Thursday, 17 December 2009


(This is a report Derek wrote after our bush medicine trip. Dr Bwelle added in photos and things, but I couldn't upload the whole thing, I'll try another way)

October 2009

The scared farmer lay on his back, staring up at the peeling paint on the ancient
concrete ceiling. His expression is stoic, his lower abdomen is numb, and
presently cut open. It’s filled with clamps and tongs as Doctor Georges Bwelle
Motto sings quietly to the man as he repairs his inguinal hernia. It’s 4am, and this
is surgery patient eleven in a 48-hour medicine and education marathon sponsored
and preformed by Dr. Bwelle Motto.
We’re deep in the Cameroonian bush in the remote village of Messamena.
The facilities here are cleaner and more developed than most locations the
volunteer bush medicine team visits. There is a hospital building, and a working
generator to power the sterilizer and a few naked light bulbs.
German colonialists built a hospital here in the late 1930’s, before World
War Two. It stands in stark contrast to the wood and mud huts that line the one
lane dirt road leading to this end-of-the-road outpost.
A gecko watches from the corner of the window frame as the patient is
stitched back together and given a shot of anti-biotic. There are no outpatient
procedures or follow up visits. Out here in the rain forest there is one chance to get
it right. The incision is double stitched and every possible precaution is taken to
ensure the farmer will recover without complications. Although skillfully
preformed, this is a rustic site to conduct a surgery and every incision is treated as
if infected.
Every Friday, for nine months of the year, Dr. Bwelle Motto finishes his
week’s work at the Hospital of Yaoundé, in Cameroon’s capital city, and loads up
a team of volunteers into a hired van and heads out into the jungle. Strapped to the
roof under a tarp are medical and school supplies, purchased primarily by Dr.
Bwelle Motto, with some contributions from donors, to be given to those who need
His mission is to bring vital medical aid and educational support to the
remote locations of his country. Every weekend from February to November he
spends his time off conducting these vital humanitarian trips. It’s not a hobby or
pass-time, but an all consuming passion that keeps Dr. Bwelle Motto in constant
motion, with a supernatural energy.

(There was a picture here of Dr. Bwelle operating on a pelvic abscess)
(Diagnosis and treatment in that condition without echography for pelvic abcess)

When he’s not working at the hospital he’s organizing his next trip, setting
up transportation, purchasing medicine and medical supplies, contacting village
officials, and acquiring educational supplies for the school children.
There are delays in departing and the team sets out two hours behind
schedule, in an over loaded van. The city’s chaotic traffic and corrupt police
delayed the team even longer. As night fell the van was still navigating a deeply
rutted dirt road into the bush.
Dr. Bwelle Motto and his team arrived at the Messamena Catholic mission
well after dark, and were greeted by a small reception committee of teachers, nuns
and school children. They had been waiting for hours to greet them, and express
their gratitude to the team of volunteers. The children sang a welcome song first in
English then in French. Their song rose up from unseen faces in the pitch black
church yard.
The plan was to start with surgery that night, but the team still needed
permission from the village mayor, the chief and government appointed doctor.
Because of the late arrival the officials had already retired for the evening.
After finally getting in to the hospital, electric problems were discovered and
the generator was not yet delivered so things were postponed till the following
morning. Dr. Bwelle Motto got the only few hours of sleep he’d allow himself for
the weekend, and we went to bed not sure of the next day. There were questions of
if the village doctor would grant us use of the hospital, but Dr. Bwelle planned to
turn the guest house into a clinic if necessary.
Saturday morning the team rose with the sun and started on the political tour
required to get permission to treat the needy of Messamena. First they went to the
mayor, then the village doctor, and lastly the village chief. The team presented
them all with gifts of paper and pens to express good will as the cultural traditions
required. Having secured their support the team proceeded to open the hospital.

The operating room had to be scrubbed clean. Spider webs and dead bugs
removed, a gecko didn’t want to leave and scurried along the wall and ceiling, and
in the end was permitted to stay and observe.
The surgical tools were sterilized, operating tables were set up and two
examination rooms were prepared. Medicine was sorted for a primitive pharmacy
with a simple system of dots to denote dosages to the illiterate villagers.
Perspective patients waited under the scant shade of papaya trees for their
turn to receive vitamins, pain killers, other medicines, injections and surgery.
Person after person were seen and treated. Things went non-stop until three in the
afternoon when medical treatment was recessed for the educational portion of the
trip. The team went to the village school for more politics and to give the children
school supplies.

All the village officials were there, the teachers, the nuns, the children and
parents. Speeches were given with pomp and circumstance, as the children stood
in neat lines in the baking sun. The head of the school was given boxes of chalk,
reams of paper, and red pens for the classrooms. Then the students came forward
and were individually given exercise books, pencils, pens and erasers.

“Education is what will change Cameroon. If we want to see democracy
work and change happen it starts with education. Maybe I can inspire just a few
children to finish school and go to the university. Maybe not now but in a hundred
years change will happen or maybe three hundred, and it starts with teaching the
children and inspiring them. Giving them these few things is what I can do to
help.” Said Dr. Bwelle Motto, when asked why.
After a dinner with the mayor and chief, the team went back to the hospital
for a night of surgeries, injections and consultations. The lights in the hospital
were still only working in a few rooms. But a generator hummed into the night
giving some power for the lights and sterilization oven.
The surgeries were conducted with flashlights held aloft by volunteers, and
Dr. Bwelle Motto working on patient after patient through the night and into
Sunday afternoon. The team finally had to leave so they could get back to
Yaoundé before it was too late. This way the doctor could get some sleep before
going to work at the city hospital to earn the money for the next trip into the bush.

Dr. Bwelle Motto doesn’t receive any funding or help from his government.
Unlike big charities he has no administers or support network. He earns the money
by working and receives some small donations from friends and colleagues.
“I was poor, my father was sick and for 23 years he laid in bed. But my
parents did the best for me. When I went to school my father asked ‘What do you
want to be?’ ‘A doctor,’ I said. ‘A doctor, well be a doctor then.’ So when I was
done with primary school, my father said ‘Go to high school,’ then ‘Go to
university.’ I was never able to treat my father; he died before I was able. But I
want to help other poor children know they can become educated, this is why it’s
not just about medical treatment but education as well.”
This isn’t a story about a corrupt government or charities that spend their
funds in administration costs, or even all the foreign aid that never helps a person
in need. It’s about a man that gives his time and money to help people who need
it, he has a deep burning passion to ease their suffering and bring change to a
struggling society.

He’s saving money for a sturdy vehicle to take his team into the bush. He
needs his own generator and lights, and there’s the constant need for educational
and medical supplies. If you want to help him there isn’t a website or a toll free
number to call, but you can email Dr. Bwelle Motto and he’ll let you know how
you can help.
At the end we did 147 free medical consultations, 16 free surgical
operations and we gave didactic material to 163 children of primary and
maternal school and 15 teachers.

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