Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Sunday, June 01, 2003
    More from Malawi

    In this week's email, Chuen-Yen nearly lost her beloved pet tortoise Enigma (which she rescued from a food market several months ago). We see that the hospital's physical plant supervisor is no doubt mumbling about those crazy Westerners and their pets...

    Mr. Katundo, BAH�s maintenance supervisor, is exasperated with me. On this halcyon Sabbath, I phoned him with an emergency � Enigma had crawled into the plastic piping that drains water from our decrepit patio to the dirt garden below. My neighbor, several friends and I had attempted to push her through the system with a rubber hose. But the drainpipes� external second story location hindered our success.

    To retrieve Enigma, the labyrinth would have to be dismantled. Mr. Katundo was nonplussed when I explained this situation. Eventually he sighed, �I�m coming.�

    For a small audience of security guards, hospital staff and snickering cronies, Mr. Katundo scaled his ladder, opened several critical apertures and located Enigma. After contemplating potential rescue techniques, the group concurred that we should maneuver her horizontally to a vertical conduit, via which she would free fall into my hand. As the plan was executed, spectators contemplated why one might keep a tortoise. They also worried that her shell would crack should we fail to cushion her rectilinear descent through six meters of PVC tubing. Fortunately, there were no complications.

    Afterward, one bystander commented, �Kamba (tortoise in Chichewa) will still be tasty.� Others agreed. It seems nobody would perform such shenanigans for a useless pet. But food is another story.



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