I awoke at dawn to the chirping, squawking and twitter of bird’s song. Got my sorry bones out of the tent and set about boiling some water for coffee. The boys came out in dribs and drabs a few well rested and others not so. Some complained they were cold and scared so they didn’t sleep.
I went off looking for somewhere I could pee, my first pee in 24 hours! I thought I’d better not drink the well water or I could get sick, didn’t want Ds and Vs, so I savored my one liter of water I had brought with me, it also having lasted 24 hours. Now I was getting thirsty! So off to find somewhere to pee. Everywhere I turned someone greeted me with “Marla, Marla Magwa” cultivating their crops that went literally for miles as far as the eye could see. So finally, after chasing several bands of kids off and believing to be out of sight. I dropped them and squatted behind an unused tukul. Such a relief! “ Marla, Marlamadee” came the shouts from across the river! Bugger me, it was a full moon in the daytime! Lucky they didn’t have binoculars and were 50 meters away across the river! Still, I could hear their laughter echoing across the river!
Soon after a spot of fishing with the kids, we had breakfast of rice, milk powder and sugar. A young guy turned up and asked us to come and get his brother who they had carried a long way to get there. He was over the river in South Sudan and unable to get in the dugout canoe used for transport across the river. I could see 25 people on the banks waving and gesturing. With the health officer saying but “that’s South Sudan” in a worried voice, I reminded him that when the boat over-heated yesterday and we stopped for lunch, that was South Sudan and we were in fact Doctors Without Borders! So we went over to check him out.
A huge young lad of 20, at least 6’8'' tall, lay on a makeshift stretcher of sticks and a blanket. He was feverish and his eyes were wide and staring, the look of impending doom. His entire body was swollen and he was having trouble breathing, his abdomen firm and tender on palpation. He had been sick for a month and was deteriorating each day. Just the effort of sitting up to listen to his chest had left him exhausted, his eyes rolling in his head. The 25 onlookers all very concerned and wanted to come the rest of the way with him. We took four of them to help us carry him to camp, and also his very worried mum. The rest either swam or took the canoe to reach us on the other side.
We settled him on a mat under the mango tree, gave him some pain relief and gained a better history. He had in fact been a TB patient but not on meds for some time. It was likely he was also HIV, and stage 4 at that. Anyway, we waited for the car to send him to Mattar, back to the health center thinking that in all likelihood he wouldn’t make it that far.
A kid with a badly infected wound turned up, as well as our HIV/TB girl who we had been looking for over the previous three weeks and one of the leprosy ladies from South Sudan who was leaving for two months. We treated them all and I felt that being stuck overnight in Jikow had been for a good reason after all.
The car finally turned up with WATER and then the team started arguing who was going back by car and who had to go in the boat. I opted for the boat. As the health officer was going with the patient, and as the others wanted to get home ASAP I felt I couldn’t take up a spot, when it was sort of my fault we got stuck. At least I was the Capitan so I should go down with the ship. We expected the car to take two to three hours to get back and the boat at least four with half the gear and people now in the car. So with four in the boat, including mum, and the rest in the car we headed home.
I fell asleep on the way back and when I woke after running over something and the boat stopping I asked if we were half-way yet. The boat driver told me no, it had been over three hrs so I asked him to tell me when we were half-way so I could call back to the compound and let them know.
Half an hour later a very fantastic sight loomed around the bend. Our compound! Wooohhoo! Communication leaves a lot to be desired but we were back, all alive and in one piece! Jean-Baptiste, the project coordinator, heard the boat coming and came running down the banks waving wildly. He was so happy to see us back! After unloading all the gear and traipsing it up the steep muddy bank, I was greeted by members of the team with hugs of relief. They really had been worried about us!
After a debrief, a coke and a 30 minute shower that still did not remove the ground in mud from my feet, we had a team meeting, had a dinner of leftovers and then watched a movie on the big screen with the national staff and literally over 100 people watching over the fence laughing and cheering! We watched two of the Lonely Planet series, one featuring Ethiopia so with classical music in the background and animals doing their crazy antics. The crowd really enjoyed the show without a need for translation. Next week we are going to try and set up the screen outside the compound and play the jungle book, Madagascar or Shrek. Then the families can bring a mat and all watch it together!