Today started very well. All our patients were well (or perhaps more accurately, alive). The morning was quite relaxing, which lulled me into a false sense of security. I pottered around trying to improve the water and sanitation situation. We started using our new disinfection area, which everyone was pleased with. Now we can all stand in the shade while we are waiting and then disinfect much more quickly.
At lunchtime I was told that a child had died in a neighbouring village. When we got there the child had already been covered with a piece of coloured cloth and was in the shade of the porch. He was very small, about four years old. When we had put on our protective clothing we laid the child size body bag out next to him and put him in. Then we picked up the bag and followed the family to the grave site. It started to rain on the way and we had to battle through undergrowth still holding the body bag. The rain was torrential during the burial: it was like standing under a shower. Water started to run down inside my goggles and fill them up. By the time we had all undressed I was soaked to the skin and my boots were filled with water.
On the way back there was lots of lightening, some of it very close, and the road was literally a river. A huge tree had fallen down in our path so we leapt out of the car and while Jean- Claude hacked at the branches, Faustin and I dragged them to the side of the road. We got through, but about a mile further on there was a fallen avocado tree. More branch hacking and a lot of wheel spinning and we were on the other side and heading home.
It was about five-thirty when we got back to the isolation unit. All the patients seemed comfortable so we decided to go home early. I went for a walk with Jan, another water and sanitation expert working for MSF. As we walked along the road some of the local isolation unit staff came out of a house and offered to show us around the village. We saw all the churches; breadfruit ( I think) trees planted by Belgians in the 60’s; the school; mandarin trees and our staff’s houses one after the other. They all came out and joined us, so the group got bigger and bigger as we made our way down the village along the ‘premiere avenue’. It really was a wonderful walk; the village was beautiful and everyone was so friendly. Best of all I was introduced to a man called Zoe!!!!
Unfortunately, when we got back to the compound we heard that our newest patient had died. Barbara, Christian and I decided to go and put him in a body bag straightaway, as it would be easier than in the morning. It was dark by the time we got there but luckily the generator was working and so the inside of the ward was quite well lit. He was sitting on the floor leaning against the bed. We got him into a body bag and onto the bed, and managed to get him arranged nicely in case his wife wanted to see him. Then we left him for the night.