I could no longer count the times I was put in a stressful situation as part of my job at MSF. For this mission alone, I had to survive crossing borders, understanding many languages, getting used to time changes, and dealing with days of waiting.
When things were a bit more stable, we proceeded with the project. I was the Nurse Activity Manager and in-charge of the pharmacy at our post in Kabo, north of Bangui. As the NAM, I was in charge of the organization and management of nurses in the centre de santé or health center. I had to properly manage MSF’s human resources and implementation of protocols to guarantee the efficiency and quality of health services in the community. In charge of the pharmacy, I was responsible for managing medical and biomedical items in the project for the health centre and three poste de santé or health posts.
It was my first mission to have such responsibilities, and it was tough. I had to be hands on, dealing with communicable diseases like cases of measles and meningitis. Before this, I’ve only read and studied them but experiencing it in reality made it more interesting. Pharmacy management was quite challenging, too. I never thought medical items could do much trouble! We had to do a lot of planning, strategy-building, protocol surveillance, case-finding, and training of staff.
At one point, I was asked to go to one health post to help with the vaccination activity. I also took the opportunity to meet the nurse in charge of the health post and pharmacy. I got to sit down with the nurse in charge and helped him do some consultations. We saw this young girl who was so weak, with yellow discoloration of the eyes and secretions, and had a high fever. The father was very anxious and afraid seeing his child in that state of health. After I assessed the child, we gave her the first treatment and sent her to our hospital immediately using a “taxi-moto,” our mode of transportation for patients coming in from health posts.
After the health post visit, I went to the hospital and checked the patient I just referred. She was admitted in the pediatric ward already with intravenous fluid solution and was sleeping. The father was still crying and I just stood there trying to calm him. It was difficult because I don’t speak his language but I just gave him a pat on the back and smiled, “tout est bien” (all is well). I wasn’t sure if he understood French, but he smiled back.
Every day after that, I would check on the young girl and saw how she gradually improved. When they were cleared from the hospital, the father approached me with a big smile on his face. His eyes were welling up while holding my hand and said, “Merci beaucoup!”
I was so touched because I never thought he would appreciate my visits and the simple acts of consolation I did. I gave him a pat on the back again and left.
These little acts of appreciation are those cherished memories I take with me from my mission.