One such example happened a couple of Fridays ago. Fridays here are half-days for most of the staff, as the afternoons tend to be quieter - most people are at the mosque for Friday prayers and so don’t come to the hospital unless really ill. This particular Friday, a Chadian patient (who happened to be known to us expats) had been to see Doctor Mark because of a painful knee. After she had finished seeing him, one of the things she required was a pair of crutches. Crutches are stored in the pharmacy, as are a lot of other things you wouldn’t see in a hospital pharmacy in the UK, for example cannulas, needles, syringes, plaster of paris bandages, scalpels, sutures! So I was called to open up the pharmacy and provide the lady with her crutches. We can only source wooden under-the-arm crutches here (physio’s hold those gasps!) and so they are better than nothing at all. They are hand-made to the specifications of an expat physio who works here a couple days a week. They are fully height-adjustable and so I asked Doctor Mark for guidance on how high they should be made for the patient, both in terms of the hand-bars and the whole height of the crutches. Typically, they weren’t the right height for the patient. The screws required removing, the pieces of wood moving up and then the screws replacing. Sound straightforward? It wasn’t! It was now 4.30pm. The hospital handy-man who was my first port of call to do the adjustments had already gone home. Cue a 10 minute search for a screwdriver and pair of pliers. Then cue a search for people to help me. Fortunately Malc was still in his office finalising the week’s figures and he agreed to help, as did Alain the local Chadian interpreter (who also happens to teach me French). The crutches had been carefully made to a good standard, and then varnished. However, the guy who’d made them had varnished *over* the screw heads. Removing the screws proved to be a time-consuming task anyway but we had the added task of getting through the varnish before removal could begin. We took the crutches to the consulting room where the patient was patiently waiting. It took ages to remove all the screws, washers and nuts, with a few rolling onto the floor – good job the patient was alert and could tell us where they’d gone! It then took three attempts to replace them all at the right height. Darkness was fast approaching which didn’t help (no lights in the consulting room as they’re only used by day....normally.... and our solar energy is better conserved for use on the wards at night). Other patients kept knocking on the door asking to be seen – I draw the line at extending my duties to consulting patients and making diagnoses! Finally, after an hour-and-a-half, lots of laughter at our ineptitude at adjusting crutches and a comment in jest from the patient (‘je veux rentrer aujourd’hui - I want to go home today!), we had finished!!
So that’s another string to all of our bows, should the need ever arise again!!