Nurse, nurse! Come quick!
I am an Aussie nurse, who has spent the majority of her nursing life in the outback. Remoteness was nothing new to me, working 550km from the nearest hospital, but we were fortunate to have the facilities of the Royal Flying Doctor on the phone or just a plane flight away, Cambodia on the other hand is a different story.
So somewhat selfishly I volunteered with MaD in Siem Reap province Cambodia. I was looking to put some perspective back into my life and well I found it, working as a nurse in the rural areas of Cambodia.
If you think you have seen a lot in your time for most westerners this is sure to open your eyes. If you think you are headed on a holiday adventure then you would be partially correct – you will have an adventure but holiday it is not. Absolutely you get the time some magnificent scenery that this province has to offer, experience the lifestyle and culture of the place but unless your idea of a holiday incorporates long days starting around 07:30 am finishing at times 2000hrs during the week, consulting some 100 persons / day of possibly 1000 who wait to be seen then a holiday it is not.
To give you an idea of the types of presentation, you will encounter think extreme presentations. Some of these areas have had no health care and are to poor to transport to care. Even the clinics here are extremely basic with one small bare rack of pharmaceutics; the hospital has bars on the windows, a ward of 20 + people lie on beds that resemble those in the war films. There is no air conditioning and ceiling fans spinning over the gaunt and lifeless patients while their family members fan them with old books, hand fans or shirts. The first time I saw the provincial hospital really shocked the hell out of me and the poverty of this place was embedded under my skin.
Seeing the provincial gave a better insight into the difficulties these people face. For those that make it here are very sick, only. An ambulance can take up to three days to get I am told so even making it to the hospital can be
Not all the people you see are extreme though there are the young mothers who need a little reassurance or advice, worms dehydration, sexual assaults, STI’s, congenital deformities, worms, dehydration, cough, colds and sore holes. Did I mention Worms and Dehydration??
Try to remember these areas do not have taps, the water is extracted from pumps; and when these dry in the dry season, the only sources for some without exaggeration can be puddles or stagnant wells.
If you can imagine how much clean water affects your daily life try to fathom life without it. People are often too poor to buy clean water with some wages only $1.50 – $3.50 per day! No that’s no typo!
So when my workmates donated USD$350.00 I being a westerner did not believe that it would go very far – while very generous, medicines as most people know are very expensive but I was very surprised when we took the $350 and spent up at the local Pharmacy. It was amazing how such a small out lay western standards contributed to so many lives. I saw and used the money directly on the project so when 1500 people showed up my first day was extremely appreciative to have had the extras.
M.A.D. is back to basics – with only the use of a stethoscope, torch, otoscope, tweezers, a few basic dressings, antibiotics, paracetamol and a few more items a huge difference can be made, but you will have to see for yourself.
My advice is come with no expectations, for those without those expectations cannot be disappointed.
However in saying that, expect to be tired, dirty at times – you may have to push your tuk tuk through the mud, emotionally and mentally drained but an experience you will have. So if you are the type of person who likes to think on their feet, is adaptable, open minded, and has a good sense of humor then this is for you. Remember any place is what you make of it, and you can make a difference here.
Contributed by Amy Anning – Australia – Volunteer with M.A.D: vMaD, Cambodia
Some photos from the MaD Medical Project: