Short-lived joy by ProQuest


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									  CMAJ                                                                                                                                  News
Dispatch from the medical front

Short-lived joy

          octor, can you come and see a
          child? I think something is
          very wrong.”
    It was our head nurse. It was late after-
noon. I rose from my desk and followed
him across the compound to the clinic.
    “[The health officer] has seen him
already, but I think you need to see
him too.”
    I cannot deny the now-familiar feel-
                                                 Dr. Rachel Ter Horst

ing of unease in the pit of my stomach.
It had been five months since my
arrival in the project in rural Ethiopia,
distant from any higher level care facil-
ity. Cases like this, where I was specifi-
                                                                         Medical practices in Canada seem like they exist “on a different planet entirely” when
cally summoned — the expatriate                                          compared to those in Ethiopia, says Dr. AnneMarie Pegg.
physician — were never simple. Enter-
ing our simple but clean and well-
staffed health centre and making my                                     joyed when our outreach team made a              “Yes, usually. The drain needs to be
way around the curtain to the cot that                                  trip to their village, and they were able     checked regularly to make sure it’s still
was our “triage” area, I hadn’t even                                    to obtain free travel to the clinic.          working, but most of the time, the chil-
begun to speculate what was to be                                           That joy was short-lived. Only one        dren are all right afterwards.”
found on the other side.                                                facility in Ethiopia is able to provide          “I see,” he said quietly.
    The young mother on the cot smiled                                  surgery for hydrocephalus. Located in the        Ten days later, this family was again
as I greeted her in terrible Amharic. Her                               capital, the cost of such a journey was       travelling in our Land Cruiser, this time
older son, about three years old, stared                                beyond the wildest imaginings of this         returning home. Dropping them off in
incredulously at my white skin and light                                young family. Ongoing follow-up, with         the centre of a dusty village where they
hair. Behind me, one of our nutrition                                   its associated travel and expense, was        would catch a ride onward, the young
assistants was questioning how to deter-                                equally impossible, even if funds should      mother smiled and waved at me as she
mine the child’s ideal weight.                                          materialize for the initial procedure.        disembarked from the vehicle. Her hus-
    The source of his confusion became                                      “What is the problem with that child?”    band took my ha
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