2am “Oncall, oncall for ICU – we have one child yes, they are convulsions…” I jolt into wakefulness and am out of my bed and running over to the hospital as fast as I can go telling the nurses to prepare IV diazepam down the radio as I go. This could be anything, but always think worst case scenario… I arrive on the ward and yes, this is actual convulsions, a four-year-old with cerebral malaria.
It’s incredible to watch how fast MSF responds in these evolving situations – the boat went out on Monday – and on Tuesday was sent back to the hospital containing seven patients, mostly women and children with gunshot wounds. A further five arrived the next day. I don’t think I’ve ever looked after a braver patient than the trembling mite of a five-year-old girl with the bullet wound to her shoulder who sat still and tense, holding back sobs while I examined her.
Many memories of South Sudan will remain with me forever. Sad memories of seeing first-hand the dire circumstances many people have to endure or of witnessing the death of a small child. Disturbing images like seeing a small boy play with an imitation AK47 possibly trying to mimic his father or other men. But mostly happy memories of seeing a mother’s joy when her child gets better, the appreciation of our staff for training and coaching given, the surprise on people’s faces when I talked to them in my few words of Nuer, of working together with the rest of the team and of the beautiful sunsets.
This strange, inhospitable, impossible place that is now home for 15,000, 65,000, 115,000 people who had to run here.
I don’t think about this a lot, because it seems like an impossible thought. To try to understand what it might feel like to have no home to go to anymore. The Ingessana are of their place, very much so. I can’t see it in the faces or the eyes of the people who I work with here, the people on my team who come from the refugee population. Strangely, they seem happy, in such good spirits. I’m confused by a lot of my staff actually. If I was bombed out of my home, I would be shit mad, totally crushed.
The combination stressors of unfamiliar climate and diet, not to mention the ideals that lead you into this sort of work in the first place make a lot of people push themselves hard at their jobs – unsurprisingly illness and periods of emotional burnout are not uncommon among the expat workers… only time will tell how I fare. For now I’m going to follow the advice that I’ve been given and hope and pray that my immune system holds up!
“Hello, Emma? Welcome to Nasir, paradise!”
After that it was on to our nutrition clinic to see the children remaining as inpatients for the Christmas period. Some of the children and their mothers had got new clothes and most people were happy wishing each other a merry Christmas. Thankfully all of the patients were fairly stable so there was not too much clinical work.