Fieldset
South Sudan: "The little things that will someday make a difference"

In her previous blog, Ayla shared the story of a late-night emergency call to treat a young patient who sadly could not be saved. In this latest piece, she looks back at that night…

Sunset over Mundri in South Sudan

Read Ayla's previous blog, here

Maybe the girl with the pneumonia was just one of the sad cases I regularly experience here – treating children who are inhibited in their growth and development by a thick web of related factors, wrapped around them from birth.

To give a few examples of this web: a sub-optimal diet (too little and poor quality food), mothers who were also malnourished during pregnancy, limited attention from caregivers because they themselves had responsibilities such as working or collecting food.

Torn

That night, as I started the girl's CPR with the team, my head turned at full speed. My thoughts went in all directions.

It's little things, but I have to believe that someday it will make a difference. Even if only one life would be saved.

This was not the first time, nor will it be the last time, I have been in such a situation since the start of my assignment. Every time I feel torn: so many different emotions and thoughts.

It is frustrating to think of all the chances the girl would have had if she had been born elsewhere. Better nutrition, hygiene and protection that would make her healthier. She could be treated with resources and equipment that I am used to working with, but that are not available here.

It is frustrating to think of the interventions I could have performed that could have saved the lives I have literally felt slipping through my hands.

Emergency box

But, focusing on what is missing will not help us forward. In the current situation, it seems unlikely that anything will change in the near future.

So, I try to keep my head above water by focusing on training goals for the team – helping our South Sudanese staff grow in their CPR skills, helping them to recognise, analyze and treat medical emergencies in a structured way. Also by making an emergency box in which the resources we do have are immediately available in an emergency.

It's little things, but I have to believe that someday it will make a difference. Even if only one life would be saved.

Pandemic on the horizon

This time it was "only" one patient whose condition was too bad to be saved with our limited resources. 

It does not seem to be a question of if, but when the virus will reach us…

However, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that is going on worldwide, it seems likely that we will soon be overloaded with patients we cannot treat.

We only have two oxygen concentrators in the whole project and no mechanical ventilation option.

Although, as of April, there is currently no sick person with confirmed COVID-19 in South Sudan itself, all neighbouring countries have now been affected.

It does not seem to be a question of if, but when the virus will reach us…

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Read more: Moving stories from South Sudan

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