The clinic in Ross Bethio is made up of two buildings. The first is used, and the second is not. Why? Because there are only three doctors. Imagine all the different jobs at a hospital- anesthesiologist, nurse, doctor, surgeon, secretary, janitor, etc. The doctors must be all of those things, all the time. I usually walk in on one of the doctors cleaning his desk in the morning. Admirable, but the accumulation of spider webs underneath the table clouds my vision to a point I can’t even see to the other side. This morning I watched him dilute the cleaning alcohol with tap water because there wasn’t enough. As more and more burn patients came in, I totally did that thing where you sit back and do nothing, even when you swore you wouldn’t.
The doctor used gauze on a baby boy that he had ripped from a wound on the patient before him. He must have been about a year old, and I held a water bottle with the top cut off under his arms to catch all the blood and dirt that was dripping from his fingers. As he wrapped the dirty gauze around his hand I just knew it was going to be infected. I think to myself that I never want a kid because of all the things that could happen to it.
The next patient of the day was a young girl, beautiful- her name was Fatu Falle. She had a long thin wound all the way across her neck.
As I consciously chose not to think about how it happened, I realized why so many people favor ignorance about these kinds of things. The doctor cleaned the wound with tap water and grabbed a piece of gauze from the trash. When he asked her for money, it was obvious she had none. My Wolof is terrible, but of this I’m positive- she offered him her body instead. He declined, but was very angry and threatened to rip the bandage from her neck. I paid. It was 100 francs, or 20 cents. The doctor didn’t change his gloves, just washed his hands with them on. There are sinks everywhere, but no running water.
It appears no one is aware of the dangers of the systems they use. The truth is, whether they know the difference or not, they are satisfied with the way they do things. The only catalyst they have that could change anything, is me. So, should I? Should I help re-enlighten
them to all of the things that they do incorrectly and therefore unveil how many people they could have saved? Should I tell them so that they can cringe when they continue certain practices because they cannot afford to redeem them, knowing the harm they are doing? What am I supposed to do? Maybe the doctors know. In fact, I’m sure they realize the consequences of diluting the alcohol or not even having enough latex gloves around. The worst part is, there doesn’t seem to be much room here for change. It seems bigger than that.
It’s not even a problem it’s a tragedy. How can you look at it as a problem when there’s no infrastructure, no foundation to make improvements on? The clinic is closed after lunch and on the weekends, even though they always tell me they’re coming back in. Well,I’m going to come back in, and I’m going to watch. I’m going to watch for six months and then hopefully l’ll have something to say.