Many Happy Returns

Remember what I said a few days back about “Happy Fire” and bullets following the laws of Physics? You guessed it.

Remember what I said a few days back about “Happy Fire” and bullets following the laws of Physics? You guessed it. I could probably calculate the terminal velocity (where resistance from air counteracts the acceleration of gravity) and the altitude at which the bullet briefly hung motionless before it changed direction, based on muzzle velocity. But all that is irrelevant to the poor schmuck who really was, “Just minding my own business when someone shot me in the neck!”

"Cool X-ray though" © Mark Kostash

Luckily for him, the bullet found a nice soft spot to land (instead of his head) and missed everything important. Cool X-Ray though. We were planning to operate to remove it today after rounds, but a vascular emergency bumped his case. SSDD, Or more accurately, SSDT (Same Stuff, Different Time-zone).

© Mark Kostash

My last Installment took nearly two days to send out; the internet can be slow to non-existent and the file was a bit too big. I have been editing the photos to make them smaller but I’m still a Newbie with this app on my iPad. Sorry if the photos next time are a bit grainy! Anyway, I have had time to jot down lots of notes, so you get this one without having to wait as long. Yay, You!

The internet may be marginal, but there is nothing wrong with the power. Electricity is quite reliable in Aden, and the hospital has an advanced electrical backup generator system providing seamless transition if the power unexpectedly fails. No more operating by Braille!

As in our hospital tent in Gaza, the fuel supply for the generator is surrounded by sandbags to prevent sudden unexpected noise, wind and heat. Not to mention flying bits. There is a good supply of power outlets (four in my bedroom alone) so I have no excuse to let my cell-phone go dead.The Expat kitchen includes a microwave and gas stove and the water cooler also has a hot-water option (warm enough for tea or coffee). There is even an electric kettle which I use constantly to reheat the hot water bottle PH loaned me.

We have been truly spoiled by our cook, who provides a large variety of hot and cold dishes. As I predicted, I have gained a bit of weight, but less than I might have due to my week-long gastritis. I didn’t even get back to unreasonable volumes of “coffee” until yesterday. Several other Expats did what my wife suggested to me – they packed a Bodum. I used the excuse of an overstuffed suitcase to demure; I’m not really regretting it since Nescafé with milk is beginning to grow on me. Like an invasive fungus.

The comforts of home © Mark Kostash

Today I had planned my traditional Expat dinner for the “Cook’s evening off”: Chicken On A Can. Last Friday’s barbecue was a bust for lack of supplies and ingredients, but it all came together today. I took two large chickens out of the freezer this morning, LO acquired a large (30 kg) bag of charcoal and I chopped all the veggies for the side dishes. Then PC told me about two more patients with gunshot wounds coming in by ambulance. 

So AD & PC got volunteered to build the charcoal up and put the (dressed & spiced) chickens on at 5 pm. Our new Expat Orthopod (OS) is rebuilding a patient’s Achilles’ tendon and we have a young lad with bilateral femoral fractures to ExFix following. All I need now is someone to sauté the onions, braise the eggplant and zucchini, boil up the rice and I will have finished “cooking Friday’s dinner!”

Later the same day…

This is one of the things I love about our team; the way someone always steps up to help out. PC and AD made such a great charcoal fire that the chickens were perfect in exactly two hours.

Perfect chicken © Mark Kostash

AD lifted the lid on our makeshift oven and both chickens fell in two, their skins crispy and brown. I had just enough time to make the fried rice and ratatouille-cum-stew before racing back to the theatre for Part Three, but first LO and AD had to bring a new cylinder of cooking gas for the stove. I was in desperate need of a shower so everyone babysat my simmering pots while I cleaned up and dressed. Then they transferred the entire banquet to the patio. Dinner was quiet for the most part with all the chewing going on, but PC did enough talking for all of us ;p

Despite narrowing our intake criteria, it has been a little busier in the hospital the last few days. We have had two vascular cases (one axillary and one popliteal artery requiring vein-graft repair), two gunshot wounds to the legs and one to the chest. The latter surgery is amazingly simple, really; they either need just a chest tube and wound debridement and live, or the bullet hits something important and they are DOA (or like last night in ER, DOAA – Dead On Arrival of Anesthesia). Not a good finish to the day – a murder/suicide. Today was much better. So far. Though I did have to turn away a request to run to ER to intubate a patient a few minutes ago since the 15 year old boy with both knees shot out needs me a while longer.

I received a pleasant surprise last evening when PC invited me to join him on a walk around the yard outside the hospital. I hadn’t dared venture beyond the hospital doors (being a stickler for rules no matter how conservative). We had a pleasant walk discussing an unpleasant topic involving a difference of opinion between two Expat Physicians. Guess which one of the two dropped the “F-bomb” .

Trying to behave myself today because if I do, I will be allowed on a Field Trip tomorrow afternoon. Destination – a local hotel frequented by Expats with a pool to swim in and a patio to sit and suntan. I’ve been too busy lately to spend much time on our own patio before dark so I am looking forward to getting a little flushed. AD is planning to join me, and maybe PC and HM too, if they aren’t too busy. A little R&R is good for the productivity. And you can’t get Vitamin D poisoning from sunshine!


(Mark Tanning In Aden)

Friday, January 17th, 2014

“The postings and views expressed here are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the position of Medecins Sans Frontieres”.