Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Far North: the tragic story of Dr. Ben Fayçal who died from snake bite


Dr. Fayçal is one of the young doctors who have fallen into the medical profession like an ant in a jar of jam, that is to say, in the middle! This native of Makabaye in the far north, born in 1986, entered the faculty of medicine of Yaounde in 2005 and came out 7 years later (2012) with a doctorate in medicine with honorable mention. He is immediately assigned to a hospital in the Far North in addition to staff. A few months later he was appointed Director of the Poli District Hospital in the Northern Region, which had been abandoned for several years by the former incumbent.

When he arrives at his new post, he finds a bloodless and moribund hospital where there are more goats in the courtyard and the aisles of the hospital than there are patients. The pharmacy of the hospital is almost empty, the beds without mattress, the ambulance has been out of order for 2 years with the 4 flat tires. The hospital is almost deserted. The few nurses present are more shepherds and farmers than carers!

Faced with this almost desperate situation, where some would have fled and asked for a reassignment, Dr. Fayçal decides to take the bulls by the horns. At the same time, he is signaled that his first salary and his "reminder" are available in Yaounde. Dr. Faycal decides not to wait for the arrival of state operating funds in several months. He recovers the entirety of his salary and his "reminder" to put them at the service of the revival of the Hospital. With this money he:

- Repaired the hospital ambulance

- Restocked the pharmacy with essential drugs, among which the antivenom serums for the most frequent snake bites that swarm in the corner.

- Buy some mattresses and essential materials

- Buy a generator for the hospital

- Organize free health campaigns and open days for people to learn to come to the Hospital

- Organize training and retraining sessions for staff to improve their efficiency at work.

After these measures, the success is at the Rendez-vous, patients are starting to flock back to the hospital and Dr Fayçal is working tirelessly to treat them.

But one evening of 03 November 2014, fate will decide otherwise the fate of Dr. Fayçal. That day, he had spent the whole day operating in the operating room, with a total of 3 caesareans and 2 hernias. Around 01:00, he decides to go to rest in his room located near the Hospital. But after 10 minutes, he is called back urgently to operate again! Another caesarean section for 17-year-old Ramatou who has just been referred from a nearby health center. The young Ramatou is accompanied by her mother, and both of them do not have a franc in their pocket. Dr. Faycal decides to operate on credit, hoping (without much belief) that his family can pay the bill after. The operation is going very well and the young Ramatou is driving in a maternity ward with her baby. Dr. Fayçal decides to go to bed once and for all. He needs to recover his strength to start the next day or has planned a door-to-door vaccination campaign to recover all the children who have not been vaccinated since birth.

After 30 minutes of sleep, he is suddenly awakened by a pain in his shoulder. When he presses the switch, he finds that he has just been bitten by a snake! Bravely, Dr. Fayçal is going to get a stick to kill, but especially to identify this snake (to see what kind of antivenom he should receive).He lifts a pillow and finds that this snake is a ... .cobra! Although this cobra raised his head in intimidation, Dr. Fayçal managed to hit him with a stick and kill him.

Afterwards, he runs to the pharmacy to receive an antivenom, but notes that none corresponds to the snake in question. And in the opinion of all, cobras are very rare in the area and this is the first time that many see! He warns his family members and friends of what has just happened to him. While everyone panics he is serene and reassures everyone by laughing and saying "it's okay". He calls the driver of the ambulance and a nurse to accompany him to the Garoua Regional Hospital where one can find perhaps an antivenom for Cobra. The distance between Poli and Garoua is 140 km, but due to the poor condition of the road it takes at least 5 hours! The troop starts immediately the road. But Dr. Fayçal before getting into the ambulance, as a premonition makes a last quick round in the halls and gives instructions to the nurses. In the first part of the journey, Dr. Fayçal speaks and is aware. But 40 km from Garoua, his health deteriorates sharply. He begins to convulse and drool and his limbs stiffen. He comes back at times to consciousness.

The last words he sends to his nurse escort are the following: "Do not forget to take the medicine at the pharmacy for Ramatou and do his dressing well. His family can pay after. " After these words, which are his last, it will only be convulsions and gasps, in front of the general impotence of his companions that Dr. Fayçal will show.

It will give the soul this 04 November 2014 at the entrance to Garoua. And it turned out after it was a useless trip, because neither the Garoua Regional Hospital, nor the Pasteur Center of Garoua, nor any pharmacy in the city held an antivenom suitable for cobra bites!


Reporter: Roger Etoa