December 15, 2013
I returned to America just before Christmas and now with the holidays behind me, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my time spent in Cameroon. After my last post, which detailed my time spent in Elemughong, I returned to Njinikom for my final two weeks in Cameroon. I was happy to return to Njinkom, the dirt road leading up to the hospital feeling so much less foreign than when I had first arrived. More than anything, seeing familiar faces made me feel like I was “home,” and what’s more, I had arrived just in time for a lunchtime bowl of fish stew made by Hilda in the canteen. Sitting down in the canteen looking out over the hospital grounds and the valley below felt good; the kind of good that is more like a sense of calm, a calm that comes with a return to normalcy. After being removed from the hospital grounds for a while and then coming back, I realized I had grown comfortable there and that I had laid down some roots. It certainly wasn’t difficult to do, because the nuns and staff were always so friendly and hospitable.
Over the next two weeks I spent most of my time shadowing in the operating theatre, observing a variety of surgeries, mostly orthopedic in nature. I also made another trip to the small and remote village of Ngwah. Philemon and I went there to collect some data from the community health workers and to advise them on some new methods of data collection for the coming year. On the way back we got caught in a storm and had to wait for nearly half the day before the rain passed and the roads cleared up. This experience served to highlight the difficulties in infrastructure and transportation that so often confound even the best laid plans in Cameroon. During that week, I also was able to take a day trip to St. Martin de Porres Hospital’s sister hospital in the town of Shisong, several hours away. While there I was greeted by the same kind of cleanliness and order that pervades Njinikom’s hospital. The Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis always run a tight ship and the fruits of their labor are obvious. Shisong’s hospital boasts one of the most advanced cardiac centers in the country, a facility that performs approximately 200 open-heart surgeries each year. Njinkom and Shisong are the two flagship hospitals that are run by the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, and their partnership with Medicines for Humanity has allowed them to expand their outreach by establishing satellite clinics in some of the more remote villages in the area.
During my final weekend in Cameroon I came down with typhoid fever and therefore the decision was made to change my flight and send me home five days early. That decision was made out of caution and not necessity, however the ensuing abruptness of my departure was rather disorienting. I was able to say my goodbyes, but I don’t think I was entirely ready to leave. The place is special and the people even more so and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to live and work in Njinikom, Cameroon.
It’s clear to me that the Tertiary Sister’s of St. Francis provide vital services to the communities they serve, and that the support they receive from Medicines for Humanity has had a tremendously positive impact on the northwest region of Cameroon. Together, they provide life-saving health services for the children and their families here. I look forward to returning to Njinikom someday, hopefully with the ability to contribute more substantively to the important work that the Sisters and MFH do there.
About the author: Drew Fink is a graduate of University of Wisconsin where he was a pre-med student. He travelled to Cameroon to do a 3 month internship at the St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Njinikom.
The hospital is managed by MFH in-country partner Sr. Xaveria Ntenmusi and the Tertisary Sisters of St. Francis – Cameroon. These are entries from Drew’s journal about his experiences in Cameroon.