A Glimpse of Eternal Snows
How to Shit Around the World
The Essential Guide to Travel Health
Lemurs of the Lost World
Your Child Abroad: a travel health guide
People fascinate me. Perhaps that is why I love working as a GP. When I travel, I always want to ask questions and know what life is really like for everyone I meet. Sadly, I am not much of a linguist but I smile and gesticulate a great deal and make the effort to communicate. Given enough time, it is remarkable how connections can be made
I explore, try to understand and write about difficult issues including corruption, prejudice, exploitation, caste and poverty. I know that for some this makes uncomfortable reading and even risks demystifying and undermining the image some travellers have of the simple natural existence of the rural poor in emerging nations. Nevertheless I fervently believe these issues should be understood by all who travel so my aim is to present the facts as sympathetic engaging stories about real people. I am frustrated by the look-and-point approach to travel, but I hope I don't preach. I write of my adventures and enthusiasms and of colour and beauty so that my readers can enjoy my travel experiences as much as I do.
Within minutes of arriving in the sleepy town of Khairpur in Sindh, I was faced with a medical crisis. I'd been qualified as a doctor for a few years but was new to expatriate life, and I was travelling with my firstborn, three-month-old son. A guy who was expecting to work with my husband announced that he needed to be evacuated because he was desperately ill. I introduced myself as a GP and offered help. Quickly I realised that my new friend was not suffering from some horrendous tropical pox but that he just had a nasty attack of sinusitis. It made him feel awful with frontal headache that recalled having a screwdriver rammed into his eyeball. Labelling it with a diagnosis made it less scary, though, and we found that the correct antibiotics were readily available over the counter in the local bazaar. By the next day my patient was well on the way to recovery.
That was the first time I really had to think about travel health. What this, my first real travel medicine ‘case’, made me realise is that even the calmest and most sensible of travellers will nearly always become disproportionately worried about themselves when taken ill. In my friend’s case, he didn’t know much about the local health service and didn’t know where he could find a doctor he could trust. He just wanted to get home to his friendly British GP. That experience showed me how liberating and empowering information can be and motivated me to start writing accessible straightforward travel health advice. I began work on a manual that was distributed amongst expatriate engineers, and soon after wrote my first travel health feature for Wanderlust magazine. It was - of course - on diarrhoea.
Towering snow-covered Himalayan peaks on the cover attracted my interest initially, however after a couple of chapters I was struggling to get into this book, its content focused on pregnancy, rigours of childbirth and a handicapped newborn.
Not really my idea of a mountain adventure. The book features the Wilson-Howarth family. Jane, mother and trained paediatrician, is the author. Husband Simon works on infrastructure projects for a world aid agency. Their children are Alexander, an active pre-schooler, and newborn David, who with cleft palate and severe yet undiagnosed neurological problems, promises to turn their world upside down.
The author struggles as intuition and professional knowledge forces her to face David's degree of impairment and uncertain future. Medical colleagues add to the worries, viewing her newborn as "an interesting case", but not talking openly or honestly about his prognosis. Chapter two passes by and I am really not attached to this story, too many hospital scenes and worrisome kids.
The family then faces a choice. Stay and endure the best and worst of interventions modern medicine and surgery provide, or escape to a simple life in Nepal where another infrastructure project beckons, and enjoy the limited time they may have with their impaired son and brother.
In Nepal things are looking better. We are out of the hospital ward, and the children become just part of the story as they struggle to cope in a hot and very different environment. The author leads her family in small adventures as they sample a culture steeped in superstition, prejudice, poverty and cultural divides.
By chapter 10 I am really enjoying this book, there are no epic events - as is often the case with living in foreign cultures, it is the small things that make the interesting tales.
The real epic, however, is played out in David's slow physical and mental progress and the couple's tortured self doubt over their non-intervention strategy to hopefully provide him with a better quality of life.
The conclusion is in some ways surprising, beautifully expressed. It tells of how a family held true to a belief that quality of life mattered most, and how their Nepal experiences equipped them well to maintain that belief.
In postscript notes, the author says the script started as a travel narrative but developed into a story incorporating David's birth and struggles. She has blended his story into the travel narrative beautifully.
— NB this bloke reviewer thought this one gets better as it goes along —
“offers advice on everything from keeping children occupied on flights to avoiding food poisoning…”
"vividly drawn... as much about the terrain and wildlife in rural Nepal, Jane's experiences offering basic medical care to Nepalis, Simon's river projects, Alexander's engagment with new friends and the often comic recollections of setting up home, as about David's life.... beautifully depicted.. a family at peace with the choices they made to give their children the best life possible.”