Here we are at last, almost into August and our last month on Rwandan soil. As we are told in our weekly peptalks we’re just about to reach the try line; we’ve nearly made the touchdown; the final whistle is just about to be blown; we’re at set point; the final over’s about to be bowled, the fat lady’s opening her throat to sing, and a host of other cliches. To say we are looking forward to going home would be something of an understatement, and morale has soared to an all time high as the connexes are opened, cleaned and packed, one by one. We have gradually reduced our services to CHK and as of 1 Aug we accept UN only. The good news we received this week is that our UN role is being taken over by Norwegian medical personnel (NORMED) who will however offer only a Level 2 rather that 3 (or sometimes 4 or 5) facility. They won’t be taking over this hospital though as the CHK want it back as a private wing to make some dosh. It does make it easier for us however as we can now pack up without also having to worry about supporting what’s left of UNAMIR.
We’ve had a flurry of activity lately, including the visit at last of a senior RAAF officer after half the Army had visited over recent months. AVM Cox, although nowadays wearing a Tri-service hat as ACPERS, nevertheless helped RAAF morale, even just by mentioning "mustering" ahead of "trade" in his informative briefing. He also met all RAAFies in an informal gathering in the Officers’ Mess.
In this, the last edition of our little mag, we have all the usual mixture of fact and fiction, poetry and prose. Robyn Yeo is our leading contributor this month, with the RAP report she’s promised for months (now that she’s moved to CCP) and the results of an interface with her muse. The terrible "twins" from ICU have also got into the act with details of their attempts to wrest control from the Army reserve "gurus". Pete Matthey has again shared his philosophy with us - after all, he hasn’t got anything else to do - and John Harvey has shared another of his poems with us. The boys from the blockshave also allowed us behind the scenes of their little world and finally, just in case you think we’ve finally silenced George Dohnalek, I have to admit that he came up with our exciting bloodsports poster. This seems a good time to say that the views expressed in this magazine in no way reflect the views of the management, especially not the Army!
As we ready ourselves to leave this tropical paradise, let us once again say thanks for the feedback and support you’ve all given us over here. I don’t know what we’d have done without mail calls and "jack" rations. See you all when we get home.
e all finally earned our second "gong" and received our first (the ASM is being presented back at Townsville) at the midway point, following 3 months service for the UN. Each UN mission has it’s own ribbon colours and in this case, it is comprised of four main colours (from outside in):
Red for the red soil
It sounds a little gross but actually doesn’t look too bad - much better on blue than green though I’m sure!
by CPL John Harvey
The sounds of Rwanda fill my ears
The cries of babies so tiny and weak
Birds in the morning, iddle chatter on the roads
The clicking of valves from ICU
It’s on again in 1995
Race versus race
STATE OF ORIGIN
Come and see the massacre, as the Tutsi Terrors take on the Hutu Hackers and try to EVEN THE SCORE!
"The latest RAAF Rwanderers was a work of art....rival(s) the Bulletin.... (although) less fiction....(which) limit(s) it’s following amongst politicians, senior officers and the like....your eminent magazine."
GPCAPT Peel, SHO.
"....excellent, highly interesting...great to see the spirit and humour have not been lost under even the most difficult of situations."
AIRCDRE Moller, Big Kahuna.
I have just finished reading your first edition of RAAF Rwanderers. It’s wonderful to see that you all still have a sense of humour."
WGCDR Morrisey, Boss Nurse.
"It’s good." George’s Brother.
"Woof, woof." Kathleen’s dog.
by FLGOFFs Lyndall (The Lion) Taylor and Jackie Hardy (Har Har)
Well it’s finally happened - the RAAF have sucessfully infiltrated the previously inpenetratable Army world of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)! Phase 1 of this covert operation was undertaken on 17 April when FLGOFFs Jackie Hardy and Lyndall Taylor, or was that Jackie Taylor and Lyndall Hardy (not that any one can tell them apart, even though they look nothing alike), were sent into ICU as a part of the first staff rotation at AUSMED. They both looked forward to the challenge of being totally surrounded by "A-Res ICU Gurus"! Their first day was a frantic rush and punctuated by lots of "Where the hell is it?" comments. Happily they survived this memorable day and disappeared on 3 days short leave. Upon their return to the lion’s den they enjoyed (?!?!) and action packed few weeks on 12 hour shifts. Unfortunately the patient load decreased to zero and they were forced to have extra days off and give a helping hand to the ward staff whose workload had multiplied due to the specialists orphanage visits. The result - AUSMED staff : Weary; Orphans (all 8 of them): Crying!!!! Luckily for our two fearless RAAF Rwanderers long leave loomed.
The two intrepid FLGOFFs returned to ICU with the knowledge that Phase 2 of the take-over plan would soon be implemented. FLTLTs Merilyn White and Kathleen Pyne joined the RAAF push to invade the section on a particularly memorable day - Kathleen’s 25th birthday! Mel’s memorable day however came a little later when she slept through her alarm for night duty and was seen making a mad dash for an escort at 2330 (we usually leave at 2200 - 2215). Since the arrival of the 2 FLTLTs, patients with cardiac problems have been flavour of the month, sending everyone scrambling for their textbooks.
As we head into the final weeks of our rotation, patient numbers have picked up again and the place is a bustling hive of activity, with jokes and light-hearted digs flying thick and fast. Often the ward staff have witnessed an ICU Guru (their words not mine) in fits of laughter after spending hours with RAAF humour (ie taking the mickey out of the Army!!!).
The addition of RAAFies to ICU has been an educational experience for us all, and we have all survived the "bi-service" environment - more or less!
(Clouds are for Africa)
by FLTLT Robyn Yeo
Today again the clouds gather -
The rain washes nothing; the wet earth
Clouds cry useless tears for the lives of these people
And us? We float -
The clouds roar with the agony of impotence
by SQNLDR Tracy "Fearless" Smart
Welcome to RAAF-land or at least the loose conglomeration of RAAFies, plus a couple of ring ins, which constitutes the phantom AME Section. Business was fairly brisk although has slowed down of late due to our friends across the road, who think we’re smuggling contraband or Interahamwe rather than just TUNBATTs and ETHIOBATTs, and so temporarily grounded us. So far we’ve done 21 AMEs, most of them in-country using a Canadian Bell 212 chopper on lease to the UN. Some of these have been emergencies, like our pickup of survivors from the EHS off-road racing team trials, but many raise a few eyebrows, such as the "PRI 1" appendix who jumped gratefully into the welcoming arms of FLTLT George "Weary" Dohnalek. As for Weary, his highlight so far has not been in the air but watching the NURSOs changing in the back of the ambos on the way to the airport. We presume this doesn’t include CAPT Lew "War Dog" McLeod or LEUT John "Salty Sea Dog" Ashley. FLTLT Connie "Gypsy Rose Lee" Scott was an early recipient of Weary’s not so subtle stares - just as well FLTLT Robyn "I’ll show you mine" Green wasn’t there as well as he definitely wouldn’t be fit to fly. Speaking of coloured NURSOs, FLTLT Merilyn "QM" White, who’s in charge of our stores, has also been the recipient of Weary’s "sense of humour", having come back mortified when both the MO and MEDASST FSGT Peter "I’ll have to check my diary" Matthey refused to help a patient place his old fella appropriately for instant bladder relief. "SQNLDR Paterson never showed me how to do that at OHS & TF" she was heard to mutter for days. We’ve also taken a few patients whose problems were beyond our resources to Nairobi on the Trans African L100 Herc. One memorable trip saw LAC Ross "The Boss" MacDonald requiring all of his "diplomatic skills" to have one of our patients admitted after FLTLT Kathleen "I’m on leave" Pyne neglected to give him the referral letter.
That’s about all for now from the "High Fliers", the true sharp end of this Operation.
by FSGT Pete Matthey and CPL Lucy Wong
Well the end is in sight and looking back it’s been quite an experience in more ways than one. Having completed nearly all the courses required for medics in the RAAF the only one I seem to have missed out on is computer literacy and I hope I never have to see another bloody computer again after this stint as Wardmaster. However at least I’ve been able to get on the resus and AME rosters, and along with in house training for the medics and first aid for UNICEF personnel, this has kept my medical hand in.
We’ve both had long leave and it was a great sanity break. Lucy had a great time seeing her other half in Holland and there’s not many rumours with her, just good old Lucy, plodding along. She wants heaps of leave when she gets back and so watch out SHO. Actually "Loose" has been pretty tied up sorting out admissions and discharges which can be a nightmare with names such as Nythunemyaunungi on our books.
We’ve tried pretty hard to get an AME to Rwanda for 3 HOSP but unfortunately it went to the UN medevac charter company. We’ve had a few tactical AME’s over the past few weeks with FSGT...oops, FLTLT Georgie Dohnalek making a good D and not bringing back a bleeding peptic ulcer to AUSMED as she was very unstable, or so he said. The real fact of the matter was that he was also Resus 1 MO on call which would have meant work for him, and besides, he didn’t want to be the first RAAF MO to have a patient die in flight on this operation.
Anyway, we’d better go. We’re all into the 5km runs here and doing BFA, after BFA, after BFA (tell me about it - Ed). We leave for home on the 23 Aug and this will be our last burst. Thanks to everyone at 3 HOSP and other units for the letters and goodies whilst we’ve been here. Believe me it was appreciated by all of us RAAFies here.
by FLTLT Robyn "I have an opinion" Yeo
The ASC2 RAP Mark 1f ormed way back in February and, after a brief handover, we were left to literally fend for ourselves against the hordes of UN military, civilian, NGO, and locals all clamouring for our attention. Our patients were many and varied, ranging from children from the orphanage, newborn babes, soldiers from all of the UN contingents, civilians from the multitude on UN departments and allied organisations, NGO workers (most of whom weren’y taking their anti-malarials - Ed), locals, ex-patriate Belgians, UN contract workers and embassy staff with the odd Aussie thrown in. We saw an incredible range of illnesses including most tropical diseases, HIV, normal cough, colds and sore holes, fractures, stress related illnesses, and the results of MVAs, grenades, and mines.
In mid April, our staff of two ORs, a SGT and myself changed over, but all the patients did was increase their attendance while we tried desperately to arrange our rosters to fit in short and long leave breaks, as well as rotations to Kibeho. The patient numbers rose steadily, peaking at close to 200 per week requiring treatment. Our busiest was 49 consultations in one day, more than 50% of whom did not speak English, requiring a translator and therefore increasing the consultation time markedly. Fortunately we were one of the few departments with it’s own "brew point", which gave us the opportunity to take much needed breaks between patients. It also meant we attracted visitors from other parts of the hospital and also from other companies who came down to our end for a chat.
The work in the RAP is varied, exciting, tiresome, unpredictable, draining, challenging, boring, and frightening. It’s the first port of call for most people seeking treatment and has been the opportunity of a lifetime for the people who’ve worked there. With the final rotation now completed, fellow RAAFie John Harvey and others are at the "sharp end" of the AUSMED Hospital, carrying through our mission until the day we finally say Murabeho/ Au revoir / Goodbye to Kigali and head for home.
by LAC Hayden "Big H" Cohen
Life in the lines has been a true experience. Living 10 per room in the High Density Block with only a metre either side of our bed makes us very nervous, especially after 5 1/2 months away from home! Our main entertainment is on Saturday night when we come back from the boozer and almost anything can happen and usually does in the "Bronx".
Being not able to drive or walk down to the corner store as we do back home, "Jack" rations are in high demand, and so usually as someone opens a pack of chips or Pringles the aroma brings everybody running. So like it or not we all end up sharing, especially at Championship Uno.
Having shift workers and day workers living in the same room causes a few problems at times, especially when you feel hyped up from the day’s or night’s events, so there has been a lot of give and take and more than a few words spoken.
One thing that stands out the most is the mateship you have, whether you’re RAAF, Navy or Army, and the different mannerisms we all have. Despite these, we can all get along and live and work together with all the experience we have, to make this a very memorable operation, and one that will remain in our thoughts for a long time.
How our guys feel on a Saturday night as the grunts make their way home.
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