The Traditional Doctor

The Traditional Doctor

by Sr. Cecily Bourdillon MMM (1941-2023)                 Zimbabwe                             06.07.2024

Editor’s note: Sr. Cecily wrote this during her early years as a doctor in Zungeru, Niger State, Nigeria.  It was first published by MMM in 1977.

One morning during a busy clinic, a local traditional doctor came to consult us about a patient of his who had developed tetanus. We went with him and found a very ill man who had fallen from a palm tree and had three broken limbs and deep infected wounds. The patient needed hospitalization, but the traditional doctor would not agree, for there, he would not be able to carry out his own treatment.

We eventually persuaded him and encouraged his help in cleaning up the wounds, removing his splints and leaves, re-setting the limbs and applying the plaster. The gentleness and skill with which he ran his hands over the deformed limbs and the tenderness with which he moulded them into their normal shapes, the patience and care with which he tended the patient after he had been comfortably placed in bed, the concern he showed for him was an inspiring experience.

We came to realise that amongst the villagers themselves are people with love and concern for their fellow villagers, people who are respected and trusted, people who know and understand their own, people who have an influence on the attitudes and traditions of those among whom they live. We know we must pass on our skills to these, so that our team may be augmented and that we may reach out to all people. The village midwife and any suitable person chosen from among the villagers and by the villagers, can be taught elementary aspects and the basic principles of curative, preventative and promotive medicine and so, with supervision, help bring health to all.

In a predominantly Moslem area, where only women may enter the homes, Mother Mary’s special concern for the care of mother and child urges us to enter these Moslem homes, to bring Christ’s healing and Christ’s love. Christ was a teacher; He is our teacher. He sends us out as His Father sent Him out. As we enter the homes to bring healing, we hope to make Christ present through our love and concern, bear witness to Christ’s love and to all to share in the good news of salvation.