Jul 21, 2013 - Travel    3 Comments

Dr. Nat’s final patient in Africa

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the downsides of being the wife of a wildlife photographer – being left at home alone while the wildlife photographer visits remote locations photographing rare beasts. However, I didn’t mention the perks. The main perk is that from time to time comes an opportunity to join in on one of these trips.

Wildlife photographers tend not to pick typical holiday destinations for their work, as rare beasts don’t enjoy busy tourist hotspots. One of the things I love about these trips is that you get to see and do things that tourists wouldn’t necessarily be able to do, for example accompanying researchers or gaining access to restricted areas… Another great perk is that as wife of a wildlife photographer, you get some pretty cool shots of yourself in these places.

I was given a one-year sabbatical from my job in the UK, but only an 11-month contract at St Francis Hospital. It was time to join Will on his adventures.

Read on…

Jul 7, 2013 - General    2 Comments

Goodbye St. Francis…

It turns out that a year is not very long at all… and just like that, my time at St Francis Hospital has come to an end.

But what a year it has been… and I decided it should go out with a bang.

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Jun 10, 2013 - Medical Talk    3 Comments


As my time in Zambia draws to a close, I’m starting to feel an ache at the thought of leaving. I can’t imagine not being surrounded by the colour and vibrance of day-to-day African life anymore, and I can’t imagine not spending my days amongst everyone I have come to know and care about at St Francis Hospital.

The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Whilst the current bunch at St Francis Hospital may not have changed the world, her quote still resonates. Of late I have been stealing moments to look around me at work… and as we clear through a packed outpatient clinic or attend to a ward emergency with the smoothness of a well-oiled machine despite all the challenges of a rural African hospital, I wonder if there’s anything we couldn’t do as a team if we put our minds to it.

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May 26, 2013 - General    1 Comment

Local lingo…

I’ve always enjoyed learning a bit of the local lingo when I travel somewhere. A repertoire of ‘where’s the toilet?’, ‘that’s too expensive!’ and ‘no thank you’ are often good starting points.

However, moving to Zambia was different. There was an added pressure that I would be doing a lot more than bartering for trinkets in a marketplace, or trying to find a bathroom in a restaurant, I was going to be working as a doctor.

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Apr 19, 2013 - Medical Talk    2 Comments

Managing as a manager

Back in the UK, a doctor of my age and experience would tend not to be involved in many hospital management decisions. I have sat on committees during my school and university years, but the decisions we were making were about what charity we should raise money for, or where the end of year social should be held.

Here in Katete, with so few doctors, there is really no option other than getting involved in hospital management… and when I say involved, I don’t just mean showing up for a meeting or two…

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Mar 24, 2013 - Food, General    2 Comments

Farewell to the rain…

Even though I was apprehensive in October about wet season arriving, now the rains are drawing to a close, I feel saddened by the thought of returning to a dry and dusty Katete.

When I arrived, the land was parched and the dust muted everything to a shade of brown. Now, the world looks so vibrant. The sky is a deep blue, the trees and vegetation vivid green, and there are colourful flowers blooming everywhere. It feels dreamlike…

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Mar 5, 2013 - Travel    1 Comment


Zambia is landlocked, and borders with 7 countries (DRC, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola). See map.

I live in the Eastern province of Zambia, which means that Malawi and Mozambique are the most easily accessible. The Malawian border is only an hour from Katete. Having been in Katete for over 6 months now, we decided it was time to visit our closest neighbour.

So, a few weeks ago, we took our Land Cruiser onto Malawian soil to do a road trip as a farewell to two friends from St Francis Hospital, Geoff and Charlotte, who were returning to the UK from Lilongwe.

As with most land borders, as we crossed over the imaginary line into Malawi, although the terrain, temperature and vegetation were very similar on either side of the border, there were enough differences that made it obvious straightaway that we were in a new country.

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Feb 18, 2013 - General    4 Comments

Reflections on packing

When I was packing for my move to rural Zambia, it was very difficult to know what to take. I didn’t know what I would be able to buy in Zambia, I didn’t know what my day-to-day life would be like or where I would be living… and how much do you need for a year? Friends would ask me questions like “will you have a fridge?” and “are there supermarkets near you?” I didn’t know the answers, and I was just guessing as I added belongings to my luggage.

Now, half way through my year in Katete, it is easy for me to look back and divide my packing into two groups: things I should have left behind, and things I can’t imagine being without.

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Jan 31, 2013 - Medical Talk    3 Comments

Malaria season

Given that Zambia’s average life expectancy is 52 years, and that 119 out of every 1000 babies born here are not expected to live beyond 5 years of age, I knew that I was going to have to face a lot of unwell and dying patients out here in Zambia… but as rainy season gets into full swing, and the anopheles mosquitoes come out in full force, the numbers of deaths climb to new highs.

In malaria endemic areas such as Zambia, most people who reach adulthood have developed a partial immunity to malaria; reducing the risk that malaria infection will cause severe disease. Children on the other hand are still developing this partial immunity, leaving them vulnerable to malaria.

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Jan 17, 2013 - Medical Talk    2 Comments


HIV/AIDS tends to be the first disease that springs to mind when thinking about Africa. However, on speaking to an infectious disease consultant in July 2012 for some last minute clinical advice before my big move to Zambia, it was Tuberculosis (TB) that dominated the conversation.

After I finished picking his brain about some of the things I might encounter in Zambia, his exact words were “you do know what the biggest threat to you is out there?” to which I quietly mumbled the correct answer: “TB…”

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