August 4th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
This is the end of my third week in Kumbo, Cameroon and the first real opportunity I’ve had to sit down and update my blog (and gain access to the website!). So, I’ll try to update you and give a little taster of what I’ve been up to in the past few weeks. I arrived safely (as you would have guessed) to Douala Airport to be met by Victor, the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) driver. After spending the night in the European Baptist Mission in
Douala we set off the next day for Banso, travelling via Bamenda. This journey was really interesting, from the bustle and chaos of the roads in Douala to the quiet mud tracks at we travelled through the NW Province.
The Rest House in which we are staying (I will probably refer to ‘we’ a lot during the blog as there is another UK Medical Student here from KCL, Johanna) is basic but nice. Unfortunately over the past few weeks we had a night of termite infestation, whereby millions of the flying beasts were entering the rest house through any space they could find! The other night we arrived back to find a ‘large’ tarantula (I thought it was huge, but the security man decided it was quite small) on our doorstep. Unfazed, he used a large stick to ‘flick’ the tarantula into the air away from the door, leading to much panic and palpitations that the tarantula (which was now hissing) would end up in my hair! Oh and final rest house story was today on the way out to church I managed to pull the door handle with me as I was leaving. Nevermind, hopefully it will be fixed tomorrow. The food is nice, pretty much consists of egg/bread combination for breakfast and beef plus carbohydrate for dinner. Not the most Cameroonian of foods, but we have asked for traditional stuff as we are both willing to try it!
With regards to the hospital, the staff are all amazing and really friendly. We are both given a lot of opportunities and responsibility, which makes me a little nervous that I’m out of my depth. I spent the first week on paediatrics with Dr Njume, which was really enjoyable. It was good to see how similar medical conditions are dealt with differently from the UK but also to gain exposure to many new conditions and styles of management. In particular it was interesting to be able to see patients managed on the Burkitt’s Lymphoma programme.
This last week has been spent on the TB ward (thank goodness for the BCG and facemasks). Although the ward is not full, management of a handful of patients has been challenging with non-response to medication, unremitting fevers and bizarre chest x-rays. (Certainly no Chest X-ray looked like any of those in my ‘chest x-ray made easy book’, may need to move onto the advanced version when I get home). After TB ward rounds I spent the rest of my time in HIV out-patients. This gave me a good insight into the treatment of this chronic condition. It was really notable that only a handful of patients were taking full ownership of their diagnosis, but I believe this is mostly down to an education/language barrier. Some patients were not even able to give their DOB or rough age. Again, I was given the opportunity to consult and stage new patients, which was a good learning experience, although I don’t know if I was quite prepared for it with my 1 HIV lecture and clinic in Ninewells.
Any spare time over the last few weeks has been spent in Outpatients, which is an experience in itself. I still haven’t really grasped the fact that patients must pay. Luckily we have the ‘guidance’ of Gideon and Marcel, the auxillaries. Not entirely sure if either of them understands us, but they’re always really friendly, falling over patients to rush and greet us. As a side, Cameroonian men seem to greet with a strange handshake which involves snapping one’s fingers off the other person’s fingers, which Gideon is endeavouring to teach us (unsuccessfully so far!). I should probably also note that most people we have come across do not seem to like smiling for photographs. We are accosted once the camera is out for pictures to be taken, but then the subjects all seem to think that ‘stern’ faces are appropriate. I have started threatening that people in the UK will think everyone in Cameroon is miserable!
So work pretty fills up my time between 6.30am-4pm, after that we hang about, sometimes risking the rain for trips to the supermarket for chocolate spread, biscuits, bread and Top (a fizzy ‘grapefruit’ drink – which tastes of nothing but beats water), this is all we really eat apart from fresh fruit at the market. Other than that we have been spending our time in the material shops, looking for African prints/waxes (After rigorous study I now know the differences between my African fabrics). Hope to pick up some of our clothes next weekend, which will be a great change from the 2 skirts I brought with me! Other than that nights are quite empty as it gets dark at 7pm. Thankfully, we were lent some dvds from 2 students who were leaving as we arrived, so we have been working our way through those, will probably be able to quote ‘Legally Blonde’ word for word by the time I leave!
So this week I will hopefully be doing surgery, which I’m really looking forward to. Hope everyone is well at home, apologies again for the lateness in posting up my first
Cameroon blog and promise to update the blog a little sooner next time!
(Oh and as a side T.I.A ‘This is Africa’ – the title of a blog, was a saying taught to us by an American Public Health student, Rachel, who stayed with us the first week. It’s a saying we use daily for the unexpected, odd or downright unbelievable things which have happened and could only seem to happen in Africa!)
Love to all