by kindly and humanitarian Frenchmen. My second and third operation was at the US military base in Wiesbaden, Germany where US Peace Corps medevaced me after an Australian doctor informed the US Peace Corps nurse, "If you do not medevac her immediately she will be dead within a few days." I was passing in and out of consciousness, and the US Peace Corps nurse had accused me of "malingering." I have never malingered in my life, I was literally dying. I wanted very much to return to service in Mali because I cared for the impoverished, well-meaning Bobo people in the village where I worked, but due to lack of function I had to return to the states. My 4th operation was in Phoenix, AZ where I lived with a long-time friend and her husband, and my 5th & 6th operations were at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and saved my life .
As a result of this series of events while I was in Peace Corps Service in Mali, West Africa, I had a total of 6 painful and humiliating rectal surgeries. After my last operation I was told that having children was not a good option for me, my incisions could tear open from even the weight of a growing baby.
Although I did not have the wherewithal to pursue action against the US Peace Corps for their negligence, they changed my official records from service in Mali to Burkina Faso which was the country south of where I had lived and worked in West Africa.
Caption: Drowning In A Hot Dry World
self portrait by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019