the other morning, I was in the measles recubra, our house of straw, and looked to sky. the clouds whose lightning flashed on the horizon the night before were mounting in the east. I called our logistician on the handset.
compound one for james… yeah, bro, have you looked up? I think we need to cover the recubra and the tfc… i know, not for another month, but… just look up…
he did. he thought it would be ok. we were all told that the rain would not find us until the middle of may. but still. the clouds were dark. they looked unhappy.
I continued on my rounds. the miserabled measled. so sick. it takes so long for them to get better. as I mentioned before, both my brother and I had measles. we missed some school. my father had it as a child too. but my grandmother, living in northern Alberta before vaccines and antibiotics, lost one of her brothers when measles spread through their family.
I had seen half of the patients when the chart blew out of my hand, and a burst of hot air swept sand through the recubra. I left and looked at the sky. it looked unhappy. approaching fast and unhappy.
I called on the handset.
yeah, I think we have a problem.
I felt a first drop, then the rain started in sheets. it quickly soaked the straw roof, and started to leak onto the beds. there was nowhere to go. the patients were quickly drenched, so too their beds, their clothes. they gathered in a corner. I couldn’t take them into the hospital. too contagious.
help soon arrived. we placed a piece of plastic against the wall and braced it with a y-shaped stick and moved the patients under it. they huddled together, a tangle of soaked women and sick children.
the rain was heavy. it was pooling on the beds, and forming puddles on the plastic floor. we hauled more plastics sheet from a nearby container, and pulled them over the roof. the drips slowed. there were pockets where one could stand, and not get wetter. the patients moved from their corner.
the rain lasted for an hour. the ground was puddles. the beds were wet, and the children were cold. the rain lashed us, unprepared.
and so too the tfc. and so too our compound. it was a month early. we erased our list of logistic priorities, and moved “rain preparation” to the top. it seems sudan has no middle ground.
with the rains, the heat will break. and, I am told, from the cracked earth will come the snakes, and the scorpions, the mosquitoes and the malaria. we will walk around in rubber boots, and the roads will be rutted mud. there will be no sleeping outside, and no morning runs. again, and again, the lesson…"be careful what you wish for…" is repeated.
but today, two days later, it is like it never happened. it is 11 am, and forty degrees. it is Friday, our one day off. I am on call, and will walk to the hospital soon. I will step out of my tukul and the the sun will punch me, and I’m not going to say a word.
one short word to the people who have commented on the woman whose rash I showed. your responses have been wonderful. I will let you know what I do. unfortunately, a skin biopsy will not be helpful. there is no way to look at it. in areas like this, as much as I loathe to do it, one is left with trials of therapy.