Herbs To Calais - Day 2

Date: 22/03/2016 Posted by: Dafydd Monks

Fitting in, and understanding. Cultures meet but shared humanity remains.

That'll teach me to write a long blog post on hostel Wifi. I write a long blog post, and hit 'post' only to find a smiley lovely hotel WiFi login page pops up again. And loses my blog post in the process. Thanks. This is an abbreviated version of the first post that I lost.

So, today was a busy day. Quite different to the first. Yesterday we were mainly dealing with infections. Today we had Triage set up a bit better so I at least was mainly getting more serious stuff - though I can't speak for the others, I think it was similar for them.

It's been a long day. Yesterday we were gone from site at 5 when most of the police leave - today we were there till after 6, and still there were a lot of cases coming to us that we had to turn away until the morning. If Yesterday was about dealing with infections, today was injuries. I heard that there was a fight/scuffle with riot police in the night - it shows. Quite a few fresh wounds to dress, and bruises/sprains. Alongside dressing changes. I must have changed 20 dressings today, and seen over 100 patients again myself. Though today was a busier day than yesterday. Can't put that in quantitative terms, but more than a hundred each.

Alongside dressing changes, we also had people suffering with the symptoms of tear gas, and also a couple of bacterial respiratory infections - serious bronchitis or pneumonia in other words. They got referred to the local health care system's feeder clinic with a view to strong antibiotics.

There were two things that made a bigger impact on my today though.

Firstly, we had a young family in our caravan today. Young couple with two young daughters. Nothing serious, but it was the first time that a lady or children had come into our caravan. Now, I've been told I'm borderline sexist for saying this, but I can kind of see / understand young men and older teenagers living in these sort of circumstances. But small children? Ladies? That seems more than wrong. They seemed so genuinely nice. I wasn't their clinician, but while in the caravan with them all I could think was 'how would I feel if this was my wife, these my children?'. The thought is deeply saddening and almost obscene. I'd feel crap is the answer. Because this shouldn't be allowed to happen. But politics can be talked after the fact, at the time, just treatment. They've left more than a mark in my heart.

Secondly, a patient suggested that we take tea and lunch in a newly established Afghan food seller's tent - and we (myself, and three junior doctors) agreed. We were welcomed well into this tent that felt like walking into a cafe in Kabul of Kandahar. We had a lovely meal of spiced Chai - Afghan style - black and sweet, and Shisha pipe to start, followed by a lovely meat curry/stew. God knows what the meat was, but by gum it was nice. Accompanied with a lovely salad and flat breads to mop it up. I was really impressed because the Germans were vegetarian, and the cook was more than happy to make a vegetarian meal for them - spinach, beans and other veg, curried and served with a hearty salad - as the cook said (in an accent) 'Doctorrr need to keep herrrr strength up'. Too true. The meal was lovely - and between us, 4 main courses, 6 flatbreads, 4 teas and the Shisha came to 18 Euros. By gum that's reasonable. If these people ever feel like opening a restaurant, please open it in North Wales. Because I'd be a weekly customer.

Then from the culturally fascinating to the culturally surprising. I'd noticed that a British junior doctor who was working with us as shift leader was wearing a Cardiff medical school rugby shirt. So I mentioned something about Wales, and he asked me where I came from... So I said 'near Bangor'. He then said, 'yes, where', and I said 'near Caernarfon'. To cut a long story short this went on until he found my exact village and said 'ohh, just next to Penygroes?'. I did something similar and found that he came from between Conwy and Colwyn Bay and that I know where he went to school and likely have friends in Common. So then we went Welsh. There I am, sitting in an Afhghan restraunt/tent in the middle of a Migrant camp in Calais, jabbering in Welsh to someone from just down the road.

To bring this back on itself, I asked an Afghan boy why he came here - he said 'I come from small village. Nothing but mountains and goats'. I know where he's coming from because I know where that village is - if you swap goats for sheep. Part of me wonders if these people dream of a greener grass the other side of a line that doesn't exist. Or perhaps it does. All I know is that one lad from a small village meets another. And understands.