MEDICAL TRIPS AND SLIPS
22.06.2013 - 29.06.2013 24 °C
We were a bit worried by the Overconfident tone of the pilot of the EAST AFRICAN SAFARI EXPRESS to MOGASDISHU and his CAREFREE , almost cavaliar Demeanour . Especially SINCE this OLD BIRD was a DC-9 possibly Refurbished from some Airstrip in Atlanta or TAHITI . Outside It was the Sea on the Left and the Al Shabbab on the right – literally between the “ Devil and deep sea . When he took THAT SHARP left hand turn and descended abruptly – we almost stood up – we could because there were “ NO SEAT BELTS “ !! We could see the AZURE BLUE expanse of the Indian Ocean in the Front – Are we Diving into the Sea ?
-- he continued to move leftwards into the BEACHSIDE AIRSTRIP but the landing was surprisingly Smooth into the ADEN ABDULLLAh International Airport Mogadishu . First we Peered out of the window But could Not spot the Airport Building - One half was Covered by Anti aircraft netting and Armoured Cover for the AU troops guarding the Building .
As we trooped inside looking for the Luggage CAROUSEL - there were NONE . We were surrounded by non uniformed officlals offering help. Looked like a lot of Unexpected events
Luckily Hasan our trusty Somali Buddy was around – he handled the situation explaining that the Luggage will Come directly to the immigration area and we can inspect it .
Earlier we a group of medical Specialists from Chennai and Bangalore had landed at Nairobi airport after two 10 hour flights from South India and were apprehensive of the Forth coming trip .
To MOGADISHU . We did not have the Tickets , No idea about Luggage transfer , Onward flight timings and Boarding times. Luckily HASAN again came to the rescue through his Somali friends and we got the Tickets – SANS any LUGGAGE tags . At 6 Am in the Morning we were informed that the flight may take off between 9 Am to 11.30 AM from Basement GATE 3 .
We were feeling a Lot better after a Few “ TUSKERS “ this Simple liquid was TAILORMADE to handle the situation . we saw our Luggages at 11 Am and boarded at 12 PM.
The EXIT out of Mogadishu Airport was tricky with the AU and South African Anti Mine staff vehicles blocking the path . You have to cross 2 SANDBAGGED and RAZORWIRED checkposts before you are out into the Streets – FREEDOM at last .
This Freedom – we found was shortlasting – as the HOTEL NICKNAMED HOTEL TERROR was only 1 km away with the same SANDBAGS and Steel CHECKPOSTs . the gate was covered by two gunmen based at a distance .
Somali Hospitality was delightful with Sweet tea and Samosas – this felt almost like India .
We were asked to take rest in our rooms till Morning – NO short walks outside no late nights which Seemed Excessive at that time But understandable later .
We opened our balconies and the Air from ocean was soothing , we decided to meet later in the Terrace. The Water in the Basin tasted Sweet and Good
Dinner was Spiced Biryani with options of Camel or Chicken , Spicy Vegetable and Fruits. The Watermelons were delicious !
Post Dinner – We moved to the Terrace for some fresh air – This is when Things started happening . Initially it looked like a lot of FIREFLIES – going in a Arc -- later were told they are TRACER BULLETS . It was Quiet afterwards.
We were Told to assemble Early at 8 AM for the Medical Camp with ECHO scans .
Morning Post Breakfast we got into the LANDCRUISER – nothing happened till we crossed those IRON barriers – Then suddenly 2 atheletic thin Types Jumped into the Front seats , without so much as a notice – with AK47’s in tow.
They were to be our Two Armed Guurds for the rest of the TRIP – even gaurding us inside the Patient Examination rooms – think of HEART CHECKUPS under the COVER of AK47’s. We named one KHAKI and Other SOUR FACE
The Road – If there was one – because Mogadishu has NO PAVED ROADS or Signals -- had ROCKS for tar !!
This was Real BACK BREAKING WORK !!
I as Cardiologist started my patient exams with ECHO Scans -- There was so Much
Medical Diagnosis work to do -- Uncovering of secrets – the equivalent of Digging of earth to get out diamonds . One Great feeling was the Gratitude of the Patients . Also Many had Simple Problems Needing JUST as EXTRA dose of an Injection – which they had Never recieved !! In a Short time I had a whole Bunch of Happy patients . Of course many were happy to recieve some Vitamins and gels – passed of as POTENT remedies !!
Evening was Lecture to a Group of Medical students in Benadir University – although we got the feeling That the TOPICS chosen in Cardiology and Urology was passing above their Heads ! Also we literally Stood on our seats when One Speaker on Blood diseases - spoke about “BLASTS “ like in Leukoblasts and Erythroblasts . this although commonplace in Medical Schools was not very funny Here !
After 6 PM it was back to the RELATIVE SAFETY of Hotel Terror ! Same stuff at Night . This time the Terrace was quiet .
Dinner we had visitors – an SOMALI INTERNIST DOCTOR from USA – Ohio - he was visiting MOG after 22years . Morning we had seen him Cowering behind the Hotel steel doors – He confessed he was scared . Now he says after seeing our RAW COURAGE in going out into the streets – he will visit his Mother in the NEXT STREET Tomorrow !!
Next was the Lady Minister for Public works, Roads and Ports – she seemed Jolly and with a HEARTY LAUGHTER till we asked her about the Condition of the POT HOLED DUST TRACKS , Her answer was the Turkish were taking care of that . Street lights by Norwegians and Ports by Chinese ! We could Not exactly UNDERSTAND her Role .
Next were 3 Indians from the UAE – They were surprised to see us doctors in this God -Forsaken place and one Guy asked If we had taken along the HOSPITAL Psychiatrist also !! probably for coping with STRESS induced Traumatic disorders !!
Also some Member of Parliament trooped in – although many Could not Point out the Location of the parliament building - Maybe the Indians were Building that !
Next day was very much the same with Khaki and Sour face for Company and teh Camps . One thing different was Visit to teh Government Hospital – this was a Creepy Building with Many empty rooms. We were told there was No Blood Bank and the Only Ventilator has stopped working . Boy this place could do with a LOT of Help from USAID/OXFAM – Only the Aid Organizations were missing .
Return was the same safari express – which suddenly stopped in a Big airfield in the Middle of now where – WAJIR air base in Kenya . It looks like Security screeing for all Somali flights are done here .
Only we did had not Thought of the Only TWIST in the PLOT -- the SAFARI express broke down once we had seated ourselves and back we were sent to the Stuffy Airport – waiting for the NEXT FLIGHT from Wajir AIRPORT .