03 December 2010

the boyscout

We first met when he was a medical student in his final year maybe six, eight years ago. He came to me for help with translating his references for an application to work at an A&E hospital in Israel. A cheerful young man with a long ponytail, freckles and a loud laugh. He showed me snapshots of his first child. 
Over the years I translated several of his reports on disaster medicine and triage for publication in expert journals, he showed me snapshots of more children and one day the ponytail was gone. Still, always the laugh, the jolly voice, so many ideas.
Earlier this year there was a story in the local paper about him working for several months with a medical team in Haiti.
Yesterday he stood there at the back door of the institute, freezing in the snow, smoking.  

How was Haiti?
You have no idea, not even if you try to imagine hell.
(Another cigarette.)
But that was nothing compared to Pakistan.
When did you go there?
Just back. We set up a couple of support networks, tried to anyway.
What next?
Benin, next week. Worst flooding in decades, 600,000 people affected, cholera...
What about your family? Children? Xmas?
I never tell them until 24 hrs beforehand. Otherwise there is too much grief.

(Another cigarette.)
So, what are your plans for the future?
This is the future. I can't stop now. 
Your children? Your wife?
Do you know how many dead and dying children I have seen in the last year? 
It's like a drug. Or worse, maybe.
No laughter this time.

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