sexta-feira, 31 de dezembro de 2010

My Club - part 2


To finish this story I will tell you about the one that really caught my heart, the one that made me smile more often and for sure the one that I miss the most, more than 1 year after I left Congo .

Dorika, my sweet DorikaI believe he was 5 years old, and was among the many children that “lived” in the surgical ward…. He was there because his father was one of the long-stay patients that we had on our ward. A couple of weeks after I arrived in Masisi--Congo, my boss asked to talk to me in private … to explain us some important facts about a patient that he was going to get from the “enemy” of the Congolese Army. His name was Sikito Emanuel (Dorika´s Father) and he was Rwandese and one of the soldiers of the FDLR…. If I would explain you the complexity of the Congo´s war it would take me many written pages, and for sure you would still be confused… Anyway, just a few interesting facts, and I will never try to get very political in my writings, as I am only a Doctor whose job is to treat and save lives, but one needs to understand what we are dealing with… The story of this war in Congo basically starts in 1994 in Rwanda, when the majority of the Rwandese designated by the Europeans, as Hutus, 90% of the Rwandese population, decides to kill the other 10% that have been ruling the country, the Tutsi. During give or take 3 months, they killed, slaughtered… committed genocide,…… using not much more than machetes, 1 million people from the 7 million total Rwandese population at the time (I know !! more than 10%.... and for sure not all the Tutsi, as they are still there… complicated). The Hutu movement was led by a revolutionary force called the Interahamwe, which are blamed as the group responsible for the genocide…. 1 million people with (very delayed) help of the international community the genocide was controlled and the guilty ones persecuted, and so the Interahamwe escaped …. Where to???? Congo, the green amazing mountains of Congo, an already totally fucked up country, is the perfect place to hide and resist to the yet Tutsi power … so the Interahamwe are still in Eastern Congo (in the area where I was), heavily armed, highly trained, and still very motivated to get inside their country once again. That’s why they called themselves lately FDLR, Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, which brings me back to Sikito Emanuel… and my boss’s private conversation! My boss told me and the Surgeon that an FDLR soldier was about to come to the hospital, with a gunshot wound … Its tough to deal with this issues like Doctors Without Borders (DWB/MSF) do….. we either treat everybody or nobody, either we treat all sides of the conflicts or none…. MSF stands for the human lives… and no matter the color, political views or religious beliefs, our devotion will be the same, and it´s very important, not only that we act like that, but also that people know that we act like that…. Meaning, our mission is not to interfere, our mission is to save lives, and if one side of the conflict wants to be treated by MSF, they have to know that the other sides will also be treated in the same hospital as equals…. this is very difficult to accomplish as you can imagine, because you can never please everybody and they will always say that you are helping the enemy! So the Congolese Army would try to prevent MSF from treating the rebels, but my boss made it very clear that, sick or injured will always be seen as equals in the hospital. In fact my boss made extra efforts to reach to rebels areas (as you can read in my story Zone Rouge so everybody knows that MSF, doesn’t support any side of the conflict! But in the hospital Sikito and others would try to avoid talking too much, not to be spotted by the Army, because It could happen that the soldiers would arrest him with guns in the hospital, even though it´s forbidden by the Geneva Convention (who cares about that in the middle of Africa?!), or they would arrest him the minute he left the hospital… They spoke a different language, in the case of the FDLR was Kinyarwanda (language spoken in Rwanda but not in Congo).

So you can understand the emotional pressure that we lived in the hospital. As far as I know, only me, my boss and the surgeon knew about the fact that he was an FDLR, nobody else in the hospital knew about it … Someone could have suspected though!

So Sikito had a fracture of his femur caused by a Kalashnikov bullet during the conflicts, but worse than the fact that he had like 10 cms of bone missing was the infection of the bone. He came days/weeks after being shot and for that reason that is very, very hard to treat if possible at all…. So Sikito was alone in the hospital, lying down all the time, talked to nobody and went many times to the operation room to clean his horrible bone infection…. He arrived very dehydratated and weak, could hardly speak…. and despite the infection itself was not getting any better, his general condition became much better…. was slim but strong, with big expressive eyes, shy but with a warm smile…. we could speak some words of English (in Rwanda, French and English are the official European languages)… And would give us an enormous smile to the “How are you?” question, with a convincing “I am fine!”

After many days his wife and kid came! And Sikito looked quite happy because of that, maybe he was risking his life and his family´s lives, because all of them were Rwandese and Dorika, probably born in Congo, couldn’t speak Swahili, just Kinyarwanda….
So Dorika, became part of the many kids of my daily life…. And he immediately caught my eye. He was very sweet and easy going…. always smiling like no other, and extremely active…. running and playing under the beds…. He became crazy about me and I for him….He would run to me the moment he saw me in the morning….. and loved my tricks…. when I lifted him up in the air he would go wild and always excited for going higher and higher…. He was nice for the other kids and even though he couldn’t speak with them, I could see that he was getting along with the other small fellows just great….

Sikito, his wife and Dorika stayed in the hospital until the day they I left and still his infection didn’t look like it was going anywhere, but we had hope and were very devoted not to amputate him…. So, for like 3 months there was not a single day that I didn’t played with Dorika, he was mad about my glove balloons, and sometimes I went with him for a short walk around the hospital… They are sooooo easy, they just come and enjoy the moment with no fears or doubts … one of the sweetest memories that I have of him was the way he spoke…. Probably because kids learn very fast, Dorika was able to learn some Swahili meanwhile I could say just a few words … that of course I used all the time….
In Swahili, they use a lot “Pólé Pólé” which means “slowly”, and represents in a way the African style…. So, sometimes I would go for that short walk with Maria on my lap (that couldn´t walk with the platter) and holding Dorika´s hand … but Dorika wanted to go always faster and faster….so I was always repeating “Pólé Pólé Dorika” and he would repeat it in the sweetest way without pronouncing the “L”, something like …. “Póié Póié” !! And I would repeat it just to hear him say it!! The same would happen with the: “Habari gani?” (How are you?) “Muzuri” (Good)…. But Dorika´s version of the “Muzuri” was once again the sweetest thing….”Muzuii”… Just some small and stupid things to explain the love that I have for this child.

But one day my world collapsed!!! Well, I am exaggerating…. But when I saw Dorika with a long green dress…. I was a bit shocked, and thought to myself... I understand that this is Africa and they are extremely poor, with barely no cloths for their kids or themselves, but to dress a young boy with a long and strong green dress, is a bit too much!!!” I guess it was my “macho latino” perspective that considered outrageous dressing a young boy like that, that could maybe cause him a huge psychological trauma for the rest of his life!But despite my anger, another thought crossed my mind: “Is it possible that my brave and wild young friend is a girl???” kids shave their hair, sometimes even adult women, for hygienic purposes, so it´s hard to tell…. and he acted like a boy as far as my instinct goes…. I was very wrong!!! He was a she!! I asked the nurses and they confirmed!! My sweetest boy was a girl! So many times playing with her and I couldn’t tell…. I guess I was a bit disappointed, for stupid reasons, of course!! Well, my great relationship with her didn’t change a bit, in fact it grew and grew day by day, and my love and admiration for this brave young girl was just getting too strong… A day came when I decided to give all the kids some key chains, that my sister gave me, with the word Portugal on it, and like every other thing that you would give them, it made them extremely happy, even though that key chain was completely useless to them… They were happy and I was becoming sadder, while my departure day was approaching… I always imagined that I would go to the hospital right before I leave to give everybody a warm goodbye…. But when the day came, I just couldn’t….. I guess that’s why I was there, the attraction for strong feelings, but some are just too hard to handle, too intense…. these kids that I wrote you about, specially Dorika, were the biggest reason why I didn’t say goodbye to anybody of the hospital, that became my life for 4 months…. the thought of looking at them for the last time was breathtaking! I had no idea what kind of thoughts those kids had about these strange white people that were there in their country…. but I didn’t want them to see me crying with no possibility of saying anything to explain… It was extremely difficult to arrive in Congo and to adapt to life in a war zone…. But leaving it was much more difficult and painful!

These kids, My Club, are the reason why I had to write, and tell you about some of my intimate feelings, and a reality hard to handle, but that cannot be forgotten as we, Human beings, are all the same….

And now in my European comfort I ask myself, where is this amazing kid that caught my heart and whose life story tells us a bit about the complexity of the worst war that we are leaving in our planet since World War II?

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