A hospital visit was always going to be ‘on the cards’ for me. I wanted to go and see what facilities there were there, and also to see what (if anything) we could do to help. It’s easy, I know, to say that ‘we are keen to help’ from the rather exalted position that we are in – in Kiwi Base – because we have everything we can possibly need and on top of this there is always the capability of being able to ‘call in’ an aircraft to transport a really unwell case to the American Hospital at Bagram Air Force Base. Here, the local population do no have this facility and so we at KB are keen to provide whatever we can to assist the local medical and health services. As it is now getting extremely cold, with the temperature today at minus 15 degrees, this would appear to be an ideal time to visit and take some of the many bags of woollen gear and toys that folk from NZ have sent over here to present to the local patients and their, usually, mothers. Who better to visit the hospital with than the Padre,

Steve Clarke (Chief petty Officer) and Allan Kelly (administration Officer here at the camp). The three of us have been involved in a lot of visits to various schools and health clinics around this region and so it was with pleasure that we visited the Bamyan General Hospital. Having said that these three guys have been all very tolerant of my energies in wanting to dash off and see things. I have this sort of ‘places to go – people to see’ and ‘not here to foxtrot with spiders’ mentality. In the wagon and off we go to the hospital. Through the gates, part the vehicle and we walk to the director’s office. Well, Padre and Allan and I walked, but Steve is a navy man and he walked like he was on a shop in a storm, swirling from side to side in the corridors. A quick meeting with the Hospital Director, Sarjo Kanji (who is from The Gambia in Western Africa), and then it is ‘off’ to the paediatric wards to see the kids.

Son, Father, Padre, Doc, alan, Steve, Hospital Manager

Up the stairs we go – there are shoes lining the entry door as we go in. The management do not require us to take off our shoes, but I am rather embarrassed about this as the locals do and so, I feel, we should but Sarjo says ‘no need’ so we don’t. Through and under a rug hanging over the door, it is starting to get quite cold outside during the day now and the barriers to the weather are gradually going up in the community. The smell of the halls, as we go into the wards, is of smoke from the coal- fired heaters in all the rooms and wards. In to the ‘acute baby room’.

One of the nurses in the ward

Mothers are with their kiddies, and immediately they turn away – as is their custom when men walk into a room. We give dolls and knitted woollen booties out to the babies, wherever possible, or their mothers. Long time since I did this for my children so I struggle a bit to undo the bow around ‘the feet’ part of the booties – much mirth amongst my compatriots. The mothers accept the gifts in silence. Occasionally one or two smile and say ‘tashikor’ (thank you), but mainly they respond with an expressionless face and take the clothes or dolls and put them by their babies or children. Some cover up their faces and turn away from us. We expect this, as this is what happened the first day that I came into the hospital a few months ago. For all this, however, we realise that our gifts are indeed needed and valued.

'How do I put these on?'

In to the next ward and the same thing happens – we walk around the beds – 15, of which none are empt. A doctor is doing a ward round. He speaks English and does not mind us bustling through. I stop to chat with him. He was educated in Kabul, and he stops to tell me a little of the illnesses as we pause over a kiddie who has pneumonia, and malnutrition. The doc says that the main diseases are these two conditions, plus diarrhoea – the latter in summer and the former two in winter. Logical really. He is OK with us going around giving the children toys.

Mothers and their babies

 

Interpreter Baby whose mother died and Grandmother

I stop by the bed of a woman who has her face partially covered. I ask the doc what is wrong and why is the child in the ward. He says that the child’s mother died in childbirth (in Afghanistan the maternal mortality rate approximates 25%) from haemorrhage, and that the woman with the child in his  grandmother. The woman lives at Yakawlang which is a long way away – 4-6 hours due East by vehicle. She is so far away that there was no chance of preventing any calamity and this is obviously what occurred. Fortunately the child is a boy, says the doc, as girl children do not get much of a ‘look in’. I look at the child again, and he is very pale – probably he has anaemia due to his mother bleeding to death.

Ra giving a doll

Meeting the Paediatric Staff

We finish giving our gifts and feel the better for it. The ward-manager says to us how happy he is because of what we have done, so perhaps we did something good today. Whilst toys are rather a ‘little thing’ to give … I think that they meant something to us, also, in giving them on behalf of our country-folk back home in NZ.