Nigeria…not for the faint of heart.

ok, for third time, I;'m going to try to blog this out. Each time it doesn't save or self implodes, soooo…

I went to Nigeria in March 2004.  It seemed like a good thing to blog about it a few years later at the same time.  I loved my work in Nigeria despite the incredible, unexpected  challenges that I was presented.  I remember it as the time when I first got, crassly put,  girly balls!!!


Originally I didn't intend to go on the trip at all, but a series of events lead me to decide to call up JS one day and ask to be included.  He seemed very excited to have me come.  I found out later that almost all the nurses who were originally on board had learned of Nigeria's nefarious reputation, and were concerned that they would be mistaken for oil company employees and being kidnapped.  As we did go to the delta area of Nigeria, their fears really weren't unfounded.  He informed me in the air above Europe, so I couldn't back out,  that we were actually only having 3 nurses, 2 scrubs and moi.

We had quite a time getting there.. Even though we went at the end of March, the Harmattan was still very strong.  So much so that our plane was redirected temporarily to Ghana.  Because we had no visa for Ghana, we had to stay on the plane.  As is often the case, many people had been drinking quite a bit and soon a fight broke out when someone insulted the poor stewardess.  It got quite exciting for a bit, until the police came and arrested him.  Apparently a visa is not needed to go to jail in Ghana!  We did eventually arrive safely in Lagos.  The wind continued during our time in Nigeria.


It gave everything sort of a hazy quality.  We wore, breathed, ate the dust for the rest of the trip.  The next day, we flew on to Port Harcourt via Air Nigeria.  Quite a different experience from flying in the U.S.  Apparently they often oversell these flights.  Quite a lot of pushing on the tarmac is involved in getting on the plane. As a little pale white chic, I really didn't stand a chance.  If it weren't for JS, I would have never gotten on the plane.  Once in Port Harcourt, we travelled on to Uyo, which was essentially our home base. 

We met the team there, and settled in.  Many on our team were in training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so a run was in order.  Despite the harmattan, it was quite hot.  Our internist demonstrates this fact aptly post run:


After our run we went to Nigeria's answer to McDonald's for some good jollof rice!



After that we dealt with the supplies.  Unfortunately, we had ocean freighted a lot of things, and they were backed up in Port at Port Harcourt.  We thought it might be possible to dash the Port Authority, but it was impossible.  The supplies arrived in May.  We still did have lots to unload:


here is our surgical suite in cardboard!

The next day we set off to the hospital about 20 minutes away in Ituk Mbang. 


On this ride, JS told me he didn't know about where the recovery area was, just that there was an Operating theatre.  So, my first task, was to find some place to recover patients.  While the rest of the team unloaded supplies, I looked about for a suitable place. Luckily, I found the mens ward to be a suitable distance away from the theatre and pretty much bereft of patients. All I had to do was convince the ward sisters to allow us to use it.  This seems like it would be simple, but really it was quite difficult.  I was surprised that these ladies did not want to help their neighbours, but indeed they protested vigourously.  I eventually dispensed a number of ink pens and convinced them it could be done.  This was the beginning of a new assertiveness for me.  Here is a photo of all the people who showed up for assistance on screening day!


because I had trouble posting this, I'm dividing this entry into two… if you are still interested, there will be a part two soon, i hope, given the way my puter has been working!

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5 thoughts on “Nigeria…not for the faint of heart.

  1. I'm glad people are interested, I'm finding it surprisingly enjoyable to do this. This is one of the few times I've actually thought, written, communicated about Africa….

  2. I've sent your Africa blogs to a few of my friends because they're very benevolent minded people. One of them spent her young years in Mexico helping some of the people there. I think they'll be very interested in what you did in Africa!

  3. Ha ha ha ! Omg! I can't stop laughing. Sorry, but no offence. I'm Nigerian, and I always find foreigners' analyses of Nigeria hilarious. Maybe it's because you just see it as it is.I loved this post. Good Job. I'm waiting eagerly for part 2

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