In the operating room in Yemen: All that you can’t leave behind

07 August 2017

Earlier this year, Kariantti travelled to Yemen for his first posting with MSF - four weeks in the operating theatre in Khameer, where the team performs everything from emergency C-sections to treatment for gunshot wounds. This blog post is based on notes Kariantti wrote in May, just before he returned home to Finland...
 
The postings and views expressed here are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the position of Médecins Sans Frontières.
 
My mission is drawing to an end soon, and in a couple of days I will start my long way home, first to Sana’a and then Djibouti and from there to Paris and eventually back home to Helsinki. I know I’ve only been four weeks in Yemen, but already Finland seems just a distant memory which I sometimes read about on social media and this here is the reality I know and recognise now. 
 
So, it would be an understatement to say a part of me doesn’t feel like leaving. Luckily, I’m leaving the hospital, the OT and the ICU in very good hands, with both the international and the Yemeni staff.
 
I wish I could leave you with a happy ending and tell you all the patients recovered, but they didn’t, not all. Many of them did and we were able to discharge them and send them back home with their families. However, some of them will stay in the wards when leave, for example the two year old girl who was shot in the abdomen. She was still very weak and in a severe condition. After all the treatments we could provide her, she was still malnourished and suffering from a secondary infection. Now we were looking into a possibility of referring her to a hospital in Sana’a to receive parenteral nutrition to help her recover. And perhaps in a couple of months the surgeons will be able to connect the intestine and bowel, if she recovers from the infection. Perhaps.
 
The cholera epidemic is not showing any sign of slowing down either. Quite the opposite. So far in Amran district we've treated 12,000 patients altogether. Thankfully, we got the school up and running now as a cholera treatment centre. I can only be amazed of the effort the team has put into organising everything and treating the patients. It has been suspected that the epidemic will still continue for quite some time, maybe several months.
 
But it’s not only the patients who will occupy my mind for a long time after my departure. It’s the great colleagues, both Yemeni and international, and all the other people here in Khamer whom I can never forget. The people here who are just like you and me in Sweden and in Finland. The ordinary people who continue with their lives in the middle of war and uncertainty. The people who support not only themselves but others as well. The people who still find the kindness to invite you to share a meal with them.
 
The people you can’t leave behind.