- And it is the small steps that count. We can only win the small battles, one after the other, and hope that they ultimately culminate in a win, until the next battle begins.
I went back to Battor Catholic Hospital last week. It had been a long time. I walked through the main gates with my family, and for the first time in 14 years retraced my steps from the consulting rooms, through theatre across imaging and to the living area. As a newly minted medical officer, right after my internship, I was privileged to start my growth in these walls. I made that trip hundreds of times during 2 years. And with each trip I grew. With each surgical case, each person I would talk to in the consulting room, each wound I sutured, every incision, every mistake… I slowly matured. I was pampered, in retrospect. There was a family of dedicated doctors, who would not let me face a problem alone. Coming back, and meeting some members of that family, still working away more than a decade later was humbling. The hospital has continued to flourish.
I finished my training in Korle Bu. By the time I started working half of my class was gone. The hospital still did not have enough rooms for the new doctors. I spent my first six months as a doctor, perching like a student with a room mate. I had long days, difficult procedures, experienced the first deaths, made new friends.
We had ended a day in plastic surgery when I met this elderly guy in he theater lobby. I was later to find out that he was the administrator of Battor Catholic hospital. I was introduced to him by the senior colleague I had been assisting. He told me he had worked at Bator before and he loved it. The administrator did not waste time with recruiting. He described a small hospital on the bank of the Volta river, doing big things. There was fully furnished accommodation, additional rural allowance, and a car loan. I was convinced before he left the room that day. He would go on to streamline all the paper work. On the morning of my last day in Korle bu, there was an air conditioned Toyota pick up waiting outside for me. I lugged on my few belongings, and begun my 2 year adventure. They kept all their promises, and gave me the privilege of experiencing what dedication and persistence can achieve. There was a furnished 3 bedroom house waiting for me, they loaned me enough money to buy my first car. Battor convinced me, that one did not need loads of money to be impactful with medical care. They showed me, that it was possible, for a doctor to grow in a supportive cocoon of hospital staff dedicated to this process that enables a shy young man to metamorphose into a doctor who picks a knife, and cuts another human being convinced he is going to help.
I left Battor with a template of healthcare imprinted in my medical consciousness. One of corporate devotion to the vocation of healing. A total commitment to the notion that life is tough, pestilence is real, and that there is no real war won against disease. The doctor has to make each small victory count, because each journey of healing, gets completed with the small steps of observation, diagnosis and strategic planning. And it is the small steps that count. We can only win the small battles, one after the other, and hope that they ultimately culminate in a win, until the next battle begins.
I have tried to find that template, wherever I have gone, during these 14 years that have gone by. Sometimes I have found some components, and partners. Sometimes I have despaired, as the defeats accumulate, and victories disappear. I have tried to find medical family, every where I have gone. Sometimes I have found them, sometimes I have not. I have tried to find a hospital that will treat me with the love and care, that this hospital’s people did. I have tried to find the kind of professional home it became over 2 years. I have not yet found another like that, because such special things happen once in a life time. I needed a professional incubator at that time of my life, it was meant to jumpstart my growth, and launch me on my way. To Dr Gorges, Dr Bijlsma, Mr Amuzu, and all the names that would take over the space of multiple articles. The fire you lit, 14 years ago, still burns.