From Elective Reviews - Gambia - Sibanor Health Centre, 2004 - Lucy Priest
This summer I spent my 9-week medical elective at Sibanor Health Centre, The Gambia. This is a 50 bed rural clinic run by the mission organisation WEC International.
Our day would start with prayers at 7.30am, followed by a ward round and I was impressed with the way the doctors always prayed on the ward with staff before this started even though most were Muslims. We treated many children for malaria and malnutrition as well as other problems such as gastroenteritis and abscesses. On the adult ward there was a wide range of patients, particularly women with O&G problems, HIV related conditions and even a few snake bite victims. The rest of the day was spent in the outpatient clinic, on afternoon ward rounds and the all important siesta!
For half an hour each day we would see Madam, an 8-year-old girl who was suffering with severe burns. She first presented about 2 weeks before my arrival, with deep and widespread burns. Her thighs and trunk were burnt, superinfected and excruciatingly painful, she could barely walk. Two months previously she had been cooking beans and the pan had spilled them all over her, but it was only now that any help was been sought for her. Everyday we dressed the burns but only had a limited supply of bandages, gauze and cream. It was difficult, as I know had she been in England there would be an array of specialist help available for her whereas we didn't even have a sterile environment or any effective pain relief.
To most people in The Gambia, Madam was not considered very important. Firstly she was a child, and secondly she was female. She rarely had visitors during her 2-month stay apart from her Grandmother who came most days to bring her food. I really enjoyed getting to know Madam; she spoke a little English and had quite a personality. The more time we spent with her the more confident she grew around these “tubabs” (white people). She would often join the ward round and push our trolley for us, and was well known by all the other patients. We tried to introduce Bibl stories to her and it was great when she turned up at the Bible class that was run for the nursing students and came along to a Sunday School party. I'm sure that if Madam had the opportunities that we have in the Western world she could go far but the lack of education and low status of women in The Gambia will make this very difficult for her.
I really enjoyed my time in The Gambia, learnt a lot about medicine and what living and working on the mission field is like. It was a privilege to be part of the local church and hear about the struggles they face being in a Muslim country. It was really interesting to learn about Gambian culture and it was great getting to know the nurses, visit them in their homes and experience a bit of Gambian hospitality! I can definitely recommend it!