“You and I have something in common” said the 70ish lady as she left the nursery yesterday.
“Yes we do, but my problem is only going to get worse, yours is going to improve” I replied, looking at the stitches on her right ankle and the walking stick. “What did you have done there?”
“Oh, I broke my ankle so when the time came to have the pins out I didn’t have the money to have it done here so went up to Karanda Mission Hospital near Mt Darwin to have it done” she continued.
I was incredulous. I’d never heard of this particular hospital. “So how was it?” I enquired.
“Very good. The surgeon was an American doctor, the operating theatre was top-notch, and the nurses were wonderful. But I didn’t stay long. Once I’d come around from the anaesthetic they asked me if I could walk and that was it – I hobbled over to the car and left!” she replied.
I wondered if this was where Austin’s eldest son, Mike, did some 6 months attachment at when he was seeing if he wanted to do medicine.
“Yes, it was” said Austin when I asked him at the gym today. “Everyone has heard of Karanda! They are quite inspirational to put it mildly. The doctor Stephens who runs it has been there since its inception, some 50 years. I did 2 months there a while ago and it was an amazing experience. They are what we’d call the archetype GMO, or Government Medical Officer. They can do everything and I’m not exaggerating. We started one day with ophthalmology, then a gynae procedure, neurosurgery and gastro surgery. They can do hip replacements too. Stephens is in his early 80s, still works a full day and I struggle to keep up with him physically. During the war years he said he would treat anyone who was injured, regardless of who they were. This did not go down well with the Rhodesians so it suited them when things got really hot and the road was mined. They said they could no longer guarantee his safety so he got a pilot’s licence and flew in and out when he needed to! Amazing dedication!”
I mentioned the elderly lady I’d chatted to and how impressed she’d been with the equipment and she’d seen a whole lot of crates of new equipment being unpacked on the verandah. “I’m glad to hear that” Austin commented. “They went through a bad patch in the Zim dollar days. At one stage they were referring only 5% of cases back to Harare but now the traffic is the other way for those who either cannot afford treatment here or simply cannot get it done at the local government hospitals. It doesn’t say much for our local hospitals” he continued, warming to his subject. “If I had my time again it’s the sort of place I’d like to work for a couple of years just for the fulfilment. In all the time that he’s been there Stephens has only been away for something like 5 weeks! There are some other hospitals like it around the country. Morgenster near Masvingo is staffed by German doctors.”
I like to think that I live in awe of no-one. I have no desire to meet Bad Pitt, Angelina Jolie or have a conversation with Richard Dawkins but I do admire some. Roger Federer is the most amazing athlete I have watched and I am looking forward to watching the gymnasts at the Olympics perform mind-defying displays. The people I really admire though, are the likes of MSF, the ICRC and the doctors at Karanda Hospital, whom with little or no fanfare (the latter do have a website), just get on with their work with the utmost dedication. I am sure they are not well paid but I would think they have all the reward they desire. This is my small contribution to recognizing them!