Name: Jason Wong
Physician: Family Physician
Location of Residence: Seattle, Washington
Location Abroad: Darfur, in western Sudan
Mission: To treat severely malnourished children, as well as children and adults stricken with diseases like malaria and shigella.
Jason Wong was a resident at the University of Washington Medical School who served as a Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) volunteer on two separate missions after he started working with the Seattle Group Health Cooperative. Recently, he traveled to the West Darfur region of Sudan where he cared for thousands of displaced citizens.
Wong describes his experience as something that was completely different from being a physician in America. On his first day abroad, the nurses asked him if he would meet with the patients. After arriving at the hospital he noticed that "everyone was just standing there. After a while, I looked around and realized: They're expecting me to start talking." At Darfur, his role was more than that of a doctor, as a member of the MSF, he was expected to act as a pillar of strength and hope for his patients.
Although it is a privilege to witness malnourished children on the brink of death returning miraculously to life, Wong knows that the outcome might not always be so positive. "I [have] never had a child under my care die before," he says, but he knows that this might someday become unavoidable.
Wongfs experiences at El Geneina, the capitol of west Darfur, illustrated the problems that MSF faces from both political and environmental climates. El Geneina, though its name translates to gThe Garden,h is anything but. War and arid heat wreak havoc on the people and animals of this region.
Wong commented on the effects that this has had on him personally: gEat, sleep, drink, and bathec I have come to appreciate that remembering to do all four requires a conscious effort.h He had not grown immune to the poor conditions there; but he became too preoccupied with his job to worry about his own well being.
Though the hospital and MSF camps include malnutrition tents, a feeding center, and a pediatrics ward, the work was still overwhelming at times. There are about 130 kids spread throughout the hospital and the camps, most of them under the age of six. An average of ten cases of malnutrition come in every day, and an average of ten children die each week.
Wong observed: gpeople have nothing to eat, no real shelters, no sanitary facilities, no clean water. They have nothing. They are so devastated that you can't even see a glimmer of hope in their faces. They have nowhere to go, nothing to dream about, no reasonable hopes for the future.h Wong, though he himself remains hopeful, is aware of the bleak situation and the pessimistic atmosphere.
The MSF is currently hoping to improve the situation by establishing permanent feeding centers and programs in major camps. These feeding centers will be easily accessible to residents and will relieve many of the problems associated with starvation and malnutrition. Wong, as a part of this initiative, stated: gfeeding programs are kind of the bread and butter of MSF. They do this extremely well and have lots of experience.h
Wongfs team at El Geneina consisted of a qualified team of doctors: Jen, a nurse/field coordinator, Jonathan, a pediatrician, Guenaele, a nurse, and Benoit, a logistician.
At Niertiti, one event has a left a noticeable impact on Wong. A child under his care fell into status epilepticus in the middle of the night, and the medicine required to treat him was locked up in the pharmacy. One of Jason's colleagues, Jerome, realizing the urgency of the situation, helped him break the padlock so that he could retrieve the Valium and malaria treatment necessary to keep the child alive. The child recovered in the end, and Wong described Jerome as one who "has the perfect disposition for an emergency type situation."
Niertiti, like El Geneina, is a hot and arid location. In comparison to El Geneina, the camps are more cramped, and there are poor sanitary conditions. In addition to this, Wong notes the swarms of flies which constantly making work even more difficult.
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