The last day we were up extra early to do a ward round and I was greeted by a beaming Alie giving me the thumbs up. I guess he enjoyed the Nutella, it was the first time he had smiled spontaneously.
We made plans with the local staff for the patients who were staying in: John Kanu, the head nurse, for dressings and Rose , the Irish ward nurse, for the antibiotics and the financial care of the patients who had no money (there had to be enough for finishing various six week antibiotic regimens for their infected bones).
We set off to the Bumbuna falls, passing through traditionally built villages on roads, which made me appreciate the distance and difficulty the patients who lived far away had faced coming to see us.
We drove past the Camel Mountain, which someone perhaps a trifle unkindly suggested could be the Turtle Mountain……
You could tell you were getting closer to the Bumbuna waterfalls because of the fine mist of water coming off it and the noise! We climbed out on some rocks as close as you could come and admired it. A local fisherman was fishing in the quiet pools at the sides but there was no way anyone could swim, canoe, boat or dive through the whirling water masses.
In Bumbuna (est pop. 4,000 in 2004), the local Catholic priest Father Andrew (also known as Figo, since he had been a good footballer in his younger days and the other father was nicknamed Macca, which I am told is another footballer and has nothing to do with Paul McCartney, so I sense a theme here), took us to the World Bank-backed Hydro Electrical Dam (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/EXTAFRREGTOPENERGY/0,,contentMDK:21649802~pagePK:34004173~piPK:34003707~theSitePK:717306,00.html), which supplies electricity to Freetown and Makeni and whoever else is on the National Grid, which unfortunately is far from everyone. In comparison with the falls this was completely silent, including the two spillways into which the excess water, slick as oil, disappeared without a sound. Local guards had a series of check-points on the way and because Father Andrew was known to them we passed without problem until we came to the dam itself where the guard didn’t know him. But Father Andrew has a direct line to the boss of the project and the guard was soon fully informed, saluting him as we walked to the dam.
We stopped at the dam project’s headquarters and since the head contractor and caretaker is Italian, we found ourselves drinking – but of course! – Cafe Latte, Cappuccino and Espresso, made on the biggest professional coffee machine I have seen for a long time and certainly in the Sierra Leonean jungle.
By the side of the road we saw quite a few palms which were being tapped for palm wine; unfortunately this also kills the palm. The plastic container at the top of the palm under the crown is tapping the palm juice which is fermented. Amadu, our driver, demonstrated how the local boys climb the palm. I wish they wouldn’t, having seen the results when they fall down. I tried palm wine last time I was in Makeni and I have to admit that it may not become my favourite drink, possibly the taste had something to do with the container in which the medical students brought it: a large white plastic container for petrol. Having never tried again, I couldn’t say.
Our trip was at an end, Rupert’s beard may also have been at an end, depending on the verdict from his family, but at least it is documented here for posterity.
So once again, I am back in London. With experiences which make me humble and hopefully give me a greater understanding of other people and make me a better doctor. So many people came to see us, in complete confidence that we would do the best thing for them, and of course we tried our best. I hope to have made a little difference for the better and look forward to the day Abdulai Jalloh is fully trained and back at Makeni. The department will be in good hands.
We had a great team, there is a great team there and we will be back.