The estimated time of arrival in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, is two hours. The Air France pilot said it’s hot tonight – somewhere more than 30 degrees. That’s quite a change from the cold weather in Toronto, Canada right now.
One of the small problems is I’m not a big fan of the heat and the hot season has apparently come early this year in Chad. Everyone is saying the 50-degree weather will come soon. I’m really not sure what to do about this point. 50 degrees is not something I’ve ever experienced in travels across Africa. I hope it cools down a bit at night. And I simply don’t believe it will hit 50 degrees.
This is my fourth mission with Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders. The last two months have been a hectic pace of getting ready. I had to wind down seeing patients at the Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital and make sure all my charts were tided up and all my x-ray reports were resolved. I must have read at least 40 MSF briefing papers of various sorts. The MSF mission in Chad sent me many useful documents too – so that even before landing I feel I have a sense of some of the challenges and opportunities.
I said all my goodbyes – especially to my supportive girlfriend, her dog Daisy, my parents, and friends. The list of things to do was long and seemed to never end. But the day came yesterday to put all the preparation to an end, and just get on the plane. All I really need is a passport, goodies for the team and my laptop. Even if I forgot my stethoscope – the project will have one for me in the medical storeroom thanks to our solid logistics team.
This is my first time serving as a medical team leader. Prior to this mission, I’ve been the usual medical doctor on the team – a position I love because it puts me in the ward with patients everyday. But the work we do – and making it happen – is so much more than physically attending to patients. Direct patient care is the sharp end of the scalpel – but much more makes up the rest of the tool. I believe being a medical team leader will be less clinical than before, mostly administrative, but this is also important to make sure our patients get life and limb saving medical care.
My friends in MSF had lots of advice – the first was “don’t ever lose your cool” – a useful reminder – and as an emergency doctor that’s what I try to do at work everyday in Canada. Not losing my cool however, will be very hard – in this heat! Let’s see how it goes. I’ll be sure to update you on this point.
Above all, it is a great feeling to be back in the field with MSF. To volunteer and serve, is itself a privilege. The team, the patients, and the citizens of Chad – I have no doubt – will be courageous, strong and inspiring – like in all my experiences in MSF to date.
Farewell for now from the house-call….to Chad.