A doctor in Bangladesh: Just some of the patients I saw today...

Nina is a doctor from the UK. She is in Bangladesh, where MSF / Doctors Without Borders are providing medical care to Rohingya refugees, who have fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar. Over 600,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since August 2017 and are now living in precarious makeshift camps ...

I have now been working at the Kutupalong clinic for six weeks, nearly halfway through my field assignment. The clinic is the largest MSF facility in the area providing emergency, outpatient, maternity, mental health and inpatient care for the Rohingya and local population.

Before the influx, there was one international staff doctor working at the clinic, the person I replaced. I am in admiration of how he managed to cope in the job single-handed. There are two of us now, but today the other international doctor went on a trip to visit the MSF health posts that provide primary health care in the camp, so I was left to my own devices!

When you are by yourself in the clinic, you spend your day here, there and everywhere. You are called to review patients in all departments, make decisions and support the Bangladeshi staff. These are some of the patients I saw today:

1.      A boy with a fracture to his femur having fallen in a drain.

2.      A girl who was shot in the eye and was well following surgery. She had a simple case of conjunctivitis and could go home.

3.      A 20-year-old woman who fled Myanmar one month ago and has since had seizures. She has had 15 episodes this month alone.

4.      A man who had cut the tendons in his hand with a knife whilst working. We referred him to a surgical department for repair.

5.      A child with an acute asthma attack.

6.      A baby with low oxygen levels and likely congenital heart disease who we will discharge with advice as we have no treatment available.

7.      A lady who has been taking HIV treatment for approximately 10 years. She ran out of medication whilst crossing the border. Her son is also HIV positive. We will arrange for them both to restart treatment.

8.      A 70-year-old man who had a stroke one month ago, he had weakness of the right arm and leg. We will arrange physiotherapy.

9.      A young boy with a badly fractured wrist with the bones no longer in line.  

10.  Lots of patients with chronic lung disease; women from cooking on open fires without ventilation and men from smoking and open fires. Some required oxygen.

11.  An 18-year-old woman who had fallen on the cooking pot and burnt a large area on her chest.

12.  A five-year-old boy with Henoch Schonlein Purpura (an autoimmune disease) who was now improving having developed a very badly infected rash. He is receiving antibiotics and sitting under a mosquito net to protect the wounds.

13.  A family of four children and their mum. One of the children had fallen and hurt her jaw whilst crossing the border. She had been referred by an MSF mobile border clinic as she was unable to eat. She was now running around the ward with her sisters waiting for discharge to the UNHCR (the United Nations' refugee agency) registration point where hopefully someone will help them find shelter.

Image shows a family with four children, one of whom is wearing a doctor's stethoscope

The little girl with the broken jaw and her family. Photo: Nina Goldman / MSF.

14.  A 15-year-old boy who looked like he was six having not grown since then. He was withdrawn and not socialising. We offered counselling to support his mental health.

15.  A boy with recurrent nose bleeds and a low haemoglobin who needed a blood transfusion. His family accompanied him to see if they could donate blood.

16.  A one-day-old baby with low blood sugar and an infection.

17.  Many patients looking fed up with their measles in the isolation tent.  

Image shows a man with measles: he has bloodshot eyes and a rash over his face

A patient with measles. Photo: Nina Goldman / MSF

18.  An 18-year-old girl with heart failure. Who knows why? We will never know.

19.  A drowsy child with watery diarrhoea and dehydration.

20.  A one-year-old boy with malnutrition and a chest infection who was breathing rapidly and requiring oxygen. He was given antibiotics and admitted for the feeding programme.  

21.  A patient with a longstanding cough and weight loss. We suspect TB and will investigate.

22.  A 35-year-old man who had a pelvic fracture when he was hit by a car. Although it was repaired, he now walks with a Zimmer frame. He was admitted with pain and was distressed as he has nowhere to go and no family to help.

Image shows a young man using a Zimmer frame

The patient with his Zimmer frame. Photo: Nina Goldman / MSF 

I saw an array of other patients, too long to list. It puts my normal job in the UK in perspective; I imagine I may be a more relaxed doctor when I get home. This day alone shows the complexity of the situation faced by the patients here. 


Read more: Stories from the Rohingya crisis

A place to call home

Doctor Maverick