Greetings all! This is Aoife here, an Irish doctor who spent the last six months of this year in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon, on a mission with MSF.
My previous blog updates were all sent to you from the MSF office and clinics of Tripoli. I would write my thoughts after returning from the jam-packed clinics in the field. Arriving back into the office knackered and sweltering from the heat, but excited after the days activities.
Now I write to you from a very different backdrop, as I sit here in a doctors office, beside a busy medical admission unit in a busy, bustling London hospital! Oh how life has changed dramatically! I arrived home to Dublin from my mission in early August, hugged and kissed my family, and then quickly made my way to London to take up a new job there. I feel like I hurled myself across oblivions in an instant! Gone is the MSF family in which I was cradled! Gone is the soaring heat of the Middle East (which I now regret complaining about!), and gone is the chaos, noise, and yet exotic beauty of Tripoli! I've been mercilessly sucked into the claws of the NHS and I didn’t see it coming!
In truth, the last part is just dramatic emphasis, but in truth, the transition from MSF field medicine to hospital medicine is not easy! It took me time to readjust to all the changes; new colleagues, a new environment, new systems of medical practice and a huge cultural change almost overnight! I wasn’t sure I'd make it out of the first week alive! But, luckily, a few weeks in now, and the adjustments are getting easier.
At times, I forget that I was so recently working in Lebanon with MSF. Memories of the intense field experience begin to float away, when I find myself concerned with the endless list of admin duties when you move countries and start a new job.
But then, you see an article in a paper, or you hear a news bulletin, and there is mention of the ongoing crisis in Syria and the growing numbers of refugees, fleeing across the borders into Lebanon and other surrounding countries. Then you remember how it was to be there in the midst of all the trouble, and you remember the people who you met there, who you became friends with there, and who are still there. I wish them (all the MSF staff and the other NGOs working in Tripoli) all the courage and strength that’s needed to strive ahead and continue with the great work they are doing. Their work is needed now more than ever.
Working with MSF was a wonderful experience, and I would strongly encourage other doctors to follow suit. The clinical skills and the life experiences you gain from working with MSF are priceless, and it is such an enjoyable thing to do also! You meet the most amazing people and you really make life-long friends. As regards my future, I will continue here in London on the NHS-led path I have chosen for now! I hope to broaden my clinical skills, and knowledge through a general practice training programme. I do however have a very strong desire to go back and work in the field again with MSF, and this I hope to do as soon as the chance pops up for me again!
All the best!