A reoccurring question I am asked about our new lives in Senegal is, how is the medical care? What do you do if you or your little ones are unwell? And I must confess, when moving out here, I was afraid it would not be up to par.
This weekend, our day trip plans were somewhat scuppered.
On Friday night one of the babes went down with a raging fever and had eyes sadder than a poorly puppy. So, putting on my ‘neurotic-mum’ nurse’s hat, I raided the excessive hoard of medical supplies I shipped out and administered Calpol, Nurofen, and provided some ‘comfort’ breastfeeding (despite having closed the milking shed two weeks ago, due to near nipple amputation).
The next morning she was no better and we could have fried an egg on her beautiful little head.
Now, my husband regularly reminds me that I am the biggest worrier on the planet and my safety-first attitude has earned me the nickname ‘The Fun Sponge’. However, when it comes to one’s children, it is always safer to err on the side of caution.
So what do you do out here in the absence of our glorious NHS?
In the first instance, you call your paediatrician for an assessment. Our paediatrician is a beautiful Paris-trained Senegalese doctor with a very gentle bedside manner. For a small fee she will even make house calls, which is music to any twin-mum’s ears.
However, should it be out of hours when illness strikes, you can call a 24 hour medical support service, 7 days a week. For the cost of £30, you can have a doctor at your front door within 30 minutes. Incredible!
So at 8am on Saturday morning, I made a panic call to SOS and within minutes, a very efficient operator assured me that ‘le docteur’ was on her way.
Ne vous inquiétez pas madame, le docteur est déjà parti!
As promised, she arrived a short while later complete with a wonderfully old school doctor’s bag, and just like a medically savvy Mary Poppins, started whipping out equipment; a thermometer, temperature gun, stethoscope, auriscope etc. After a brief examination she reassured me that it was nothing more than a sinus infection (a common complaint in babies due to the dusty Senegalese air). But not to worry, a short course of antibiotics would clear it right up.
She also recommended a squirt of saline solution up the twins’ noses twice a day, which is proving an interesting task.
I couldn’t quite believe it. In under an hour, I had a diagnosis and a prescription in my hand. There is even a helpline here called Sen Express, who will deliver your prescriptions to you for around £4.
360 degree healthcare without stepping outside of your apartment (or your pyjamas).
And while I am a total NHS advocate, I would love a service like this in the UK. When you have a sick child just getting them bundled up and out the door is a challenge, let alone the battle for an appointment with our overstretched healthcare teams. Plus if it existed, I’m sure those who could afford it would gladly pay the price, leaving those who couldn’t with easier access to less frazzled GPs. Jeremy Hunt, step aside…
Thanks to lightening fast treatment, she was in much better spirits the next day so we decided to take a drive north to Yoff. This area lies to the north of Dakar and is built along an impressively broad beach, Yoff bay. There are few tourists here and those you do see are mainly there to surf the big waves rolling in. We took a long walk along the beach, lined with beautifully painted pirogues and BBQs grilling spicy fish and chicken. It was a real feast for the eyes. By some miracle I managed to dodge the hundreds of footballers (and flying footballs) as we walked along the sand. When you tell a Senegalese man (or boy) you are from England, you can expect big smiles, followed by cries of ‘Chelsea!’, ‘Arsenal!’, ‘Manchester United!’, ‘Wayne Rooney!’.
The beach and the people are absolutely gorgeous. I hope the photos speak for themselves.
THE BEAUTIFUL YOFF BAY