In November 2018, 13 eager volunteers arrived in Cameroon, not knowing what to expect but hoping to make a difference. Thanks to Ripple Zoo, our generous support here in Ireland and the warm welcome of the community of Batoufam, we did just that.. And I am so thankful to have been part of this amazing journey which I would like to share with you. As a nurse, I was mostly involved in the medical projects but also turned my hand to some of the painting and renovation as required.
Arriving at “Centre de Sante Integre”, to a warm, musical welcome from the ladies of Batoufam was quite overwhelming. The hospital itself is similar to a district hospital here, with one doctor, Dr Clovis and a team of nurses. Their pride and dedication is obvious as we make our way round. The conditions are poor. The wooden beds have bare mattress, the rooms are very dark and the patients have to bring their own bedding (if they have any). The IV fluids hang front nails or makeshift stands. Patients pay what they can. During their stay, it is up to their families to assist with care and cooking. There is a small pharmacy with few supplies and a small laboratory where bloods are processed. Prior to this, there were no toilets or running water, just holes in the ground. But now, across the courtyard, one of the main projects, installation of toilets and running water is almost complete. We spent the next few days working with Dr Clovis and his staff in the hospital seeing both inpatients and outpatients. I was very impressed with the knowledge and expertise I witnessed. They just have no equipment or supplies to allow them help people. And yet they persevere with smiles on their faces. They work long hours with very little electricity or water.
One day, as we reported for duty, a lady delivered her baby boy at 28 weeks.
Dr Clovis did not expect him to survive.
As we entered the delivery room, there he was, all wrapped up on a table. Dr Clovis took a light bulb with no plug, inserted the wires into the socket and the nurse stood holding the bulb over the baby. That is the nearest they have to an incubator. No supply of oxygen available. One of our team constructed a hook where the bulb could hang freely over the little fella. That was all we could do. As it turns out, he made it through the next few hours and then his family took him by taxi to another hospital for further care.
Lightbulb used instead of an incubator
We also spent time in Fumbot Hospital in another town. This was a larger hospital with Xray and operating facilities. Again conditions very poor. Dark, overcrowded rooms, broken equipment, lack of supplies but again a cheerful, qualified and dedicated staff.
What struck me there working with these dedicated professionals was how much they do with so little. Imagine what they could do with more. So as we delivered beds, mattresses and medical supplies to the hospitals, I was constantly assessing what more do they need and how we might source it.
So now back home in comfort, my wish list for the people of Batoufam is long (incubator at the top) but achievable. I look forward to returning there next year to continue the work we started with these wonderful, highly appreciative people who have so little but give so much.
A huge thank you to every volunteer, it was challenging but your support was always there. And thank to all the wonderful people in Ireland who listened to our vision and who supported us so generously. You all made a difference. Till next year…
New beds delivered to Foumbot hospital.