The other day I was showing the emergency department to Leslie and Rob, the MSF staff taking over at the end of my shift, when a man holding a floppy baby walks into the room. He is dazed with panic and looks around in confusion, taking a step first in one direction and then another. No real purpose to his steps except to find someone that would help his baby in the midst of the chaos. I notice him, and direct him to the “resuscitation” room, where there is only one stretcher. It’s occupied. I ask the woman to sit next to the stretcher with her IV pole, and lay the child on the bare metallic surface. There are no blankets.

I am not sure what’s different. I am finding it difficult to find my place in the chaos around me. 

Her little body is under spasms, her eyes closed. Her heart is thumping in her chest, holding on.

What is different is I am trying to erase the image of the 30-something-year-old women’s breast eaten up by her cancer, and knowing that she has no chance in this healthcare system. No chance either for the 30-year-old man with a broken neck whose quadriplegia is a tragedy anywhere, but here it sentences him to isolation from life as he knows it. 

We start an IV on her and give her a bolus of fluid while I ask her father a few questions (to be translated of course). Fever. Decreased level of consciousness. Vomiting. Spasms. Meningitis? Cerebral malaria? We bolus her with anti-malarials, antibiotics, diazepam and give her more fluids. Then we wait. 

What is different is the gush of mixed emotions that rushes from my heart to my head when the PA/Translator comes running into me, nervously, translates the story of the 30 year old woman that had a stick stuck up her vagina by her husband in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 

We treat her and I went home with that waiting feeling to not know how she responds to our care until tomorrow...