The Ugly Side of Life

In Fatima we have had a spate of burglaries, this is obviously very distressing for people. Poverty is such that replacing stolen belongings can be very difficult if not impossible for some people. It is common for Malawians to take justice into their own hands (mob rule). Being suspected of a crime is enough for an individual to be beaten to death.

On Wednesday at 3 am I was woken to the sound of a mob outside my bedroom window, the noise of 30+ people baying for blood is terrifying and something I will not forget for a long time. I opened the curtain to see what was obviously someone being beaten, the mob had clubs, sticks and one had an axe. I stood paralysed for a few moments, I then called my housemate and we tried to decide what to do. We went onto the front porch and tried to shout at the mob, they obviously didn’t listen but one of the medical officers from the hospital who was trying to restrain them told us they had found the thief and they were going to take him to the police. They tied the young man up and marched him towards the hospital. I will never forget that young mans’ look of terror and they marched him past my door. On the way to the hospital the Administrator heard the noise and came out with his gun. He fired into the mob to try and disperse them, this had little effect and the beating continued. By this time they had stripped him naked and the mob was growing my the minute. Another tutor joined him and together they managed to prevent the crowd from killing him. The police were called but were reluctant to come until the administrator told them a police vehicle was being damaged, they then arrived within minutes.

The boy was 17 years old and a known psychiatric patient. He had gone to the guards at the hospital and started throwing stones, he had shouted that he was a thief, his dad forced him to do it and he didn’t want to do it any more. In fact he was not a thief, his father never made him do anything he was delusional and had not been taking his medication. He was well know in the village and at the hospital, someone in that mob must have known but they didn’t care they just wanted revenge for a crime the boy didn’t commit. A similar thing happened, again to an innocent man, about 6 months ago. As yet no action had been taken against any of those involved so I am not hopeful that anything will happen this time.

The whole experience made me feeling very emotional, many of the mob were students that I teach, how could these people that have become my friends do this? I spent quite some time on Thursday crying and I am left feeling very, very sad.


A Life Saved


Monday started like any other Monday, 7.30 morning report followed by ward round. I enjoy the ward round, it is a great learning experience for me and I like to think I am a bit of help to the medical officer (pro-active nurses are few and far between here in Malawi). As soon as we got onto the ward the first thing that hit us was the stench – gangrene, there is nothing like it and once smelt never forgotten. It catches you in the back of the throat and I was struggling not to vomit but my Dad’s words came flooding back “mind over matter” and I managed to stay for the whole consultation (even the medical officer did the consultation from the door of the side room). I asked if this elderly gentleman was going to theatre today to have his leg amputated. I was informed that they still needed to do some tests such as checking his blood group and checking his Hb. I pointed out that he was clearly going to die if we didn’t do something quickly. “Hmmm” said the medical officer


The following morning my colleague went to morning report, she came back to me saying there is an old man who needs his leg amputating but his Hb is 4.8 and they wont operate without him being transfused but the hospital does not have any blood. The medical officer says he is going to die! I felt so cross, to lose a life for the sake of a unit of blood is ridiculous. I am sure those who know me well can imagine me marching off to the ward; thrusting my arm at the medical officer and saying take my blood! Well, that is what I did, assuring him that I am O negative (for those who don’t have a medical background that means that anyone can have my blood). A few test later, mum, you will be pleased to know that I don’t have syphilis, HIV or hepatitis, and a unit of blood was donated. I then carried my blood, still warm, to the ward and watched until the transfusion was started (I wanted to make sure there were no delays). Two hours later the 89 year old man was on his way to theatre. Two hours after that he was returning to the ward minus the offending leg. I obviously followed his progress quite keenly; I had a lot invested in this man. I am delighted to report that he is doing really well, and should be on his way home shortly.


Following my donation, my colleague and some Dutch student nurses that we have at Trinity at the moment also decided to donate, all of their blood has now been used. I have donated many times in the past but have never seen first hand what that pint of blood means to someone else. It was an amazing feeling; that man would have died for the want of a pint of bloodImage