Arabic lessons, please?
mars 19, 2009
Serif Umra, 2009-01-22
The sun is setting in Serif Umra, bringing closure to a not so restful day off. Friday, prayer day, is the official day off and theoretically the time to recuperate from the events of the week. Obviously, there’s always some glitch to that idea; the morning today was the only feasible day for a confidential talk with my nurse supervisor, and though I indeed had a couple of hours set aside for good-for-nothing activities such as table tennis and tanning in the mid-day, the evening hours were spent dealing with a suspected case of viral haemorrhagic fever. A case like this, potentially highly infectious, where a good understanding of the history of the patient is absolutely essential in order not to put yourself or any of your staff under risk, occurring on a Friday, with no translator present in the dispensary, poses the level of challenge that makes this kind of mission… let’s say interesting.
This child presented with fever and two days of nose bleed and vomiting of blood, which constitutes enough of a warning sign, then add that the information we received indicated that this was the fourth case in the particular village. There is no Ebola in these parts, but you want to make sure you know what you’re dealing with nevertheless. Rather be safe than sorry. Consequently, Mauro, who fortunately speaks a bit more Arabic than I do, was trying to get a better picture and give instructions while I set out to organize some sort of barrier care in the isolation area. It’s no rocket science, but it demands that you take certain measures to prevent contamination of, well, everything.
Much of this knowledge is still lacking among the staff and it has a rather paralyzing effect on the staff in general and the caretakers of the patient in particular when expats dress up in protective goggles and face masks. After much pointing in many directions and many pointless explanations in English, my cleaners speak as much English as I speak Arabic, at least everyone was dressed in proper protective gear. At this point a Medical Assistant who speaks good English had showed up and it became clear that this had indeed occurred before with four people, but within the same family and with several years apart. Hence we were dealing with a hereditary coagulation defect rather than infectious haemorrhaging.
Instantly, the situation became less complicated, but still left the young boy at risk of life. We spent the following two hours trying to stop the bleeding and organizing a blood transfusion. Nobody should have to die from a nose bleed. The situation was under control when we had to leave the dispensary for curfew, tomorrow we will see how it turned out.
So, after another meeting in the evening, the week has come to a close. It started out good; the package with ginger bread cookies, among other goodies, that my parents sent for Christmas finally arrived. We’re now halfway through January and there was never much of a Christmas feeling, but my taste buds don’t care. In the course of the week we then dealt with a large number of wounded after a car accident, I came down with a severe case of homesickness and lack of self esteem, our Medical Coordinator paid us a visit from Khartoum, giving support and closing communication gaps, I recovered from my depression (definitely bi-polar), and finally identified a storage area for the cleaner’s equipment. Every single square meter of the dispensary seemed to be spoken for. Tomorrow the sun will rise (inshallah), and the never-ending list of tasks will be calling my name. At least then I’ll have my translator back.