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Journal from Libya: Part 6

In celebration of National Midwifery Week, Medelita presents daily entries from the journal of Becky Carlton, BSN, CNM, an American midwife recently in Libya during the ongoing revolution. June 6, 2011 11:33 From where I’m lying I can see out a tiny porthole to the Mediterranean. The sea outside undulates gently. We are puttering along at about 7mph/hr on a 250-mile trip. Fortunately it’s pretty calm and I feel good. In many ways, it’s nice to have this quiet time where there is absolutely nothing of importance to do. I’ve been lying on the deck for hours, listening to the wind, and thinking about this trip. It has been such a good adventure! Who’d of thought I’d go to Eygpt…or Libya…or Malta on a boat? Who’d of thought 5 weeks ago I’d have a whole new set of fabulous people in my life? Maybe, only for a moment. Most I will never see again, but it is still worth it. The time spent is like a snapshot. I can see them in my head. Dr MM with red, tired eyes after another night of not sleeping. Dr. A smiling in an absent way as he talks of his brother’s death. The women with the UTI telling me of her husband’s incarceration in Tripoli with his brothers while she is here pregnant with six children and she can’t get diapers for the twins. Daphne laughing with hospital staff. Dr. E telling me of the family farm that used to have chickens and goats and now is “nothing”. Sober docs tell us of the neighbors’ children who died in the same grad missile attack that nearly hit us. Dr F telling me of how in the beginning they all slept in their clothes because they never knew when they’d have to run. Then, Dr F apologizing to me for how some of the male consultant doctors treated me in a meeting. She is a rare bird here in a man’s world and very brave. I’m amazed that they tell me these stories (usually when we are alone in a quiet time). And, there are moments of fun. We laugh when Dr E describes the different sounds of blasts. We know what she is talking about. The Libyans apologize that we’ve come during war time so we do not see the beautiful Libya. They need to talk. We need to listen. We, as MSF, are pledged to stay neutral, but in our hearts, we ache to see them free from tyranny and fear. It’s weird how a person adapts. One night, there was a lot of shelling and we kept having to move into the hall. There were 21 people in the house and we didn’t fit well anymore. Sometime around 1am there was close heavy shelling. We bolted from our beds, confused, but primed. Lots of “Take Cover!!” shouts through the house. We sat in the darkness, hearts pounding crazily in our throats. Not everyone arrived wearing pants. We counted off—no one slept through that one. Even E, who sleeps like a rock, couldn’t ignore us hitting her legs as we dashed across her bed to the door. She says she didn’t actually become conscious that she was in the hall and not running to an emergency until she’d been sitting there for a couple minutes. Daphne admits that when she listens to music with earphones, she doesn’t actually put both in her ears. She always wants to know what’s going on around her. I always think about where I’ll go if a rocket comes in (not that I’d have time, but I still have a plan). I cried a lot yesterday and the day before. It’s so hard to say goodbye. When I was changing out of my scrubs, Dr. N saw that I was losing it and held me for a long time. Dr R kept warning me not to cry because it would make her cry. Yesterday morning, I couldn’t even look at my Belgian friend G to say goodbye. He stood behind me with his long skinny arms around my chest, chin on my head and just held me. He’s such a sweet, gentle man! Daphne was keeping busy prepping to go so she wouldn’t have to address my leaving. We really did enjoy working together even if I was driving her nuts and we knew we’d cry, but didn’t want to. In my head, I always hope that I will see these wonderful people again. Chances are that I won’t. That is hard. So, now, I lie in my bunk. I cry a little to think about my friends. I am happy to go home and I’m happy I came. I won’t be the same. Hopefully I’m better for it. Inshallah!! Becky Carlton, BSN, CNMMedelita Guest Blogger: Becky Carlton, BSN, CNM. Becky is currently working as the Midwifery Dean at Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia. Becky has been doing missionary work for many years, with such organizations as the Peace Corps and Doctors without Borders (MSF).