Doctors without Borders in Ethiopia: Among the Afar

By Nyla Jo Jones Hubbard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6. ADDIS; GETTING THE BIG PICTURE

The Afar people, despite the heat and primitive lifestyle, did not smell. They washed in the river often, though the women never undressed but instead walked into the water with clothes on and washed modestly beneath their skirts. As the river rose, our medical team began to worry about Schistosomiasis or, as the native staff called it, Bilharziosis, the parasitic disease previously mentioned, that could come from bathing in water which contained the host snails. Vinod wanted to be sure that we would be able to inspect the urine of patients suspected of having the disease since the parasite comes in through the urethra and eventually lodges in the bladder.

I was ill prepared for performing that test as I had only seen pictures of the organism but decided that, like any solid in urine, the organisms should be visible if spun down by gravity in a centrifuge and the sediment viewed under a microscope. The MSF lab kit had contained a hand cranked centrifuge and I caught some urine and set Hammadou and Adais to cranking. Though they took turns cranking madly, laughing as young men do when competing against each other, the gears slipped and we could not get a proper sedimentation. No patient had come forth with the symptoms at that time so I didn’t have to worry yet about being able to find the one celled culprit. I set that problem

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