african hospital


Killing with kindness

This hedgehog was brought to us because he was covered in ticks. After a quick examination, it became clear that this was not his only problem…

He is more than twice the size an adult hedgehog needs to be to survive winter. In human terms, he is obese! He is too fat to properly groom himself, hence all the huge ticks around his face and ears. He is overweight because people are feeding him too much, he is not eating a proper wild diet.

He wouldn’t have survived another year because of his severe tooth decay. This decay is caused by eating too much tinned cat or dog food and not enough to crunch! In the wild, hogs eat lots of crunchy beetles.

Also, because he doesn’t have to use his claws to dig for food, they have totally overgrown. Long claws can curl on themselves and become really uncomfortable for the hog.

He is now feeling much better, after we removed all the ticks, cut his claws and cleaned his teeth, before giving him back to the people who found him.

Most important piece of advice: Do not over feed hedgehogs - we only recommend to support feed them some cat biscuits scattered on your lawn in the run up to winter, but not every day.

Dr. Ilaria Moneta, Italian pediatrician currently on a MSF mission in the Central African Republic

“One of the patients who touched me the most is an 18 months old boy who was suffering from pneumonia and severe malnutrition.

He was very weak when he was admitted, but improved significantly during his 10 days stay with us. You know, it’s not good for small children to stay that long in a hospital. But this little boy recovered remarkably, and towards the end of his stay he was so much better, always giving me a big smile when I would come, grabbing my hand, wanting to engage.

But yesterday he came back for his follow up appointment, and he worried me. He lost a lot of weight in a week – that’s not good for a such a young child. I could see right away that he was not well: he didn’t recognize me anymore, he was sad, he was like another person. I wanted to hospitalize him again to keep an eye on him, but we couldn’t. They live in town, so at least they don’t have to travel far to come to us. They didn’t come back today, so he must be doing OK. I hope so.

The reality of pneumonia can be very scary and dangerous. Each year, it takes the lives of nearly one million kids. There’s a vaccine to prevent it, but it’s too expensive for many countries to afford. That’s why we need #Pfizer and #GSK to drop the price to $5/child for all developing countries and humanitarian organizations. #AskPharma

A couple of hours ago I snuck off to a quiet area to make a pre-arranged work call to the States when my phone rang. Unknown number from Botswana. My mum is there on holiday, riding horses in the bush because she’s a bad-ass legend. Except it wasn’t my mum, it was some woman telling me my mum had fallen from a horse and has concussion and had been transferred to a hospital in South Africa but was “ok”.

It was so weird how calm I was, listening to her. I’ve been very anxious lately and started fixating on my mum’s trip, scared that something bad would happen to her. So it was like, “Of course she’s in a South African hospital. I knew it”. It was the weirdest feeling - I knew the worst hadn’t happened so therefore I was completely calm. A very rare example of my chronic catastrophising actually preparing me for the worst and helping me deal with bad news.

I’ve spoken to her since; she’s groggy, on a drip, but no broken bones. I can’t get any more out of her, I don’t know what happened - she remembers a jeep journey from Botswana over the border.

Anyway, I’d already decided to bunk off a work dinner so now I’m sitting in a square getting the last few rays of sun, drinking red wine and wishing French people didn’t smoke so much. Tryng to calm down. I just want to go home.. One more day to go…

January 29, 1951 Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old mother of five visited John’s Hopkins Hospital due to vaginal spotting. At Hopkin’s, the only hospital servicing African Americans, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The head of tissue culture, Dr. George Gey, stole a piece of her tissue without Henrietta’s knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, this was completely legal.

Dr. Gey referred to himself as the “world’s most famous vulture, feeding on human specimens almost constantly,” and if that’s not the most chilling thing a doctor has said I don’t know what is. When he stole Henrietta Lacks’s cells, he was researching tissue cultures and attempting to sustain them long enough to study. Because her cancer cells can divide indefinitely in culture, so long as they have a continuous supply of nutrients, they’re called “immortal cells.”

Henrietta’s cell line doubled every 24 hours and Dr. Gey sent these cells to cancer researchers across the world. In 1952, at the Tuskegee institute, Henrietta’s cells (HeLa cells) were being mass produced and eventually sold commercially. Due to these cells, there has and continues to be an enormous amount of medical advancement. The development of the polio vaccine, the first cloned cell, radiation exposure testing, cancer transmission testing (through injection into other patients, another terrible tragedy) and other advancements are owed to Henrietta Lacks. The sale of her cells boomed as a multi-million dollar industry.

The Lacks family meanwhile, had very little information about Henrietta’s cells. There were a few published articles out of the state of Virgina , where the Lacks’ family resides, but it’s speculated that Dr. Gey attempted to cover up the discovery of Henrietta Lacks’s identity by giving false information about her name. The family was poor and even struggled to cover the costs of their own healthcare. Although the story of Henrietta Lacks came out, to this day, the Lacks family hasn’t received a single cent of the profits made off of her cells.

As potential physicians and caregivers, I think we owe it to ourselves to be aware of the injustices the medical community has committed. I was informed of this by my biology teacher, and I felt compelled to share with all of you.

Please let me know if any of this information is incorrect!


The second wave of orphaned baby hedgehogs is in full swing now!

We currently have four hoglets at the centre who need constant feeding and care. As they only are around 90 grams, they will not be up to 600 grams in time to hibernate, that’s why they will stay with us for the entire winter, and be released in Spring when they are big enough.

Do you think they are cute?