Zion had just stopped crying when the phone rang. Christopher had just started softly snoring; I had to nudge him awake. The ring pealed through the night offending the preceding silence. It was Johnson, our on-call clinician at the clinic. There was an emergency, Christopher was needed now.
When the doctor left Karamoja late 2015 and Christopher became the clinic administrator, he also assumed all on-call responsibilities when in Nakaale. Thankfully, Christopher is not a doctor and therefore isn’t called every time a patient arrives after hours. He sets out medicine and supplies needed for the typical patient and only gets called if a mother delivers a baby, someone needs transport to Tokora, the closest government hospital, or an unusual medicine is needed.
The first call was for transport. The wife of one of our workers was in labor – or so we hoped. She had contractions the week before that then dissipated into preparatory labor. She had spent the following week near Tokora hospital, but the baby decided it was happy remaining inside, until 11 pm Saturday night. Since there were other complications, Johnson decided she should go back to Tokora. Without a doctor or blood for transfusions, we refer all births with complications. He has made other trips for children who need medicine for severe malaria administered via IV, another with advanced pneumonia and yet another for a woman needing psychiatric help. Christopher arrived, drove her and her entourage to Tokora and returned home.
The second call came at 2:30 am. Another woman had delivered at the clinic. They needed more supplies in case a third pregnant woman showed up. It is not unusual for a mother to deliver within minutes of arriving at the clinic. So, up Christopher got, down to the clinic he went his consolation the peace, cool and beauty of a clear Karamoja night.
The third wake-up call was from the infant who had miraculously slept through all the others. Now it was my turn. Zion ate, was calmed and slept again, hardly disturbing her exhausted father.
Clinic emergencies seem to come in waves. Christopher was traveling the preceding week buying medicine and other supplies for the clinic. While he’s away Dave Okken is often on-call at night. He received no calls. The week before, Christopher was called three times in one day. We try not to speculate about the events of nine months earlier that may have led to the increase of births now.
Christopher takes it in stride. He is thankful that a new doctor has arrived at Tokora, who answers her phone, is ready to receive them when they arrive with a patient and seems interested in actually doing her job – all changes from the person who last filled the post. He is encouraged by our clinicians, who are gaining experience, seeking ways to improve the care we provide, and desire to share the compassion of Christ. Other days, he is weary from dealing with government officials, handling staff complaints, debating community leaders on local fallacies about the clinic, and answering the mid-night calls. There is no worthy work without its own weariness.