Monday 8th January 2018. Just another standard day here at Guinebor II Hospital. I thought I’d paint a picture of my day in words, so that you can glimpse a little bit more into my world here at the mission hospital in the desert!
5.30am – my alarm goes off and I dozily press snooze. The temperature is currently ‘cold’ for Chad, around 15C in the mornings, and it’s so nice to be under my blankets at this time of year and I want a few more minutes under the covers.
6am – I finally drag myself out of bed, eat a bowl of muesli (imported from France by a supermarket in N’Djamena) and drink a strong cup of coffee (imported from America by friends!). I read my Bible and commit the day to God.
6.45am – I walk the 200 metres from my house to the staff room where we hold our morning devotions. Pastor Djibrine the hospital chaplain leads some (slow and out of tune) singing and gives a short talk. We share prayer requests and one person is allocated to pray for the prayer requests/praise points and someone else is requested to pray for the day ahead.
7am – all the staff working that day congregate for our weekly staff meeting. It’s here that we share information together and hear important news. Information about patient charges is discussed. The hospital director reminds staff that two important meetings regarding the running of the hospital are planned for Friday and Saturday and that the heads of department need to pass their reports for 2017 to him as soon as possible. Christophe (nurse) sadly informs us that his uncle, who he’s been responsible for caring for during illness, had passed away. Stephane (accountant) announces that his wife had their first child the previous Friday, a boy. ‘Now I’m a Dad like the rest of you’ Stephane proudly says.
7.30am – I head back to my house to grab a bottle of water to carry around with me during the day. I still drink a lot of water even though it’s colder. Just not the 6-7 litres that I drink in hot season. Tabitha, my house helper, has arrived and has started running the water into the big laundry bowls. Monday is laundry day at my house and Tabitha meticulously washes all my week’s laundry, by hand. I point out a pair of thin cotton trousers that I’ve been wearing in the house in the evenings and ask Tabitha to wash them carefully and not with too much exuberance, because else the elastic will break (Chadian-made clothes tend to be from tougher fabric and with little or no elastic involved, so can withstand the rough hand-washing that’s common here).
8am – I spot Eric (one of our regular visitors from the USA) in the distance and I walk over to him to ask him a maintenance question. One of the wholesalers we buy medicines from has recently given us a gift of some signage for the pharmacy (a nice black sign adorned with ‘Pharmacie’ and the green pharmacy symbol). I ask Eric whether he could please attach it to the wall outside the pharmacy. Eric enthusiastically agrees to do so later that day.
8.30am – Audrey (our Chadian head of pharmacy) and I discuss what stock is running low. I ask him to order some more iron syrup from one of the wholesalers in town, as we’ve run out.
9am – I pop into the administration office to say hello. Dieudonné (Chadian administrator) is busy typing up his report for our annual board meeting planned for Friday. He asks me to remind him of the names of the visiting doctors we’ve welcomed to the hospital in 2017.
10am – it’s time to drive into town (N’Djamena) to run a few errands on behalf of the hospital. Steve (from BMS in the UK) arrived a few days ago and one of his suitcases didn’t arrive. We’re expecting it to have arrived on the flight that came in last night. So first stop is the airport. After being security-scanned, I enter the baggage reclaim area. I speak with a few airport officials about the missing bag and then wait in line behind a local Chadian soldier, who is still waiting for his suitcase to arrive from when he travelled on 23rd December (poor guy). Eventually it’s my turn and after searching through the bags stored under the stairs (the storage room is literally ‘under the stairs’ – mind your head!) we find the suitcase and the guy tells me that my boss will be pleased that I’ve done a good job today!
Next stop is the Post Office, to see whether there’s any mail for us. We chat with the staff there about the possible strike they’ll go on soon if they’re not paid (apparently it’s been 4 months). We come away with a Christmas card and a medical journal but alas, not the parcel we were expecting to have arrived.
Next job is to buy local mobile phone SIM cards for Eric, so that he can access the internet and speak more easily with his family. This involves speaking to the guy we regularly buy mobile top-up credit from (Abakar) who eagerly helps us out.
Next up is a quick stop at the biggest supermarket in town. The reason being that it’s currently the cheapest place to buy hydrogen peroxide from, for use at the hospital. I buy 10 bottles, ensuring I get the necessary receipt for reimbursement. We hop back in the car and head back to the hospital.
On the dirt-track portion of the road back to the hospital, we think we spot the nomad family who we befriended last year, but who had moved on during rainy season. Is it them? We’re not sure. We stop and get out to see if it is. It is! With my limited Arabic and their limited French we ascertain that they arrived last night but that the rest of the family is coming to join them at some point.
1pm – after a quick bite to eat, I pop back to the hospital to see how things are going in the pharmacy. A member of staff from the operating theatre comes to the pharmacy with an order for supplies, ready for a busy day in the theatre tomorrow. I get together all the things he’s requested and then ensure that I document it down on our manual stock records.
On seeing that I’ve returned from town, Elisabeth (Chadian pharmacy assistant) calls me over. She’s succeeded in repairing a 500 CFA note that was given as change to Debbie (my team mate from USA) by a shop in town, but that was basically in two halves. Elisabeth is a pro at gluing the money back together with the aid of a glue stick! Voila, the note is usable again.
I pop into the administration room to hand over the receipt for the hydrogen peroxide I bought in town. Dieudonné tells me that he had a call this morning from the ministry of health – our partnership document was finally signed and ready for collection! Great news (we’ve waited since February 2017 for this document).
2.30pm – I head back to my house to check my work emails and respond to anything urgent.
3.30pm – I head out to the washing line to pick in the last few bits of laundry that Tabitha did this morning. Most of it was dry before she left at midday and was already off the line, but the towels take a bit longer to dry.
4pm – I hear the noise of goats close by. Teammates bought some goats in the rainy season to eat some of the grass that grows up in the area of the hospital where we’ve not yet built. Someone had left the gate open and they were roaming our gardens! I quickly shoo them back to where they’re supposed to be.
5pm – I go and visit my teammates at their house across the way. On coming back to my house I hear another teammate’s voice outside and then some light gunshots! He’s got a BB gun and is try to reduce the pigeon population around our houses (they make a right noise). I later hear that he’s successfully reduced the pigeon population by one – that’s tonight’s dinner sorted for him then!
6.30pm – all the visitors and us long-termers at the hospital eat together. It’s good to all be together and chat at the end of another long and busy day.
Thank goodness it’s only a maximum of 30C at the moment!
9pm – I fall into bed and sleep, in preparation for another 5.30am alarm