The Witch Doctor

I was deployed in Africa. I got attached onto another company in my battalion for the mission and was working hard in my area of operations. When I had arrived, there was a doctor provided by the Airforce so I had someone which I could work under. More importantly, I had help if something was over my head. Local medical facilities were out of the question for us to use. I could probably have done more out of my aid bag than what those facilities could provide. Our soldiers came to us day to day for minor injuries and illness. Not to mention their lives in general if things ever got that bad.

About a few weeks into my deployment, the doctor brought to my attention that he would be leaving soon and they did not have a replacement for him. How is that possible? Apparently the Airforce didn’t think they needed to be a part of the mission anymore which meant their doctor didn’t need to be there either. I’ve been trained to operate without a doctor and normally this wouldn’t have been such a big issue. But we’re talking about Africa here. Ground zero for Ebola. The plethora of diseases in Africa alone is intimidating and the average MEDEVAC time is even more so. There are no lab capabilities, no x-ray, and my meds are limited. Now I don’t have a doctor to rely on for help in a diagnosis, or for further assessment, or to help decide which treatment for an illness is the best one.

When he left it was just me. Me responsible for everyone. Not just my team I came with, but everyone who has come to support the mission. If we MEDEVAC I had to go with the patient leaving everyone behind with no medical personnel until I got back. I had the basics in drugs, equipment to take care of trauma, and a portable ultrasound machine in my possession. I felt very unprepared for Africa.

Side note: I’m not always a fan of pharmaceuticals. Weird right? I’m in the health care field and yet not a fan of pills. I believe they have their place and I definitely respect them. However, I enjoy and rely on natural medicines first. Herbal oils are my most common choice and they are what I know the most about. I’ve witnessed them work and I use them when necessary. If something stronger is needed I turn to pharmaceuticals. When it comes to patient’s needs, I give them the choice. It’s their body so it’s their choice.

Back to deployment. I was tasked with going on a trip with two others to a town we had been sending a few soldiers to occasionally. I was asked to do site surveys on the local medical facilities and a few others that were in the route. While traveling, one the soldiers I was traveling with was showing signs of a possible upper respiratory infection. Nothing serious. Congestion, dry cough, slight headache. The soldier had been taking a decongestant and cough drops and finally turned to me and said, “Doc, I’m sick.” The go-to first line of most patients in the services.

I started asking questions and said I didn’t bring much with me on this trip for general illness, but I had some oils. After explaining what the oils would do, the soldier agreed. Throughout the trip I treated with the oils. Two days later the soldier came to me frustrated and said, “Doc those oils are killing me! My stomach is upset, I’m going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, and it’s all because of your oils. You’re like a damn crazy witch doctor or something.” I laughed and didn’t take any offense to it. In all reality, the soldier probably ate something bad. I mean, we’re in Africa eating off the local economy. I asked the soldier if he wanted me to help his stomach. Of course he did. So I treated that with oils too. Sure, I had some tums and loperamide in my bag but treating it with more oils after that comment was fun to me.

The next day the soldier was not experiencing the GI problems and the respiratory symptoms had gone down alot. By the time the trip was over, the soldier had made a lot of progress and was definitely on the tail end of the sickness. When we got back from the trip the soldier said, “Doc, I don’t know what it is you did to me… But you’re still a damn witch doctor.”

Soon alot of people on the deployment were calling me “witch doctor” and even some of the locals caught on. I’m not sure if it made anyone a little skeptical about me, but it sure didn’t stop them from coming to see me. It helped that nobody stayed sick for long.

-The Witch Doctor


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