Well it’s Sunday again! It’s been quite a week. The river has risen 2 meters and huge 60-foot metal boats are now cruising past the compound. They look like a big metal canoe and the 75 hp motor on the back sits well out of the water, with the prop only just submerged, making for a hell of a racket as they slowly cruise up and down the river.
My first week of working alone (without Moctar) started off badly. On Monday morning the team came in in dribs and drabs, half to one hour late, without a care in the world. On Tuesday only my translator turned up at the dedicated 7am, by 8am he told me “Kit day tistin you, you gotta giv dem displin sho yo da boss.” Apparently they haven’t had a woman in this position before. OK, fantastic! So I sent him off to round them up and we set off for Jikow 90 mins late in two cars, me with six patients and caretakers returning home, and the team in the other! When we arrived in Nip Nip (after getting bogged and towed out twice) they all took off and I was again left wondering what the hell was going on. They were off buying phone credit as there’s reception there.
When we arrived at Jikow there were over 100 people waiting as we had missed Friday’s clinic due to the storm. It has been a long, hard, hot day when we finally packed up ready for the three hour journey home, together with an acute bowel obstruction, a man in last stage of HIV and an incomplete abortion that was septic and smelling to high hell, and their caretakers. I told the staff to wait for me at the compound, as we would have a meeting after I’d taken the patients to the health center. They acted up and two in particular said no way we can do it tomorrow.
So cranky Kate stepped up and told them WE WILL have a meeting when I get back. So I told them what I thought, that we are here for the patients, they travel for hours to see us, and that if they wanted to stop and get lunch before we left and get phone credit, etc. then they better be there on time! Well they were angry and left without shaking my hand or looking at me, which is custom greeting and farewell.
Anyway, the next day everyone was on time and has been since! Things certainly have been better and as I lead by example and don’t expect them to do anything I’m not willing to do myself, I think I’m gaining their respect.
The team is marvelling at how brown I’ve become in the past 2 weeks, despite the sunscreen. I think it just sweats off anyway, although I think I’ve just been so caught up in learning all these new things and trying to cope with the so many senseless, inevitable deaths, I really haven’t had time to think about the heat.
The truth is, I feel like I’m trying to fix a slashed artery with nothing more than a band-aid. Actually, a band-aid would be good! We don’t even have any bandages! We ran out last week. Gunshot wounds are just covered in gauze and tape! If we can get transport (daylight only) we can try and get anything surgical to Nasir in South Sudan as MSF has surgical hospital there, but as often is the case they die before they leave. Also if there’s shooting we don’t travel. We go and sit in the “safe house” which is a metal shipping container, used as the pharmacy. We have a stock and supply of blankets, food, cigarettes and even a bottle of vodka for “calming” purposes, as some people can’t stand to be locked in. I’ve only had to be in there an hour at a time so far so I haven’t found it too bad.