Friday, 14 September 2012

The Summer

From Administrators to Surgeons, Builders to Pastors, Students to Nurses, we have had a summer of many visitors coming and going through the great blue gates of L’Hôpital de Guinebor II, totalling 26! That’s a lot of trips to the airport, beds to make, mouths to feed and people to acclimatise to life and work here. But, it has also been good fun!

Many of the visiting doctors came to cover for Mark and Andrea who took a well-earned break and enjoyed a fantastic summer of sport in the UK. Not that I am jealous or anything! I managed to watch the last half of the Wimbledon final (having missed the first half thanks to getting stuck in the mud on the way into town, more on that later) and the brilliant Opening Ceremony, alongside others of varying nationalities. I felt proud!! We also managed to have a little sporting summer of our very own here, with the hospital staff playing football against the village. Not being a real football lover myself, I went along obligingly to offer my support to the hospital team. However, with the sight of the hospital team proudly wearing their new kits (footwear was optional and of varying styles!), watching the local children join in with their own version of encouragement (welcomed or not) and the most sophisticated referee I’ve ever seen, it was hard not to enjoy the game, despite the disappointing score.

The Hospital team and The Ref!

The baby a week after surgery
But back to our visitors. The doctors had a challenging summer of treating the vast number of patients, many suffering with severe malaria thanks to the high rain fall we have experienced this summer. The on-going strikes that hit the public services also had, and continue to, impact our patient numbers. The surgeons amongst them were busied with a long list of patients needing a variety of procedures, including prostate surgery, amputations and cleft lip surgery. And I also joined in the surgical fun, the most rewarding of which was assisting in the formation of a colostomy for a 6 day old baby.

Organising surgical instruments
The visiting nurses were real troopers as they took on the ominous task of cleaning, categorising and restocking cupboards on the wards, in the Operating Bloc and most impressively, two of the three shipping containers that serve as our stores. Entering these metal containers is no mean feat as they soon heat up under the Chadian sun and within hours closely resemble walk- in furnaces!! Although this does not sound particularly glamorous or exciting work, I am truly grateful for what they achieved in the week and a half they were here, as jobs like that we simply cannot do at the same time as the day to day running of the hospital and treating patients.

The builders amongst the team worked from dawn until dusk, erecting the roof on my soon to be home, or as I like to call it, my ‘Little Oasis’, and doing general maintenance around the hospital. Although it was yet another never ending list of tasks for them to do, and each time they saw one of us approaching them they ducked their head in fear of being given yet another job, they did everything with an enormous amount of joy and whistling!

Getting involved in the daily running of the hospital, taking regular administrative trips into town, assisting in the launch and initial weeks of a new triage system, encouraging others in their work, however each of these 26 visitors got involved this summer, they did so with energy, passion and enthusiasm which meant that the summer flew by in a whirl of activity and fun.

But (haha, you thought I had finished!), the visitors were not the only major feature of my summer. So too were the 3 cats and 4 unhouse trained kittens that I was left in charge of! And I feel, as a none cat person, that to say that at the end of the summer I had 7 cats to hand back over, all still alive and just about healthy, a major achievement!  

And the third, but by no means least major factor of the summer has been the rain. Chad has no rain at all for 7 months of the year and then over the course of the remaining 3 soggy months, 76% of the annual rainfall in Yorkshire descends.

Preparing to tow out the hospital ambulance stuck in the mud
This has meant that leaving the hospital and traversing what was just a few weeks ago sandy tracks into town, has now become a major test in guts and determination; puddles have now formed lakes, concealing large craters and the thick sticky mud risks you getting stuck. I have many a time now driven into puddles that have then flowed right over the bonnet and waved up the windscreen leaving me with a view, not of where the puddle ends, but just more of the puddle! And one of our visiting surgeons, after a long long flight here from America paid the ultimate price for my moments hesitation, when the 4 wheel drive Toyota got completely stuck in thick, stinky, insect ridden mud. I know the mud was like that because I saw it…. as I watched Jim descend bare footed, knee deep into it ready to push the vehicle out!!!!! Ooops, not my proudest moment… but then, it was also one of those moments when I didn’t mind pulling the “I’m a girl” card!!!! After much revving, rocking, pleading and praying, we got out and Jim clambered back in covered in the thick, stinky, insect ridden mud having thoroughly earned his long awaited shower and successfully passed The Chadian Initiative test! I feel though that I redeemed myself, when on the trip back to the airport (during which, can I please note, we did not get stuck) and I asked Jim what his highlight of his 3 weeks had been, he replied “Getting stuck in the mud”!

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