Fieldset
Pakistan: A handshake and a pat on the head

Sarah is a doctor working for MSF in a small hospital in Bajaur, in the north-west of Pakistan. She blogs about a patient who helped her answer an important question...

Sarah is a doctor working for MSF in a small hospital in Bajaur, in the north-west of Pakistan. She blogs about a patient who helped her answer an important question...

When you work every day in the ER, you sink into a routine of asking certain questions and conducting your examinations a certain way. You begin to expect certain diagnoses, by taking one look at the patient or the wall clock, when someone walks through the ER doors.

It had been almost two weeks in the ER in Nawagai for me when I received a patient who had a medical condition she had been suffering from for almost a decade. The reason she hadn’t consulted a doctor yet was because she felt shy.

After I was done examining her, I had a colleague translate the instructions I had for her and she stood up to go. But before she did she shook my hand, my first handshake from a patient in a long while which was followed by a loving stroke on the head. The kind of stroke only old grandmothers give to young children. And for a moment I felt like a little child whose chest was swelling from having helped someone older. She walked away accompanied with her attendant smiling.

In that moment, the question whether coming to Bajaur was the right decision or not got answered.