I was part of the Meskine team from 2012-2015, working as a doctor in the hospital. I applied to Pioneers UK to go overseas as a doctor for a two year period and at the time there was a need for a doctor in Meskine. I had never previously heard of Cameroon and had to get the map out to look up where I would be working!
Learning the local languages was a challenge – I’m not good at languages but I really wanted to be able to speak to those around me. The words slowly came much to the amusement of the kids in our neighborhood who I would practice my new vocab on! I must have made so many mistakes!
The Meskine hospital had a really good reputation in the community which helped us to be accepted quickly and I enjoyed spending time in the village getting to know the women and learning how they live. I would try and help out with the jobs around the house – cooking, removing the skins from peanuts, preparing things for the market. There was much laughter as they tried to understand me and I them.
At the hospital the needs can be overwhelming and the resources so few compared to a Western hospital and yet so much can be done for so many people. I loved getting to know my regulars and trying to work out how to explain illness in a way that they could understand. Where do you start if there is no concept of bacteria or understanding of the importance of regular medication?
I loved getting to know my regulars and trying to work out how to explain illness in a way that they could understand.
While I was there the hospital was started a program to treat HIV/AIDs and I got to know many of the patients well. It would really frustrate me that they would take their HIV meds for a few months, feel well and then stop them, no matter how many times I tried to explain about viral replication and resistance. Eventually I worked out that I could explain HIV as the door into a house. By taking the medication daily they were shutting the door, if they stopped taking the medication, the door would open, then other illnesses could enter into the house and they would get sick. They had to take the medication in order to keep the door shut and stay well! The hospital employs many people and it was good to be part of the team and learn from the experience of my Cameroonian colleagues.
It was great to be able to pray with my patients and do follow up visits in the village to see how they were getting on. I loved being able to do health education in people’s houses as they asked me about the health of their children and being able to share my life with them.
God taught me much during my time in Meskine as I had to decide daily if I was going to depend on him or try to do the work in my own strength. I never had any strength to do the work by myself due to the heat, illness and the amount of work to be done. So I learned to trust God with each day and depend on him to a deeper level. I pray that He will continue to use the hospital to bring healing to many in Northern Cameroon.