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The Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 6

Jonny describes one day with our medical team that has worked relentlessly throughout Senegal and The Gambia. People for Change in collaboration with Diritti al Cuore have seen more than 900 kids with conditions ranging from malaria to worms to extreme diarrhoea

Adama’s Marvellous Medicine

“Midway through our trip and our car has decided that it wants a rest, and who could blame it? Covering umpteenth miles in the blistering heat; the majority of the time being pushed to it’s top speed by our friend and driver Adama.

Adama has been with us from the moment we arrived at the airport. He has the calmest manner and the biggest smile either side of the equator! Using a healthy mix of Wolof, French and Italian he finds a way of communicating with everyone he comes into contact with. He is the definition of respect.

This morning we find Adama under the bonnet of the Peugeot with a look of concern on his face – fear not, even with his head (and heart) worrying for his car he still sports a lavish smile! His engine tinkering is in vain outside, help will be required.

Push. Start. These two simple words now illicit an instant response from my sweat glands. Pushing a car is hard. Pushing a car with space for seven people is harder still. Add in the factors of the heat, an empty stomach, a hill, flip-flops and sweaty hands and you will begin to imagine our struggle. Eventually the ignition sparked and Adama set off for the local garage.

An afternoon with medical team is ahead. I’m feeling nervous and excited. It feels real. Our medical team, made up of Laura, Monica, Krizia, Bepi, Daniele and two doctors from Central Africa called Cedrec and Cyriac, are ready for action. There shift began early in the morning and this second stint runs from 2pm until sunset.

With all the preparation in the world – and prep is one of many things our medics excel at – you cannot vouch for the chaos. The people of this and the surrounding villages (over 2,000 in number) are served by one nurse and no doctor.

We won’t have time, or supplies, to see all of the children in the region. Only during visits like ours do children have access to vital medication so you can understand the fight of the mothers to have their children seen. There comes a point that we need to create a human barrier (my time to shine) to allow the triage team of Bepe and Daniele to work in relative peace.

Women and children swarm the temporary medical centre like the mosquitos that are killing people here. Amongst all the bustle some of the symptoms I hear being discussed are those of malaria, worms, extreme diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, concussion as well as various skin conditions.

My role, as the day continues to progress, is aiding the triage team with the weighing and measuring of children. One boy I hold is very sick. His head wilts in my arms. I don’t know how to look into his mother’s eyes so I focus on holding him with all my care. I take his temperature, it reads 38.6 degrees. I hand him back to his mother and they move along to see the doctors and nurses.

Over the course of today, plus the half day we had yesterday, the marvellous medical team have seen 217 children. Tomorrow they leave for another region for more care and chaos.”

They do save lives and we are lucky to have our nurses with us. Help us offer a chance to life.

peopleforchangeThe Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 6