DAKTARI: A Surgeon's Adventures with the Flying Doctors of East Africa
Rees's memoir of his experiences with the Flying Doctors of East Africa, as one of its founders and practitioners, offers a refreshing look at humankind's better nature. In 1956, Rees, along with two other doctors, parlayed his interest in Africa and compassion for others into an effort to provide emergency medical and surgical care for people living in regions of Kenya, Tanzania and other areas where those necessities are rare. The book opens with a graphic yet sympathetic view of Rees's operation on a warrior gutted by a charging rhino, setting the scene for the many challenges the physicians face. The doctors are quite creative in compensating for a lack of proper medical supplies. For instance, scotch and morphine act as a substitute for anesthesia, and ordinary soap baths and vodka serve as antiseptics. While Rees does examine Africa's political transitions, he also delves into the human aspect, depicting how Africans have tried to cope with the ravages of infant mortality, disease, poverty and even practices such as female genital mutilation. Particularly memorable are the stories of the big game hunter who wants a sex change and so starts with breast implants; the warrior who values his cattle over the life of his ailing son; and the young mother whose baby dies of malnutrition because of her aversion to using a glass feeding bottle. Rees has written an unforgettable memoir of courage, empathy and perseverance. Photos. (May)
FYI:Rees's organization is now a part of the African Medical Research and Education Foundation, the largest indigenous international health development nongovernmental group in sub-Saharan Africa.