Goodbye Susanna

Our new Doc Matthieu, another Frenchie, arrived with a card and chocolate from my dear friend in Paris. It was so nice to get them and have some news. It really made me feel better. He also left a huge block of brie cheese and some herbs and spices, etc.

Our new Doc Matthieu, another Frenchie, arrived with a card and chocolate from my dear friend in Paris. It was so nice to get them and have some news. It really made me feel better. He also left a huge block of brie cheese and some herbs and spices, etc. in Addis so I’m waiting patiently for them to arrive and feel I may just loose the plot if they don’t! After the last episode of the cheese I left in Gambella and the fact that they already forgot to send this stuff with the last drug order this week, I’m sceptical and anxious they may just not worry and eat it themselves. Now you probably think I’m overreacting about this but when you are stuck out in the field with very little access to anything, news from friends, home and especially the precious gifts they have taken the thought, time and money to send are indeed more precious than gold. So yes, crazy as it may sound, I’m very anxious to receive the gift that I know to be in Addis and If I don’t I very well may have a psychotic episode. I’ve asked the team to let me know if I do, just in case I don’t realize, after all I am on anti-malaria prophylaxis!

So yes, enough ranting and raving, Matthieu has arrived to replace Susanna. He’s really nice and slowly adjusting to the way of life here in Mattar - the lack of resources/equipment/supply, the remoteness, and difficulties trying to refer a patient within the confines of this country or over the border. Having to just accept death is inevitable. It’s difficult. I think the doc’s position here is the hardest, with the pressure of being so remote, and also being responsible for expats health as well as the patients. Knowing you really can’t do anything that at home would be simple is very frustrating. Anyway I’m sure he will be fine but six months for a doc is a very long time, especially when each day feels like a week.

Susanna has left. I’ll miss her 6am coffee and chat while watching the day dawn, the birds go about their morning duties, and idle chit chat about the previous night’s nocturnal visitors and the changes in the river. She was relieved and happy to go. I do hope she finds peace and contentment at home.

On Thursday I went down the river to mobilize for the Nyawech mobile clinic on Friday, going from village to village telling people when and where the clinic would be. On the way we saw a three-meter python floating in the river. It had been severed at both ends so was probably five or six meters pre death. It also had what looked like a gunshot wound, which is likely as nearly everyone here has guns. Its body was swollen in two areas; obviously its eyes were bigger than its belly! I was hoping the two significant bulges were two goats or sheep and not the shoulders and hips of a person! I have photos and the team was somewhat shocked when I showed them.

Floating python with suspicious bulges ©Kate Chapman

After the mobilization we sat on the river at the junction and fished. I caught four. It was really nice and relaxing and we had a fantastic dinner of fish, chips and coleslaw. A candle lit farewell dinner for Susanna, and welcome home for Matthieu.

On Friday we finally went back to Nyawech after missing it for four weeks due to broken boats or security issues. It rained all the way there so by the time we arrived (two hours) we were drenched! Not to mention the steep bank, now slick with mud, gave them much entertainment as I promptly slid backwards, unable to stand on my own two feet, struggling on all fours just to stop from falling in the river! The kids greeted us with cheering and clapping as the day before, finding NO adults, I had asked them to prepare the tent, clean it out of animal droppings and bundles of grass being stored there, and to set up the tables and chairs stored in a tukul for us. I also had taken the long-ago promised soccer ball, much to their delight! The kids did a fantastic job and were duly rewarded with two skipping ropes and another small ball for the little kids. Well you should have seen their faces! They were beaming! So after setting up and with still no patients there, the staff including Susanna (last day outing) all enjoyed a skipping demonstration and play with the kids. It was really great and such a simple thing, a piece of rope, bringing such fun and joy!

Not many patients turned up, A) because it was raining, B) because we only mobilized along the river and C) because they had given up on us ever returning again! An old man came and gave me a good telling off for not coming for so long. When they have to travel to get there and then we don’t come it must be very frustrating and disappointing. So I apologized and promised we would do our best to come every Thursday now that our boat was fixed. Speaking of boats, the boat-fixing fellow came to Mattar after our newly fixed 75 hp wasn’t working well and found that the plug had been left out of the boat and that it had 1000 liters of water in it. That’s why we were so slow and heavy!!!! So after emptying it of water and a tweak or two on the fuel line it’s now running like a speed boat!!! Woohooo, Finally Jikow next Tuesday!!! Oh yeah and we saw a four meters ALIVE python climbing up the bank! Not far from here, just near the junction!!!!!

When we got home, the expats had a surprise for me! They had run a power cord to my tukul and strung lights at the entrance. A new, tri-colored tukul head adorned the roof! Apparently if I’d been home a bit later, there would have been chooks painted on the walls. Somehow I’m glad they didn’t get that far! So that was really nice and kind of them. That night we had a farewell party for Susanna with all the staff, lots of music, dancing and hot and spicy Injera. So we bid farewell to our friend and colleague, a dedicated, strong willed kind, and determined friend.