J from Tales from the Hood sure knows how to cheer a girl up. By sending her a story about someone bragging about participating in a non-consensual sterilization in Tanzania!
Now, this is not some big well known person, and there are lots of stupid people on the internet, posting about doing lots of terrible things. So why does this warrant a post? Well, maybe, because J felt the need to "share the love" with me, and now I want to share it with you, so we can stare open-mouthed together. But also, because even though this is just one guy posting about doing stupid things in developing countries, I think his mindset is reflective of a far more common, and deeply damaging, mindset in aid workers: "We're here to help. Therefore, we're helping." And also: "We know better than the poor people (after all, they are poor, and we are not)." Neither of those are true, as J and others have meticulously documented. So, into the meat of our story.
The blog's author, Erik, is a doctor working in a village in Tanzania. A Tanzanian doctor comes to his house at 9 pm, asking for help:
"Hello Dakatari, come on in." We never used each others name. Only Daktari. It's how it is done. The challenge was to use it in every single sentence.The woman needs a C-section, and the Tanzanian doctor has an injured hand, so can't perform the surgery himself. Eric is hesitant since OBGyn isn't his specialty, and he hasn't performed a C-section in 20 years, but he ultimately agrees. The patient's health takes a turn for the worse during the operation:
"Daktari, I wonder if I could beg a little help from you this evening. We have a little bit of a problem, Daktari."
"Happy to help, Daktari. What's up?"
"Daktari, a woman has come in to the clinic tonight. She is pregnant and has been in labor for two full days. She has been with the village Traditional Healer for the whole day."
The Traditional Healer. Say no more. Straight away I knew this was not going to go well. Each village had a Traditional Healer/Witch Doctor who practiced ancient arts of medicine. These techniques included ritual skin cutting, herbs and randomly placed sticks through punctures. I'm sure that many of their methods worked, but the only ones we ever saw were the ones that didn't. In those cases the patients would be dragged to our hospital as a last resort. They were usually in septic shock, nearly dead or horribly late for treatment like our Sunday night patient.
"How's it going up there, doc?" I asked. Everyone who wasn't a Daktari, I called doc. It was simpler.They begin CPR:
"Hmmmmmm..........." I thought he didn't understand my English. I spoke slower.
"How is she doing, doc?"
"Hmmmmmmm...................Well, Daktari, maybe she is not breathing. I cannot be sure," he said without an ounce of panic. I thought: that's a little nonchalant for what he's talking about.
"Daktari, the epidural injection must have gone too high and paralyzed all her nerve function," I said as I started doing chest compression over her sternum.. I heard a rib crack with a loud POP under my hand and I winced.
"Yes Daktari. I believe that is correct," said Dr. M. She is a young woman and this is her fifth baby. She has a good heart."
Fifth baby, I thought. Holy shit. All I could think of was five orphans.
"C'mon, cmon," I said to no one in particular, "this cannot go down like this."