Jungle Medicine

We arrived in Maboye, an isolated jungle village in Cameroon, at 9pm to a crowd of about 200 villagers.  As soon as they saw our headlights, they rose from their seats and came to greet us with hugs, handshakes, and singing.  After all personal and medicinal baggage was unloaded, Pastor Nselba Bikoi Bruno had us all sit in the main room of the biggest home in the village.  There a 10 year old girl had a prepared welcome in French for Dr. Bwelle and gave him flowers.  The Pastor made a little speech, thanked us profusely, and had the women of the village bring in platters of food, a feast they prepared for us.

Dr. Bwelle received plastic flowers from a young girl, note the awesome UVM t-shirt

Giant plates of whole fried fish, chicken, porcupine, bread, rice, plantaines, and ndolet were displayed on the table for eating.  That was fortunate, for we had just spent over an hour trying to free our van from the jungle road.

The Feast of Maboye

At 11pm, we began working.  While we were eating, Messeman had gone around to each person and wrote their name down so that there was an organized order of patients to be seen.  By the time Dr. Bwelle, Dr. Boukar, and Dr. Usmana began consultations, there were already 167 people on the list waiting to see a doctor.

The way it all went: each patient would sit down with the doctor and sometimes an assistant such as myself or Marcie.  The doctor, be it Bwelle, Boukar, or Usmana, would ask questions to try and figure out what was wrong with the patient.  In some cases, a physical exam was necessary and would be done.  The doctor would then a) write the patient a prescription and/or b) give the patient a slip of paper indicating what time they are to have surgery the following day.

Dr. Usmana diagnosing a woman who likely had malaria

Meanwhile, M. Orban, Martone, Christine, Jessica, Marcie, Desire, and Tunisie were manning the pharmacy.  There were a couple of cartons filled with about 20 different drugs, however, they weren’t divided into doses.  Our first task was to take pills out of their containers, count them for the proper prescriptions, place them into plastic bags, and label the plastic bags with all pertinent information.  A stock of filled prescriptions was prepared prior to the first customer so that we could keep the line flowing nicely.

The Pharmacists

In addition to counting and distributing pills, I was responsible for filling prescriptions.  A patient would hand me the prescription given to them by one of the doctors, and I would have to locate the drugs and explain to them in French how many to take and when.  There were many villagers who either were illiterate or only able to read their tribal language, hence a verbal and pictorial explanation was necessary.

Dr. Boukar treats with a smile

It was quite an amazing operation and we worked until about 5 am at which point we slept in regular beds or on couches until 9am breakfast.  Consults began once again at 10 a.m. and lasted until 3pm.  And then the Bwelle surgery marathon began…

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