Categories
Medical Zambia

Renewing Old Friendships

Last week, young Desmond (see a previous blog Desmond Doktah), saw me in the doctor’s vehicle negotiating the muddy potholes of the street outside the police station which leads to the clinic. He hauled himself up onto the running board and grinned at me. I grinned back. I had heard that he had been unwell, but he looked fit and healthy. He said that he would come for a consultation with me at the health centre during the school holidays.

I enjoy re-establishing links with people whom I have met or treated in my two previous missions here in Kakumbi. Of course, the doctor has a high profile, and everyone recognises the doctor’s car, even if they confuse me with another male muzungu doctor.

Occasionally, I will see my writing in someone’s health records, a cheap school exercise book and it strikes a chord. Or at least, I can see how I was thinking about the clinical problem at the time.

Most of the health centre staff are new to me apart from six: Jesse, the cleaner and register keeper, Erina and Margaret, who help in the mother and child health block, Celestino and Mike who are community HIV support workers, and John Mbewe who is the enrolled nurse in charge of HIV care.

John Mbewe vaccinating while wearing his waistcoat “Champion Against Open Defaecation”

Daillies, my former translator, and Helen, who was so skilled at handling hysterical patients using the power of Jesus, both work at the Airport Clinic now. Chanda, who volunteered at Kakumbi for ten years without pay, now has a post at the district HQ in Mambwe. Mr Chulu has taken over as environmental health officer at Kamoto District Hospital. I have met them all again (apart from Helen).

Maurice, another one of our volunteer community health workers, weighing babies

Dr Mashanga, my supervisor at Mambwe District, warmly welcomed me back to the Valley and promised to get me the additional drug supplies to enable me to treat patients with mental illness, asthma, hypertension and diabetes. We now have atenolol, nifedipine, metformin and glibenclamide in stock at Kakumbi.

I also visited Caroline Mwanza, the District Commissioner. I could see her outside her office, under the shade of a magnificent tree. I waved at her and she cocked her head onto one side, wondering who on earth this old muzungu could be, coming to greet her. Then her face beamed into a smile as she recognised me. We hugged and embraced each other before she marched me off to her air-conditioned office for a long chat.

It’s great to be appreciated and greeted so warmly by everyone. Zambians are so friendly (and so are the expatriates living here).