Friday, 11 December 2020

Saturday morning. Being a tourist in Christchurch

I started my Saturday morning off by listening to Kim Hill interviewing Sarah Shieff" about her new book 'Letters of Denis Glover.'  "Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle" - many New Zealanders know Denis Glover as the author of the iconic poem "The Magpies". But there are better ones of the mountains such as Arawata Bill and the series in Sings Harry. No one writes about the mountains better than Glover. I met him in 1973 and was smart enough to get him to sign his latest book.

As the interview outlined Glover as a poet, printer and publisher he also left behind a tarnished personal legacy, of womanising, drinking and a chaotic private life.  Sounds familiar. Shieff is hoping to widen our understanding of Glover beyond his flaws to include his wit, gift for friendship, and his bravery. She's spent over 7 years reviewing thousands of letters. 

After 10 am this morning I caught the bus to the Interchange and my first stop was Scorpio books. As I walked in a signboard said:  Books can be dangerous, The best ones should be labelled "This could change your life."

The selection of books they have in stock in the lead up to Christmas is amazing. There were approximately 70 people in the shop and many walking up to the checkout with armfuls of books. Let no one tell me books are dead.

I stumbled across a new book by Fleur Adcock which is a collection of her poems. The first poem is such a tragic and romantic one which is called  'Flight With Mountains'  (in memory of David Herron) David was a brilliant NZ academic and an equally good climber who died when an avalanche engulfed him on Aiguille d'Argentiere in 1960. He also did his PhD thesis on James McKerrow- Explorer and Surveyor. He was a good friend of Phil Houghton and Mike Gill.

Then I said hello to my friends at 'Miss Saigon' and told them I would be back around 1 pm for a big bowl of Pho Bo.


Next I had a chat to Robert Scott (statue)  en route to Adventure Books. I first met him there in July 1969 when I was training in Christchurch for some months at the old Geomagnetic Observatory in the Botanical gardens.  He didn't nod, but I think he enjoys my chats that span 51 years. Then over the bridge to Worcester Blvd and on the Explorers Hub. It was nice to meet Thung and have a good chat. He's a good man. The shop or as Kipling would call it, The Wonder House, is looking good. I loved the penguin outside the shop to keep your sign company Bill Nye.

On the way back to meet 'Miss Saigon' I sat by the Avon and dreamed of 'freedom.' Compared to the rest of the world, we are so free and we have good Governance. 

Back at Miss Saigon I was able to 'show off ' my rusty Vietnamese and enjoy the company of three Vietnamese staff while they prepared my soup pictured above.

Then I stopped to talk to my old mate who lives on the streets in Ch Ch with his dog. He never begs, he just sits there and watches the world go by. He radiates a lot of humble wisdom. After browsing a few more shops, I caught the bus back to Northwood, where I bought a Lotto Ticket and two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. I've gotta win Lotto and see the world again next year.

So that was my outing today. I find it important to keep my diary up to date with ordinary days recorded.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Catherine Hamlin: Grief in Ethiopia as trailblazing Australian doctor dies

Dr Catherine Hamlin with staff and cured fistula patients in Addis Ababa, 2008Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDr Catherine Hamlin with staff and cured fistula patients in Addis Ababa in 2008

No-one came to meet Catherine Hamlin the day she arrived at a tiny airport in Ethiopia in 1959.
More than 60 years later, the news of the Australian gynaecologist’s death at the age of 96 was met with an outpouring of grief in the country she had made her home.
That is because of the work Dr Hamlin - along with her late husband, Reginald - did transforming and, in some cases, saving the lives of tens of thousands of women who had been cast out of their communities.
Treating obstetric fistulas - a preventable injury sustained in childbirth that leaves women incontinent and can lead to other infections - would become her life’s work.
"These are the women most to be pitied in the world," Dr Hamlin told the New York Times in 2003.
"They're alone in the world, ashamed of their injuries. For lepers, or Aids victims, there are organisations that help. But nobody knows about these women or helps them."
Elinor Catherine Nicholson was born in Sydney in 1924, one of six children. She decided to train to be a doctor because she wanted to help women and children.
After she completed her training, she began work at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, where she met a doctor from New Zealand, Reginald Hamlin.
They were married in 1950, and had a son, Richard, two years later.

'We never came back'

But the two wanted to go and work in a developing nation, and one day an advert in British medical journal The Lancet caught their eye.
"It just read 'gynaecologist wanted in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa'," Dr Hamlin told the BBC in 2016. It was enough to pique their interest, and the couple applied.
"We felt we would like to do something to help people in the world, because we had had so many advantages," Dr Hamlin explained.
The idea was to stay for a couple of years. "But we never came back."
So they set off from Sydney, sending a cable from the middle of the Indian Ocean to let their new colleagues know of their imminent arrival. It didn’t quite go according to plan.
"The cable didn’t get there until three weeks after we did, so there was nobody to meet us."

Reg (L) and Catherine (R) Hamlin on a visit to Australia in 1971Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionReginald (L) and Catherine (R) Hamlin during a visit to Australia in 1971

But they soon settled in, and it wasn’t long before they began to notice a number of women with a condition they had never seen before: obstetric fistula.
"We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients department away from the other waiting patients," Dr Hamlin later recalled to the Guardian.
"We knew she was more in need than any of the others."
Two million women live with the condition globally, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Without help, many die. Those who survive - like the woman in the waiting room - are left with injuries that leave them incontinent, sometimes heavily.
In Ethiopia many were left with a deep sense of shame. They found themselves banished to the outskirts of their communities, abandoned by their husbands. The stigma and social isolation led some to end their lives.

'I felt so happy'

But the Hamlins knew it was both fixable and preventable - as they told Ethiopia's then ruler, Haile Selassie.
"He said, why do my women get this terrible thing where they can’t control their body waste?" Dr Hamlin told the BBC.
"We said, it is nothing to do with your women, it is to do with your lack of doctors in the countryside when they need to have a Caesarian section."
Mamitu Gashe was one of the women who Dr Hamlin and her husband treated in the early days, when they worked at Princess Teshai Hospital.
It was 1962, and Mamitu had suffered a fistula giving birth to her first child. It was a three-day labour, and the baby did not survive.

Dr Hamlin with Mamitu Gashe in 1994Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDr Hamlin with Mamitu Gashe in 1994

Like so many other women in Ethiopia, she was left incontinent. But she had a sister in the capital, and her family took her to the city to find help.
It was then they discovered the Hamlins’ specialist ward.
"As soon as I arrived there, they treated me with compassion and I started to feel much better," she told the BBC after she was named one of the BBC's 100 Women 2018.
“They told me that I was not the only one suffering from this, that other women had this. As soon as they said that, I felt hopeful, I felt so happy."
But the Hamlins would not only help repair the damage; they also gave Mamitu - who has no formal education - a new career: she is now an internationally respected fistula surgeon, having been taught by the Hamlins.
"I couldn’t read or write," she explained in 2018. "Everything I knew, I knew from the Hamlins."
Mamitu was one of the staff members the Hamlins took to Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital when it opened in 1974.

'She broke our hearts'

In 1993, Dr Hamlin lost her beloved husband. Faced with a choice to stay or leave, she decided her work was not yet done.
In the following years, the Hamlin Foundation opened five rural hospitals offering healthcare to women, as well as a facility for long-term care patients. Then, in 2007, Dr Hamlin saw one of her initial dreams finally fulfilled: the Hamlin College of Midwives opened.

Media captionThe BBC's Tulip Mazumdar reports from Uganda on UK doctors helping those living with fistula. Contains images of surgery

It is thought the organisation has treated more than 60,000 women for obstetric fistulas over the decades.
But in spite of these successes, Dr Hamlin was still disappointed at how little had been achieved,
"We had one little girl not too long ago, who had terrible injuries," she told the UN’s World Food Programme in 2011.
"She had been lying curled up for nine years on the floor on a mat. Her mother had been looking after her, thinking perhaps that the urine would dry up. She was in a state of malnutrition, 22kg (48lb), as she was carried on the back of her poor old mother, coming into the hospital.
"She broke our hearts."
And so, Dr Hamlin continued her fight for the women of Ethiopia to the end.
Last year, Ethiopia's Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed handed her a prestigious citizenship award - one of many she was given during her lifetime. Then, in January, she celebrated her 96th birthday. Mamitu was by her side.
“We called Catherine mum, because she is like our mother,” she explained to the BBC last year.
Dr Hamlin died on 18 March at her home in Addis Ababa, the place she made her home. She left behind her son, grandchildren and a dream she wants others to fulfil in her memory.
"My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever," she said.
"I won’t do this in my lifetime, but you can in yours."

More on fistula
  • Occurs as a result of obstructed labour causing a hole in the bladder and/or bowel
  • Patient is constantly leaking urine and/or faeces
  • In most cases where it occurs, the baby dies during childbirth
  • Two million women living with the condition globally, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • Up to 100,000 new cases globally each year
  • Condition is entirely preventable and treatable