Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Scramble For Life-Saving Diesel

13 July, Sunday

Second day without electricity. Embangweni Hospital is running low on diesel because the generator has been running non-stop for two days.

There is a patient with pneumonia on the male ward who is depending on an oxygen concentrator, which does exactly what its name implies—it takes available oxygen out of the surrounding air and concentrates it to a higher degree for a patient to breathe. But that takes lots of electricity—hence the need for the generator to run even during the day.

Lindsay Kamanga (the hospital administrator) skipped church this morning in order to organize the siphoning of diesel from several hospital vehicles to run the generator. With the immediate crisis under control, she got on the phone to find out which of the surrounding towns might have diesel. The closest is Mzuzu--about two hours away across dirt and tarmac roads--and so she has sent a driver with a truck and a check to stock up. (She also commandeered Martha's car, which has a full tank, to serve as an ambulance.)

Which do you focus on? The scramble for diesel, the length of the power outage or the fact that the hospital staff figured out a way to keep the generator going, to keep someone alive who would have surely died otherwise for lack of fuel?

The point is to survive.

Related post: Arrival in Embangweni

(NB: This post was written on site in rural northern Malawi and posted now that I again have internet access.)

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