Letter: I am a Gambian nurse


Dear editor,

I still have a few hours before the start of my next shift. God knows I’m exhausted from work, and it feels so good being in bed, just relaxing and free from the sights and sound of pain all around me. My room is sparsely decorated with the most basic of necessities, but it’s my home for now, and it feels good being in my own room. It’s my abode. It’s where I find solace from all the misery I encounter daily.

I yawned and stretched, looked at the time, wanting to steal a few more winks of sleep. Then it hit me; the woman that lost her life! It’s as if I can still see her face, contorted in pain, the agony of giving a life, only to lose a life. And then her child also leaves this world. He never felt the warm embrace of a mother. His mother never lived to realize the joys of motherhood. I wonder if she ever had a name for her baby boy. My mother also lost a daughter she called Mehta; even though Mehta never lived.


And then there was the other woman in pain. I wonder how she is doing today. We knew what she needed; we knew what could have saved so many lives. We simply don’t have the equipment or medication. Families cry to us in desperation, urging us to do something for their loved ones to save their lives. They don’t know that most times, we had already done all that we could. Yet, we are often the ones people blamed. Told we don’t care. Told we don’t know what we are doing. It’s as if we don’t mind seeing suffering. As if we have somehow immunized ourselves to the pain of our patients. How I wish I had enough tears to cry for all the suffering I see daily as a nurse.

I cannot count how many times I had to buy basic pain medications to take with me to work. It’s so painful seeing a human being in pain, and not being able to provide paracetamol to help ease the pain. My fellow nurses and I live with that pain daily. Especially those of us on the night shift who have to deal with patients in pain, in the dead of night when all the pharmacies are closed, and the clinic simply does not have the most basic of medicines. The look of despair on the faces of the sick, as life is slowly snuffed out of them, while I helplessly stand there not knowing what to do, is a heavy burden I carry on my tired mind daily. My bosses are detached. It’s as if they’ve given up complaining about the state of our hospitals and so they take their frustrations on us.

If only my people will understand that I became a nurse because I value human life, and I love healing the sick. If only families will understand that I can never get used to seeing people die who could have been saved. If only…

I work as a nurse because I love what I do. I love the smile of a healed individual. I love the grace of patients who thank us for the little we’ve done for them. I love human life so much that despite the difficulties, I cannot see myself doing anything else but being a nurse! It’s not a job for everyone but it’s the best job in the world if you ask me!

If only my people understood that the corruption our own health minister decried is tolerated by them. If they only knew how this corruption is killing fellow Gambians, perhaps, perhaps then they would spare us nurses and indeed all healthcare staffs a bit of thought! May the gates of heaven be opened for all the departed!

This piece is dedicated to all those in the healthcare field, especially my daughter, and a sister I’ve only met virtually but whose purity of heart is on another level. May Daarmanso guide you all on to what’s best for you!

Alagie Saidy-Barrow