Jimma – a city of Ethiopia

The road which we walked from our home to town or to the hospital. Before we got onto the asphalt there was about 400 metres of dirt or mud depending on the season
Our little local shop. Muhammad was a lovely guy and became a friend.

The administrative parts of the University were well built. The hospital was an old Mission Hospital and not up to date or adequate.
The tea room for the University staff was very pleasant. The one for hospital workers was very different!
The hospital doctors tea area, as seen from sitting at one of the chairs.
There was much building being undertaken, including a new hospital. It is now, about 12 years after its planned opening, being used. There were many large hurdles which had to be surmounted..
While we were in Jimma there was a period of Christian persecution. About 90 Orthodox or Protestant churches and many of the Christians’ homes were burnt down. We were living in a rented home on the town church compound and hundreds of people fled and were housed on the compound.
At Jimma we found and adopted our seventh child! He’s now much taller than Robin.
This was taken the day the first 4 doctors were granted their postgraduate surgical certification. From left to right : One of the graduating surgeons – he was very capable but very hot-tempered and the last I knew he had be ‘shifted sideways’ for threatening to kill the medical director; An Egyptian surgeon on staff; another of the graduates – after further training he is now a pediatric cardiac surgeon in Addis Ababa (he did further training in Israel and Melbourne); a graduate who with further training is now a plastic surgeon in Jimma; a girlfriend; a graduate who has worked in Africa but outside Ethiopia; me; a doctor in postgraduate training who has now his certificate and has started his own private hospital; a hanger-onerer!

Dominic Cartier

Some aspects of University Years in Arba Minch

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!

In my time we had to take the Hippocratic Oath, which I’m sure would be impossible to take these days with abortion, euthanasia, sex change operations. At Arba Minch they had a commitment called ‘Passing the Light.’
There were a number of ex-patriots mainly Indian subcontinent or from the Philippines. There were only two Caucasians. I was the only one involved in training doctors. Thus for a while as they came to clinical years thy found my accent difficult.
Every morning we discussed the emergency admissions from the the previous day, deaths and the operations performed. Because of the way we divided the students for teaching there were 60-75 people packed into a small room. As you can see above there was no room between the front row of participants and the people leading. You can see the data projector hanging from the roof on a little platform attached by rope.
This is looking up at the ceiling. The mark on the wall is bird poop, and the tin roof without a ceiling made it very difficult during the rainy season.
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Robin and I shipped across a ship container of stuff to make the system workable even though not perfect. You are looking at a large part of my superannuation!
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There were other lectures to be given also. These were presented in the University grounds in much better facilities which had been prepared for the preclinical years.
If you let your eyes wander you can see the level of furnishings in the wards. There was one X-ray box for the whole hospital, so the light coming through the windows did the job. There was no radiologist to report on the X-rays.
But a University enrollment of 40,000 makes for a big graduation ceremony. Not all faculties graduated on the same day.
Terrorism either as anti-government protests or as a means of getting the attention of those in charge occurred, although thankfully not all that commonly.
But the purpose of training medical students is treat patients and we had an endless supply of them!

Dominic Cartier

A snippet from my book…

Taken from the front veranda of our home – living in retirement!

I am, I guess, getting a bit lazy with the hot, muggy weather and the aging process. So what I am doing today, and may continue to do for a while, is posting a segment of Chapter 20 from my book ‘Have Scalpel Will Travel.

The chapter is entitled ‘A Different Culture’. I was working on a Mission Station as a Surgeon, which was a full time job. But soon I discovered that people had to be assessed and treated taking into account different things. One of these was their religion. For instance i) the dietary requirements can cause real problems treating a post operative case during Ramadan or ii) the strong religious commitment of some created unwillingness to be seen for examination particularly by a foreign infidel iii) There was a very high incidence of low large bowel obstruction due to volvulus and in treating this certain procedures, of necessity, needed the creation of a colostomy. This stopped them going into the mosque to pray. Sometimes they chose to die, although with experience we were able to reduce the incidence of needing a colostomy. This led to one of my areas of disagreement with the Surgical Department in Addis. I am delighted that my way has won the day all over Ethiopia by this time. As seen in the picture below patients, they often presented with infected burns on their abdomens – burnt to try and drive out the evil spirits causing the problem. Or often the patient had drunk the blood of an animal sacrificed to appease the spirits causing the problem. These last two situations were seen because of the animist background of the community.

My book is an ebook, presented through Smashwords. The author is Barry Hicks and you’ll have to decide if this article or the ebook is written under a pseudonym. It is easily found on internet by typing in Smashwords.com Have Scalpel Will Travel. Memoirs of an Older Surgeon. It’s cheap and I think an interesting read; you may or may not agree on that! There are no gruesome pictures, although I have many!

Continue reading “A snippet from my book…”

Facing Farming Problems

I grew up on a sheep farm in the Adelaide Hills. During WWII, while dad was away in the army, my mother, brother and I lived with her parents on their sheep farm. We had pet sheep. They were rescued, bottle fed and then for months hung around the place. Even later they would run up to you when they had been placed back in the flock, treating you like their brother! Dipping, shearing, crutching, tailing, castrating the little males was all part of the richness of growing up on the farm.

Life took us into a different stream when Dad came home from the war and my parents moved into a country store and post office that they purchased. It was in the same district as my grandparents so I had times of helping on the farm until education and then job situations took me away from the store, the farm and the area.

Later I had bought a little farm of my own for one of our sons to live on and look after. It was small and was an after hours job for him and his family. When I retired from Ethiopia, aged 78, we moved onto the farm. Now we are trying to make it work as a small sheep farm. That son still lives on the farm as does our youngest adopted son. So, due to a few problems of aging I’m really a watcher as my wife and the boys make things work. Both the boys have other jobs but we manage somehow. We have chosen to have dorper sheep as they don’t need to be shorn which for our small crop would be financially a major loss. So we are into the market for meat. Now we come to the problems: –

  • Dingoes – protected animals – live in the area. They can dig and jump but don’t do so often, and we have scores of wallabies that they can chew on. Nevertheless we have put in high quality fences both in an attempt to stop them getting in and the sheep, which sometimes think like goats, from getting out! So far we have not had problems although we have seen dingoes in the area.
  • Sadly we have had to have our two beautiful dogs put down as they developed a taste for meat and killed one lamb. Having developed the taste we couldn’t take the risk.
  • Eagles look and are majestic. We have, besides the fellow pictured at the bottom of the page, a couple of wedge tail eagles living in a tree overlooking the sheep. We have lost one lamb that we suspect as being taken by them.
  • One lamb was still born.
  • So from 12 ewes we’ve had 10 lambs but only 7 are surviving.
Flying high – watching carefully below!
The sheep shed(verb) their wool and they don’t look very pretty.
They used to love sitting at the window watching for a chance, so I guess it was going to happen. But I miss them heaps.

Dominic Cartier.

More Ethiopian Proverbs

Following on from yesterday’s post, here are several more Ethiopian proverbs from the list my wife laid on my desk…

  • A mouse that wants to die goes to sniff the cat’s nose.
  • When spiders’ webs unite they can tie up a lion.
  • A house can’t be built for a rainy season that is past.
  • The person who grew up without correction shall find his mouth slipping instead of his foot.

No explanation comes with them but I think the meanings are pretty universally understood. I just imagined, after maybe a family evening dinner or sitting around a BBQ on the weekend, putting them up for a family discussion. Sadly our kids are all grown up and flown the coop, but with them as late pre-teens or teenagers I think we could have had some interesting discussions.

If you try it let me know how it goes.

Dominic Cartier