In the wooded mountain of Violence
Tari is located in the remote Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. With clean air, blue sky, wavy clouds and mountains, it looks like a perfect, fantasy landscape. But the hospital here had no doctors for many years before MSF arrived in 2009 as no one would work in such a remote and unfortunately very violent place. MSF runs two programs related to violence – a surgical program dealing with wounds, and a Family Support Centre supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence.
As a logistician, part of my job was to support our operating room in emergencies.
Holding the two-year-old daughter of the food supplier in local market, Ray thought of his daughter at the same age. Photo source: Ray Wei
One midnight in September, I was woken up by our guard after the arrival of a gun-shot patient. I went to the operating room immediately with our Indian surgeon Bhavna, and saw the young patient with his face covered in blood. His skull was fractured where a bullet had penetrated. Though I had seen many patients here before, I was still shocked when Bhavna tried to locate the bullet with her hand. It was deep inside the brain and she couldn’t remove it because of the risk of more damage. After spending two or three hours repairing the wound, it was early morning when we finally went back to rest.
I asked Bhavna during breakfast if the patient would survive. She shook her head without saying anything. But we didn’t give up. We talked about this 19-year-old man who had been accidently wounded in a tribal conflict, every day when we met for meals. Two weeks later, he miraculously woke up from his half coma. He could say simple sentences. After one month of rehabilitation, he could stand up and walk 20 metres! When he was discharged, he wrote Bhavna a thank you letter and took photos with us happily.
Emergencies happened often during my nine-month mission in Tari. One Saturday morning, my colleagues and I planned to walk along the river nearby. Our Spanish nurse Sara had reminded us to depart on time, but she failed to show up herself — she was treating a patient who had arrived at our hospital with a cut arm just five minutes before we had planned to start the walk. Sara only managed to leave the operating room for lunch at 4 that afternoon.
Ray with children in PNG. Photo source: Ray Wei
As the only healthcare provider here, we received patients with the whole range of critical, medical conditions. Not all those emergencies ended perfectly, but I was moved by the efforts everyone made to give our patients at least a chance to live.
Ray Wei is an MSF field worker from Guangzhou. He worked in MSF’s project in Papua New Guinea from May 2015 to January 2016.