Three weeks in Niger: an unforgettable time helping those in misery

by Matthias Heß/SRI,  2009/04/14

The physician Matthias Heß spent three weeks in Niger in order to treat the patients of the humedica hospital that had opened its doors in February. In his report the physician tells about this unforgettable time.

After his arrival in Niamey in the middle of February, his first week was filled with the last preparations for the long-planned and awaited inauguration of the hospital in Kollo. Simone Winneg, the coordinator in charge, had done impressive preparatory works: she had already run hygiene trainings, discussed human guiding principles and hospital-intern processes with the local employees.

Dr Matthias Heß worked at the humedica hospital in Kollo for three weeks. Photo: humedica

Monday, February 23, was the long-awaited day of the hospital's inauguration: early in the morning, there already was a long queue of patients waiting for us; the majority of them women and young children. The most common disease patterns were respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, as well as skin and worm infections. Many patients also suffered from malaria (unfortunately the disease often progressed severely). At the time, the country was experiencing an epidemic outbreak of meningitis.

By means of changing her dressings regularly and under sterile conditions, we succeeded in healing the large-scale, second-degree burns on the right upper arm of the five-year old girl Hosseina.

Nourdine, who had been a well-fed three-year old boy, had lost weight substantially within one month due to a lingering diarrhoeal disease; he came to our hospital severely undernourished and suffering from acute dehydration, as well as beginning mental disorientation. An intravenous infusion saved his life; he was integrated in the in-patient nutrition programme at the hospital of Niamey. He soon regained his weight and today he is fully recovered once more.

Apart from numerous wonderful moments, there was, however, also a very sad event: little one-year old Aishatou died of acute pneumonia, among other things also due to the fact that the necessary provision with oxygen was no longer feasible at the University Hospital of Niamey because of a lack of capacities. Not to mention intensive medical care (with breathing facilities).

Therefore, the objective of our humedica hospital is to improve technical, spatial and personal equipment to an extent that we will no longer need to move patients.

To achieve this, we still need to do a lot of work. In particular we need to complete the construction of the in-patient ward as soon as possible, in order to be able to care for and treat also in-patients.

The work in Kollo was filled with moments of joy and hope; when you help those in misery, you receive so much in return. A grateful smile of a mother or a child compensates for and rewards you for the often hard work. Therefore, I will return to work at the humedica hospital in Kollo next summer.

I would like to thank all donors and sponsors of humedica.

Matthias Heß

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