I never thought that I would see a ghost but recently I’ve begun seeing them. Later I’ll explain it – but it’s a bit of a delicate subject so I’ll approach it delicately and indirectly.
I don’t know if you believe in ghosts – from the above you know that I do now in reality. But seriously people look at you escance if you talk about seeing a ghost. We usually have a short Bible reading around the table after the evening meal and it often leads into a bit of discussion. At that time we were reading slowly through the book of Ecclesiastes and if you know the book at all you probably remember the word ‘vanity’. It occurs five times in the second short verse and another 29 times in the book. So you wonder what it can be talking about. Maybe it’s talking about the shadowy shades of life after death. But no it is talking about the life we all live every day, this side of any shadowy existence. Thus as one of our sons who still lives at home, is a linguist we started looking at how it was translated in some other languages and then looked up the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘Hebel’, like many words in various languages, a word has to be seen in context and has many shades of meaning. The word seems to mean without substance, vapourish, ghostly and things like that. Interestly the Preacher in Ecclesiastes says that life on this planet is the shadowy, passing, ghostly one – the reality is with God!
Most people would say they don’t believe in that rubbish and would even scoff at the reality of life beyond the grave. And then I hear a cricketer say that they are playing this match dedicating it to their friend Phil who died recently. But when they are running up the pitch for their hundredth run they look heavenward and signal to their friend. To be honest I do believe in persons whom I cannot see, and the reality of what is to come. But this isn’t a sermon, it is to tell you about my real contact with ‘ghosts’.
I’m on a new long acting, slow-release medication which I swallow twice a day. After a successful sit in the loo, you can imagine my surprise on looking into the bowl and seeing the same tablet which I had swallowed earlier. When this happened several other times I wondered how much good the tablets could be doing me. No recovery of them was even contemplated. So I started crushing them and swallowing them crushed in jam. They tasted terrible and gave me a very troubled stomach. So a look in Dr Google explained that I was looking at a ‘ghost’ tablet. The medication had been extracted and the frame into which it had been embodied only remained as a ghost. From now on I’ll swallow it whole! If I’d been a physician instead of a surgeon I’d probably have known.
Do you ever watch ‘Morse’ on Television? Have you noticed that the main actor Morse (John Thaw) has a ‘dropped foot’ on the right? As a doctor you tend to spot diseases. And one day I saw this guy standing on the road side.
The gum trees came from Australia.
You can deduce that we are driving on a high plain and in the distance, after a valley unseen for the cloud that fills it, is another mountain range. Going to Jimma from Addis you pass through several mountain range.
The ground looks fertile.
The old man isn’t standing up very straight. His knees are bent and his crutches don’t go up to fit nicely under his arms.
He’s obviously thumbing a ride. I can’t see a house anywhere near, and he is not at a designated bus stop. So I wonder how long he’s waited and to where does he want to go. It’s a long hard walk to any clinic in the area.
Either he’s got a bad medical practitioner who doesn’t know how to set up his crutches correctly or he’s got some nasty orthopaedic problem. His knees are bent; his back is bent over, but if they both were straightened out his crutches would be long way too short. I am most unlikely to know his language as this is a different tribal area. He looks a bit scruffy – see that patch on his knee? He probably has a different scent but most likely BO. I think we could make room for him but the kids would have to be squashed up. We’re in a bit of a hurry, and someone says ‘we’re running late already’. Look carefully – he is human. Wife says ‘well, are you going to give him a ride?’ Should I have?
You can wander through your photos and think different things…..
Why did I take that?
I can’t remember what that was!
Weren’t we stupid to do that.
I wonder where they are now? etc
This photo takes me back over a lifetime of medical practice.
The past…As a first year intern in Adelaide, in the days when specialists were not as plentiful, I was sidelined into being a temporary anaesthetic registrar for six months to cover a shortage. It would be not even an option in this day of many more available people. But it gave me the opportunity to have a hands on experience which has served me well throughout my years of practice as a surgeon. Almost all of my time in Ethiopia I had to give/supervise all of my anaesthetics when I was the surgeon. So for chests and abdomens, orthopaedic and urological procedures the responsibility for the anaesthetic lay with me. Sometimes I even had to unscrub and deal with a problem before getting back to the operation. And tiny babies are a special problem; this boy was vomiting and needed to have his abdomen opened. I was, once the child (everyone knew that he was a boy, in spite of the troubles which politicians seem to have these days!) was properly anaesthetised going to leave the management at the head end to a cleaner. The length of the trachea in which the tube had to stay was only a couple of centimetres long – if it moved up he couldn’t be breathed for; if it went in too far, one of his lungs and maybe even one and a half of his lung capacity would be blocked off! I can remember my years of specialist surgical training; I can remember leaving my parents and siblings for a life in a land with, to me, a variety of unknown languages and a totally different culture.
The present….Here was the first born son a young family whom they had watched for a couple of weeks as he vomited everything they fed him and they were afraid that he would die. They were unsure if they could trust this young foreign white man, in their eyes an infidel. But they came and all their hopes were hanging on this moment.
The future…He survived and they were very, very happy. But here I have to let my mind float away into the ether. What sort of education did he get; is he married; did he become a good boy and make wise choices; is he a blessing or a curse to those around him. But that is the future of every patient you treat – some you get to follow and know, others are just passing in the night. Do you wonder why I like looking at the photos on my computer?
I spent the last years of my working life in the University at Arba Minch. The city has a population of more than 200,000. The University has more than 40,000 enrolled students. I went there as the medical students were about to enter their clinical years. They were not ready to receive students in the hospital but we had to do so!