A PAIN IN MTWARA

Rob Wilson writes: In 2006 I planned a ten-week tour of Tanzania to research the potential for expansion of our Nottingham-based ‘Tanzania Book Project’ (TA No 89). I was beginning in Lindi and going on from there to Mtwara, Tabora, Shinyanga, Kagera and Mara. But the first week proved to be more than my body was willing to handle. The Municipal Director of Mtwara was showing me the entire region on what was a bumpy four day tour. I began to have stomach pains on the third day but shrugged it off as just the bumps from the journey. But on our final day, my stomach was starting to give me real pain. Having not slept a wink that night, on my return to Mikindani, I asked a friend to drive me to the nearest doctors’ surgery. The doctor took one look at me, gave one small prod at my stomach and that was all he needed to diagnose appendicitis. He explained that I needed to go the Mtwara hospital immediately for surgery.

I asked my friend to take me to the hospital. He gave me a very puzzled look before explaining the statistical chances of even surviving an appendectomy at a local hospital. He drove me directly to the airport, where, by chance, there was flight ready to depart for Dar with one spare seat reserved for emergencies. I was very much accepted as an emergency.

On arrival at the Aga Khan hospital in Dar the surgeon just smiled at me and calmly said: “Surely you won’t let us bush doctors operate on you? Do you not instead want to risk your life and fly home to the security of your fancy western hospitals?” It would seem that he had met too many arrogant British travelers in the past who thought they knew more than doctors and was rather enjoying the situation. He did eventually take the scenario seriously enough to operate but I swear that he still had smile on his face.

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