I wanted to let you know that Jean from Dilingala with the severe cerebral form of sleeping sickness is getting better.
To my delight Jean is now walking. He is not quite back to normal, but with his mother's help he is out of his tent slowly tottering around the muddy hospital compound sort of like a robot. Also ever present are many chickens and dogs which wander through our porous fence. I've given Jean's family all the encouragement I can to keep up the good work. He still does not talk much to me though despite my best attempts in the local language. Our national staff nurse Pierre tells me that Jean is probably shy because I am a foreigner. I replied back that many of the children here are not afraid at all of me as a stranger. In fact, so many Central African children I treat are willing to shake hands with me on morning and afternoon rounds and even
take a stroll with me. But not Jean. Not yet anyways. I'll keep working on him.
Lately I have been pretty sick to be honest. Three days of fever, lots of "gastrointestinal issues" and a headache that will not go away after loads of ibuprofen and acetominophen. Thankfully, my blood smear for malaria is negative and I think it is just a cold. The word among all the expats I talk to here is that pretty much everyone gets malaria at some point or another. I'm trying hard to avoid that from happening. Already one expat in our project who has lived most of his life in Africa and has never had malaria has already fallen sick with it. I'm terrified by malaria to be honest. I see it kill people.
I'm not sure if you know, but Simon my logistician/team leader in our project here is also keeping a blog for MSF. You might like to read his blog at www.msf.ie/simonblog. There you can get a sense of our sleeping sickness sub-base here in Maitikulu from a different perspective. Simon is a straight-talking and hard-working MSF'er. He is from Ireland and has tons of field experience with MSF and other non-governmental organizations. We both are pretty similar. We're both 34 and we both tolerate the heat badly. We both also do our best under the circumstances and limitations of rural central Africa. Not everything works out perfectly (except for our omelettes cooked on our open fire pit), and we share a good chuckle often and appreciate each other's work. MSF is respected in my opinion for our logistical capabilities as much as for our medical work.
I can do the medicine because people like Simon do the logistics (and so much else). Thanks Simon.
Warm wishes from the Central African Republic, Raghu Venugopal MD