Return to Guinebor: dust, patients and ‘cold’ season

Greetings from Guinebor!  I arrived safely back on the evening of 2nd November, with, surprisingly, both my suitcases on the same plane as me.  I was astounded but grateful!  As I shuffled along the plane aisle towards to exit, I took off my hoody and my cardigan, leaving just a t-shirt.  I was preparing myself physically and mentally for the wall of heat to hit me as I left the plane to go down the steps to the bus.  I was surprised to feel nothing but a bit of warm air around me.  Hooray, cold season had arrived!  This girl, fresh from almost-freezing Britain, was relieved.  It was ‘only’ 30C at the time we landed (9.30pm). 

I hadn’t even left the airport building before a Chadian porter, helping me with my luggage, had exclaimed his surprise and disapproval at the fact that I wasn’t yet married and had no children.  Nothing like a swift welcome back to the culture…….

The rains have long since finished and already all the green I left behind in August has disappeared.  The hospital lawnmower has been packed away for another year.  The dust has returned.  The last rains were late October and it won’t rain again now until next May/June. 

I joined the ward round with the Chadian doctor on Thursday morning.  That was a shock, as it hit me once again what the Chadian people go through that would almost never happen in the UK.  Malnourished children.  A possible attempted murder of a teenager with a poisoned drink.  Psychosis triggered by a night-time household burglary.  Just three of the 40-plus inpatients in our hospital that morning. 

Women’s ward at Guinebor Hospital

Another patient was a young girl of 17, in the bed at the top left of the photo above.  She and her father had been travelling in the back of a vehicle (probably a hilux) with their legs hanging out over the side of the vehicle.  We see this so often here, as people make the most of any form of transportation to get them from A to B.  Unfortunately, on this occasion their vehicle was hit by another and the legs of the girl and her father were crushed.  They both underwent surgery at Guinebor.  One of the father’s legs was so smashed up it had to be amputated.  The other was fixed.  The girl had her broken leg fixed too.  Sadly, the father had post-operative complications and passed away 🙁

The lady in the next bed looked a lot older than her family said she was.  According to them she is 48, but she looked nearer 60.  To prove how old she is, they told us that her oldest child is 23.  Given that most women have children young here, that’s considered enough proof of a lady’s age.  This lady was stick-thin, vomiting and couldn’t get much food or drink down, so was also dehydrated.  On symptoms alone, the Chadian doctors had diagnosed some sort of oesophageal or gastric tumour.  She may possibly be able to have a camera down her throat (at a clinic in N’Djamena) to see if that diagnosis is correct.  But she’s not well enough to tolerate it at the moment and can the family even afford to have it done?  To be honest, it would only be to have a more definitive diagnosis.  There’s no cancer treatment here in Chad so whether it’s confirmed as a tumour or not, treatment will remain the same: treat symptoms, ensure hydration and keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

These are just a few of the hundreds of patients that Guinebor Hospital will treat this month, doing the best we can for the Chadian people with the resources we have available.  The fact that patients keep coming to us is hopefully a sign that we’re considered reputable and that we treat people with dignity and respect.  Something that anyone can do, even with minimal resources.