When I got the opportunity to go work in Zanzibar in 2014, for a project at the hospital I was ecstatic!When I thought of Zanzibar I probably thought as everyone else; avacation paradise!! :
Zanzibar is absolutely a vacation paradise, her I am at the beach north on the island.
But I was going there for work and got to see another side of this island. The project was to teach them how to make use of the drug; Ketamin in hurtful procedures. This is a drug which gives sedation as well as pain relief. It is a drug which is easier to manage than many others because it doesn’t´t effect the blood pressure or the respiration that much. And it is cheap!
Because they preformed hurt full procedures to their patiens, also children, without much pain relief. It was pretty grusom to see big burns in children being cleaned and dressed without anything more then paracetamol. Those awful cries I will never forget….
We wanted to help them change this.
I travelled with two anesthesiologists, but they left after a week – while I was going to stay there for a month to execute the project
But there were other people from Norway there, who also worked at the hospital, in different part of the hospital in different projects. I lived together with them and spent my time off with them. We all lived together in «Haukeland House», a building just outside Stone Town where the hospital also where located.
The building were fenced in with guards, which seemed a bit over the top – as we never experienced any scary encounters while being there. But at the same time they are responsible for our safety while working abroad.
Zanzibar is 99% muslim and one is not supposed to go out in the public wearing little clothes. Some turist doesn’t honor that, but I had heard a story about some girls that were thrown acid on because they weren’t propper dressed. So I was extra careful in the beginning.
This is what I was wearing the first days…… I am not kidding 🙂 🙂 🙂
I have an tendens to exaggerate 🙂
After some time I realized that it would be fine to just show enough respect to cover my arms and legs and not show any cleavage etc… So I threw away the hijab 🙂
The rules about clothing was for everybody – men couldn’t dress in shorts or t-shirts either – so there was some equality among woman and men 🙂
I experienced a lot of ups and downs. It is not easy to come to another country and tell them that their practice is wrong or not good enough – of course there will be resistance.
I dont know how I would react if somebody came to our hospital wanting to change our procedures! Its not like they wanted the patients to be in pain, but they were hesitant to the use of drugs being afraid of addiction and brain damage. There also were some superstition among the parents og the children or in patients……Because Ketamin works in a way that it seems like the patient is awake, with eyes opened and often some arm movement……and that made them scared that the patient were possessed by an evil spirit…
But some of the doctors in different wards realized what benefits the use of ketamin gave. Both for the patients and themselves… a patient that lies still and not screaming was alot easier to treat! So there were a lot of patient after a while..
I carried a mobile phone that they could reach me on and I was called the «Ketaminlady» 🙂
One of the treatment wards were I frequently was called to
I had a god deal of patients often children
Waking up from ketamin
There were suturing – draining abscesses – fractures etc..
They liked me to come and give the Ketamin, which was one of the challenges as well, it was not me who should give the Ketamin, they had to learn it themselves…..I was only there for a little while.
After some time I got them to take over little by little, while I observed… I really hope they still use it today!!
What really troubled me was that I never got accepted at the burn unit where they treated a lot of children with great burns. There were some firm nurses there who ment that it would give brain damage to use ketamin everyday and they told this to the parents who of course didn’t want their children to be brain damaged….. I tried many times to tell them that we cant «think or mean» in medicine but that we have to consider studies that have been done. and read what the literature tells us. But I was speaking to deaf ears..
I still think of those poor children and what they have to go trough…
There were also a strong self justice at the island and those who broke the law did not have many rights. Alcoholics and drug addicts were not seen upon lightly, remember this is a muslim island and you are not supposed to use any of the sort…
One day a female doctor called me for help, she was originally from Zanzibar but had been educated in Russia and she was one of the few who didn’t cover her hair.
She was about to clean a wound in a young man who were very badly beaten… I asked if he had been in a car accident. «No» she said. «He is a thief.» !!
Turned out he had stole something and got caught and somebody had beaten him very badly. She was the only one who wanted to treat him in the hospital……. Some times these patient didn’t make it
The young man thanked me with tears in his eyes and begged me to come the next time they were going to clean his wounds.
I went all over the hospital, where ever somebody needed my help. I was often at the ward for the newly born and helped them getting a venous access in the little ones. At this ward there was a Norwegian nurse and doctor as well. And they often called for my help.
I had to go trough the delivery ward to get to them, a room that had 40 beds, where 2 -3 woman were in each bed giving birth!!! I am not lying! They laid across the short end either giving birth or with their newly born. It was a incredible sight!
They did have 2 delivery rooms, but with all the woman who came in giving birth – very few got to use them.
One day when I was passing trough a Norwegian midwife called for my help with a breech birth!!
Hmmm not what I usually do…but you got to do what you got to do…
I helped and at last the baby came… she didn’t breath at first so I had to help her….. but at last she screamed 🙂
It felt wonderful and I didn’t really want to give her to her mother…… but I realized that my boyfriend would be quite surprised if I came home with a little dark baby 🙂
It was a very special and wonderful feeling – but when we went to the bathroom to weigh her, there were 3 dead little babies wrapped in blankets on the counter… A brutal reality check….a lot of newborn babies die in Zanzibar…
Than God for the time we spent with each other debrifing and sharing thoughts and sorrows. Many nights on the roof at Haukeland House ❤ Some weekends we also left for a retreat hotel and just had a wonderful time – a pause from the harsh reality.
Zanzibar has a lot great things to offer – nature – great beaches and beautiful people
The «Zanzibars» are friendly and great people.
I had a lot of great and unforgettable experiences during my time in zanzibar – both positive ande negative. But O would never want to be without them!
Have a great day
Hakuna Matata (= no worries!)