Fieldset
9 stories from our field staff that moved, inspired or made us smile in 2018

From the personal to the powerful, from Ebola to innovation, these posts are just some of the many extraordinary stories shared by Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) field workers in 2018...

1. Ebola in DRC: The Giant

“I take my head in my hands and cry silently. I feel so small, so helpless in the face of this. Then I’m filled with an incredible energy. I make a promise to fight for them.”

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Luis Encinas wearing protective equipment
Luis Encinas

The “giant” here is Luis, a six-foot four-inch Spanish nurse responding to the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With this beautifully written and sobering post, Luis takes us inside an MSF Ebola treatment centre as he cares for seriously ill patients – trying to make a human connection through his thick protective suit.

Read Luis’ story > 

 

2. Some patients you remember forever 

"I am amazed by how many different people - from unlikely parts of the world - govern corners of my heart."

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A scene from the ward in Agok
The MSF hospital in Agok, Abyei Special Administrative Area

When Heidi first met Ayak, a thirty-year-old woman with a terrible infection, Ayak's condition was severe. She was on the post-surgery ward in the MSF hospital in Agok, a town between Sudan and South Sudan.

But Heidi was determined to beat the infection, and as a bond formed between the women, she attempted an unusual procedure to save Ayak's life.

Read Heidi's story >

 

3. Innovation: Using Design to help people stay safe in Nigeria

"I’m part of an MSF team charged with creating solutions to solve problems on the ground. We often take an unorthodox approach, which at first glance may leave people scratching their heads." 

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Michael Githinji
Michael Githinji with some of the prototypes in Pulka

Saving lives isn't always about medicine. For people in Pulka, a camp for people displaced by conflict in Nigeria, simply leaving the protection of the camp to gather firewood puts their lives at risk.

Michael was part of a special MSF team who set out to find a solution, using a little design know-how and a lot of ingenuity... 

Read Michael's story >

 

4. Memorial

"We will not forget you and we will not be silent."

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A sunset on the Mediterranean Sea
A sunset on the Mediterranean Sea

In 2018 a sustained campaign by European governments forced us to end our search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. The news brought up vivid memories for MSF nurse Courtney, who worked on one of the boats rescuing people at sea.

In this immensely powerful, personal post, Courtney shares what she saw in her time on board. 
 

Read Courtney's story >

 

5. 48 hours on the frontline of maternity care

"'Quick, wrap him in this', I explained, while Marion lifted the baby and I unfolded my towel to shelter the newborn."

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A newborn gives a healthy cry in DRC
A midwife with a newborn in DRC

The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have lived through years of conflict, and access to healthcare is limited. This year midwife and doctor Lanice joined the team in North Kivu hoping to make a difference for mothers and babies.

From a case of rabies to emergency pregnancy complications, the pace doesn't slow for Lanice and her colleagues in this taut, pacey blog that races through 48 hours on the ward.

Read Lanice's story >

 

6. The night I met Thomas: Mental health support in South Sudan

"A small incident can be enough. A trigger. A push over the edge. Something mundane."

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Malakal Camp, South Sudan
View of the Malakal protection of civilians camp, South Sudan

It is 00:34 on Raimund's birthday, and the Austrian psychologist is in Malakal, a camp for civilians escaping the conflict in South Sudan. 

Ongoing violence coupled with the desolation of life in the camp has meant that the need for mental health support is widespread. In this moving blog post, Raimund shares the story of one his patients at the start of a journey to find hope again in Malakal.

Read Raimund's story >

 

7. Iraq: "A call came through that a suicide vest had been detonated"

"Medicine can make us hard, detached, emotionally disengaged. But, in a moment of uncharacteristic quiet in the ER, between waves of arrivals, I stood by your bedside, hand on the side of your head, and lost it just a little."

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A child's is tucked beneath a pattern blanket
Tucked up in a warm blanket

In an ER in Iraq, as ambulances full of severely injured people arrive, Georgina meets a little girl who has been badly hurt in a blast.

In this heart-felt blog post addressing her young patient, Georgina shares the story of their meeting and of the little girl's treatment and ultimate survival.

Read Georgina's story >

 

8. Innovation: How Ultrasound is saving lives in South Sudan

"Before we had ultrasound in Malakal, complicated pregnancies could lead to tragedy."

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Ultrasound is a key diagnostic tool for teams working with pregnant women, allowing complications to be picked up fast and ultimately saving lives. However, the large, costly machines, and the specialist practitioners needed to operate them, meant they weren't a feasible option in many of our projects.

Stephen shares his experience of a project that's set out to change all of this.

Read Stephen's story >

 

9. ER Mode: My last patient in Nigeria

"And I am there, scrubbed, with plastic apron on. Goggles. Gloves. Scrub gown. Itching for the anaesthetic to be sorted, with scalpel in hand… and boom. The starter gun is sounded when the anaesthetist says 'go'..."

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Mothers waking for discharge from the hospital in Jahun
Mothers wait to be discharged from the maternity ward

In northern Nigeria, a lack of access to proper care means that the rate of women dying from complications with pregnancy or childbirth is high. This year, UK obstetrician Pippa travelled to Jahun general hospital to join the team on the maternity ward there.

Writing with tautness and immediacy, Pippa takes us into the operating room to share the race to save the life of her final patient in Nigeria. 

Read Pippa's story >

 

*** Bonus blog post! *** 

If the posts above have inspired you to work for MSF, or left you with questions about life as part of our team, check out this post from nurse Michal.  

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An MSF team laugh together in the back of a Land Cruiser in Sudan
Michal and his team