Dr Djada’s Assignment Report
Assignment Report of Dr Djibrine Atim Djada Ophthalmologist - OPC’s representative in Chad.
Mission: Mobile Ocular Surgery Unit, (l’Unité Mobile de Chirurgie Oculaire - UMCO) Ocular health centre, Hababa Kouago Regional Hospital of Mongo, Guéra Province.
We left N’Djamena at sunrise in the OPC’s 4x4, fully loaded with; an operating microscope, instruments, sterilisers, medication, food, as well as our belongings for the 15 day mission… and not forgetting the 6 people on board, including: myself, two specialist ophthalmology nurses (Adoum and Mahamat), the driver (Oumar) and a trainee nurse (Djimet).
It will take us 8 hours to travel the 380 km, as after we pass Bokoro, our journey will be plagued with potholes, corrugated iron and frequent punctures…
Works starts at sunrise. Whilst some members of our team prepare the operating theatre, I assess the consultation room. Despite the early start, there are already 30 patients waiting for me, who have been selected over the course of the previous weeks. Two of them are not operable. I suggest complimentary examinations for three others and I agree to operate on the rest during the course of the day.
I begin my first operation at 10a.m. Today, my operating schedule allows only 12 operations. I start by making a small incision on the side of the eye to remove the nucleus of the lens which has become opaque. Then I insert a synthetic lens. The operation lasted less than an hour!
Whilst this is happening, our two nurses take care of patients suffering from trichiasis in the ‘minor surgery’ room: they will operate on 20 on the first day… Although we finish operating at 19:45 there is still more to do, we still have to examine all those selected for surgery tomorrow!
I start by giving a follow-up exam to those who were operated on yesterday. It’s time for the first dressing, there’s a big smile from the patients when they see the faces of those around them for the first time after months of being blind. This is the moment I enjoy the most. Patients who show no worrying signs can leave the hospital; we give them eye drops and tell them to come back for a check-up in the next few days.
Then we return to the operating theatre until the evening. Everyone knows the programme: 14 cataracts and 18 trichiasis operations throughout the day. If we keep to the schedule we will reach our goal!
The following 10 days
The same schedule is repeated day in day out. Only the patients change. Throughout the day, tiredness sets in. You just have to grit your teeth and continue to work without complaining. The nights seem too short. The heat is almost unbearable… and there’s no air conditioning in the operating theatre!
The day before our departure, the accounts are closed: we have operated on 158 cataracts and 162 trichiasis, and examined more than 800 people…Objective reached! However, we will have to return, as there are still many others whose vision is being threatened by cataracts and trichiasis.