As the roosters crow to wake me up just as the sun is beginning to rise, I roll out from under my mosquito net and pull on my skirt and flip-flops. I gather my towel and soap, then go outside to greet the Primary Healthcare Center workers and the field supervisor. One of the healthcare workers has prepared a bucket of water for me, which I take to the bathhouse (a small hut made from palm branches about 4 feet tall) for my morning bath. After my bath, I brush my teeth, making sure to use only bottled water, and then eat some breakfast, usually tea with bread.
By 7am, patients have started to arrive at the clinic and I start to see patients, assessing them by taking their temperature and blood pressure, finding out their signs and symptoms, listening to their heart and lungs, and finding out any other information needed. Along with a field supervisor, I help to diagnose their illness, prescribe medication, and dispense the medication. We also see patients who are present for prenatal care, checking to make sure the baby and mother are healthy. Some days we do free HIV testing, andI have pricked more fingers than I can count to get a blood sample for the test.
If it is a vaccination day, then we get the vaccines from the government, bring them back to the Primary Health Center, and start to fill syringes with all of the different vaccines including yellow fever, measles, pneumococcal, BCG, tetanus toxoid, and dTap. We get all of the children’s height and weight, then sort them into groups based on which vaccine they will receive. Then, we line up the groups and start to vaccinate. The babies all scream, but most of the children are very brave, taking the vaccine without even flinching. When we are done with the children, we vaccinate the pregnant women with the tetanus toxoid.
Once morning consultations and vaccinations are done, we take a break for lunch, often fufu and jama-jama, the staple food of everyone in Cameroon. During the afternoon, we see any more consultations that come to the health center, but not many come because most people are out working on their farms. When there are not many patients, we are able to go to the schools and talk with the children, play games with them and give health talks. We also sometimes explore the village markets and meet lots of different people from the village.
Finally, by around 8:00, we have dinner, often fufu and jama-jama again. We spend time with the healthcare workers, field supervisor, and often members of the healthcare committees, taking time to get to know each other and find out more about the village. By 9:00, we are usually starting to get ready for bed because once it is dark here, pretty much everything is over. By 9:30 or 10, I’m usually setting up my camp bed, and crawling back under my mosquito net to sleep until I hear the roosters crow again.