The First Edition - March 1995
After long months of waiting, firstly to see if we’d made the list, later for the concentration period to finish, and finally for the "Dodgy Brothers" aircraft to get off the ground, we finally limped into the AUSMED compound at about 0330 on Monday 20 Feb 95. For many of us, this was the longest day of our lives as we went off to work on a maximum of one hour of sleep to obtain a lightning speed handover from ASC 1, in a daze of jetlag and wonderment at being in the "Darkest Continent" perhaps for the first time. We hastily farewelled the other mob and suddenly realised that we were IT, a somewhat sobering thought. Our predecessors looked absolutely exhausted but ecstatic to see us and it’s no surprise with all the hard work they’ve put in and the suffering they’ve undergone in recent months. Fortunately for us we’ve walked into an up and running hospital with many facilities available which the ASC 1 people must have only dreamt about when they first arrived. So from all of us RAAFies on ASC 2 let us say a huge THANKYOU and well done to the first contingent.
Now for us it’s a matter of keeping up the good work and building on the foundations left for us. We know it will be a tough few months but at present morale is high, the food is good and we get hot showers three times a week - LUXURY!!!
It is hoped that this newsletter will reach all RAAF Health Facilities as well as families and friends on a monthly basis. All RAAF Rwanderers will be asked to contribute and tell you what they’ve been up to on the other side of the world. So stand by for Issue 1.
Tracy Smart, SQNLDR, Editor-in Chief
To get the ball rolling, let’s start off with the location all of the RAAFies. All but one of us come under Medical Company (MED COY), one of three companies within AUSMED (Australian Medical Support Force Rwanda). We are divided among several sections, with most members in the ward. In addition, all members are rostered on for AME cover on a regular basis. The sections are as follows:
SQNLDR Tracy Smart (OIC Clinical Services)
HQ MED COY
FSGT Peter Matthey (Wardmaster)
FLTLT Robyn Green (OIC)
FLTLT Robyn Yeo (OIC) - our late inclusion!
CPL Col Jenner
CPL Frank Alcantara
The odd man out is LAC Yogananda Juste-Constant who works in HQ AUSMED as an interpreter, although he does have a secondary role as an entertainer as we found out on our pre-deployment trip to Maggie Island.
An artist’s impression of CHK - on a good day, with a following wind (ie. NOT from the mass graves)!
AUSMED is located at and near the Kigali Hospital in the posh part of town with our accommodation and the other companies located just up the hill from the hospital. To travel from one to the other we pass by the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) barracks and so we require an armed escort from Rifle Company for each short trip.
I won’t explain the make-up of each section within MED COY as this can be done by members from each section over the next few issues. I will explain a little about the patients we treat. Our main task is to treat UNAMIR II personnel and this involves soldiers from all over the world and particularly Africa, some from places such as Malawi which we had to consult a map to find. We also treat other UN employees and NGO (Non Government Organisations) workers. If we have spare capacity (which we nearly always do) we also care for local Rwandans, especially in cases of severe trauma such as mine explosions or interesting tropical diseases (see below). Some of the diseases we’ve already seen have had more than one person scratching their head.
On the AME side of things we had a flurry of activity in the second week with two (three patients) in two days. We almost had one to Nairobi two days later but unfortunately the guy got better!
Finally we would like to say farewell to our other RAAF Rwanderer, GPCAPT Roger Capps our anaesthetist, who is just about to finish his six week rotation with us. We thank him for his experience, for his teaching skills, and most of all for his company since our arrival.
by "Weary" Dohnalek
Let me describe how a medevac really looks behind the Gardneresque veil of heroism and shroud of awe that surrounds the men and women (shouldn’t that be the other way around - Ed.) of an AME team.
AME - 10/95. Operations call AUSMED. Priority 2. Acute Appendicitis. I’ve yet to see one nicer than mine but I’m interested. The AME team consisting of FLTLTs Dohnalek and Scott is mobilised. CPL Alcantara is nowhere to be found. We search our pockets and the humidicrib where he sleeps, but no sign of our Twa (Rwandan pygmy). We assume he must be in the Thomas pack, kiss our AUSMED family goodbye and tac crawl into the back of our awaiting chariot.
Connie, realising the potential danger of our mission, takes off all her clothes whilst George looks on at the scenery. Connie is now in her flying suit. George’s diplopia settles. Driving the ambulance is Col "Senna" Jenner who deftly speeds through the potholes of Kigali, whistling to his war song "The wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round". We eventually get off the Martini roundabout, shaken but not stirred and arrive at the airport. Damn that delay in customs and immigration. With mammoth determination we spell our names correctly and board our chopper. Despite our Golden Wings card we’re relegated to Economy but we’re used to it tough. Within seconds we’re airborne, but I reluctantly land the chopper and let the pilots in.
It was raining and, narrowly missing a gorilla in the mist, we wokka wokka to our destination. The service on board was terrible. We never even saw a stewardess. God war is cruel. The mountains are high en route, but within a flush we round the S-bend and see Kamembe airport (What is it with this toilet humour - Ed). Connie and I cock our weapons and pick up our rifles. "No matter what happens down there I’ll still respect you in the morning" I bravely say and we catapault out onto the tarmac. There waiting for us was our gravely ill appendix and his nurse carer, walking up to us smiling. We laid the person down on the litter, placed on an oxygen mask and strapped him in. This was no easy task as he was struggling and saying he wasn’t sick, but I knew the signs of meningitis and sedated him. Proudly I knew he was safe and now we could get off on a Priority 1. Next we had to deal with the patient.
As with all missions there are complications and ours was no different. We only had a paediatric oxygen mask and so oxygenated through the transdermal scalp method. It was a complete success as his colour remained good - dark black. On arrival back at Kigali, to the sounds of "Top Gun", we strutted back to the waiting ambulance and left - the patient that is, but I remembered when I realised he had not paid for his flight. He assured me they had private insurance and so we unstrapped him. Our arrival at AUSMED was the usual fanfare, streamers, dancing in the streets and swooning from screaming women usually reserved for persons above the rank of Major, but we knew it was merely our duty as red blooded Aussies.
Frank Alcantara was eventually found after a cupboard-wide search. His excuse - he was at the time involved in a "menage a twa".
Those of you who know of George’s tremendous entrepreneurial skills, will not be surprised at this article which appeared recently in the "Kigali Chronicle". Does he speak from experience I wonder.
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FREE CALL: KIGALI 555-19
Clinics located at:
Each week we submit a welfare brief as a record of what each sections has been up to. Below are a selection of comments about RAAFies from this month.
01 MAR 95. Ward staff are settling in well on eight hour shifts under the watchful eye of FLTLT Connie "Matron Sloane" Scott. As the company’s only true Tri-service section we have already become a model for inter-service co-operation and esprit de corps... Our Ward MO, FLTLT George "Weary" Dohnalek, got off to a flying start on the first day when a combination of sleep deprivation and jet lag created a state of near mania in the ward office. Fortunately all sharp objects were secured and staff and patients lived to fight another day. Since then he has starred in the Resus room, salvaging seemingly hopeless cases and using up beds in "Expensive Scare". LACW Anne "Mother" Croft is also enjoying her work, especially caring for her Tunisian boys. The rumours that she will return with them to their harem are somewhat exaggerated however.
08 MAR 95. Things continue to run reasonably smoothly on the ward despite the huge patient workload at present. We are running close to capacity bed wise with some of the patients quite sick, however the intra-section light-hearted bantering and doctor-nurse competition continues. Our most notable admissions of the week were two little orphans who were very malnourished but soon started bolting down food from various eager sources. By the end of the week they were all smiles and Auntie "Squizzy" Taylor had them reciting such Australianisms as "G’day", "How’re going" and "Good Stindl" (one of our army medics)...Now for a free community announcement: Desperately seeking penpal for SQNLDR Tracy "Nigel No Friends" Smart. Grade 2 English a pre-requisite, heavy breathing optional, to converse in meaningless intercourse of intercontinental nature. All enquiries through chain of command.
Ancient Swahili Proverb
shauku nyingi huondoa maarifa
by Pete Matthey
Having done clinical work for most of my RAAF life, I’ve now been put in charge of medical admin and STATISTICS and, ably assisted by CPL Lucy Wong from the SHO’s office, we’re getting there.
The RAAF does not have a position of Wardmaster but our equivalent would be to that of Roy Egg at 3HOSP (when he’s there!). The main area of responsibility is all of the hospital and medical administration and AME paperwork. The work can be quite demanding at times, especially when we have patients admitted from the resus bay or direct from Central Hospital Kigali. Also the diverse cultures we treat, from civilians, to NGOs (Non government Organisations), to UN personnel from all over Africa and other parts of the world, makes life interesting, especially when it comes down to writing or pronouncing the names of the Rwandan patients.
The HQs staff comprises the OC, SNO/2IC, AO, CSM, Wardmaster, a CPL CLK and a CPL CLK(M), and subsequently any leave we take revolves around the others e.g. CSM and Wardmaster can’t go on leave at the same time.
The day starts with either a walk around Kigali with the specialists or a nice quiet session of PT at the main HQ which proves to be fun at times. Lucy has an energetic day normally, juggling figures for admissions and discharges and trying to find out where patients have gone. With the added advantage of having to reside at the AUSMED hospital, the job could be classed as a 24 hour a day job.
That’s about all from Kigali as we nod off to sleep and await our awakening at 0515 each day to the sounds of the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) chanting their African war cries as they run past the hospital in Platoon order. Regards to all at home.
by Lyndall "Squizzy" Taylor
You might think that talking about toilets is a very indecent topic but here is Kigali this is not the case. After you have lugged a bucket full of non-potable water up three flights of stairs, going to the toilet takes on new, almost spiritual dimensions.
Ten steps to using a Kigali Toilet
1. Feel the Urge
So next time you flush, spare a quick thought for those for who going for a whiz is not as easy a task as it once was......... and will be again!
by Anne "Mother" Croft
This thriving metropolis called Kigali is well and truly in our blood after only three short weeks. Our pussar friend, LLH (otherwise known as Lynette-phew-what-a-mouthful-Lelievre-Healy) has great potential as a mother - her maternal instincts are coming to the fore.
AME exercises are definitely in vogue and plenty of willing medics are only too happy to oblige, with that aerodynamic miracle known as "The Bell" - I still feel the stoker in the back looks cramped though.
Night duty is still alive and well in the AUSMED ward and so all of you night owls out there may apply for permanent positions! Rumour has it we are changing the 24 hour day to 30 as there are just not enough hours in the day at present.
Keep smiling all you little AUSMED warders - rotation is not just a rumour - there is life after the AUSMED ward!
by Yogananda Juste-Constant
From Kigali, Rwanda I am sending my sincere greetings to my family and all RAAF personnel. Thanks to God I am keeping well.
My tasks as a French interpreter for the Australian contingent are varied. I sometimes accompany the FMO, COL Warfe during his visit to UNAMIR Medical units around Rwanda by air or by road. I interpret for the Contingent Legal Officer MAJ McConaghy in his negotiations with the Rwandan Government and Chaplain Hopper during his pastoral visits.
It’s more than three weeks since I have been in Rwanda and I really enjoy it. My West Indian background helps me a bit in establishing rapport with the Rwandan community. I also have time to sing for my church congregation and for some Rwandan patients at the Kigali Hospital.
You've heard of Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders)? Well we ADF Doctors in Kigali have reworked that name to describe our first few weeks here:
"Doctors without a clue"
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