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Band-Aid for a Broken Leg: Being a Doctor with No Borders (and Other Ways… (2012)

by Damien Brown

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655352,905 (4.19)3
Damien Brown is a twenty-nine-year-old Australian doctor, inexperienced but motivated by a strong desire to help, when he arrives in Angola - an impoverished, war-torn country in south west Africa - for a six-month posting with Medecins Sans Frontieres. It's his first stint with the organisation, and he thinks he is ready.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
This book is one of those books that you will either put aside because you can't handle the subject matter or you will delve deeper into it because you desperately need to know more about what is happening.

Damien's journey is one filled with heartache, happiness, life and death. All of them clash together and intermingled until I wasn't entirely sure which was which, or if this kind of life, as a volunteer was just that. Nonetheless, the writing was vivid and captivating, and the story was one I will not soon forget. I don't know how I ever could.

It is simply put, amazing. ( )
  acanuckreader | May 20, 2014 |
A heart-breaking memoir, that also manages to be heart-warming and rather sobering. I admire Damien - for going places I would not dare to tread and daring to make a difference - no matter how slim. He tells his experiences with a certain amount of wry humour and does not dwell on the grief, although of that there is plenty. The political situation in many of the African countries is a worrying one. I devoured this book, and at times I laughed, other times I just wanted to cry, but one thing I took away from it is how lucky I am - to be born in a "western" country where "luxuries" such as nutritious food and safe water can be taken for granted and where I am unlikely to step on a landmine or get caught in the gunfire of inter-tribal warfare.

But it is the story of the people that I love the most - the little boy with the beads, the children who make a model village from clay, the various native nurses and doctors with their little quirks and ideas. Brown does not view them as victims, and they do not see themselves that way, and one cannot help but feel humbled that we "first worlders" feel we need so much, when these people are happy with so little and the importance of family, friends and fun exceeds the need for big shiny "toys". ( )
  LemurKat | Sep 12, 2013 |
Damien and every other MSF worker have all my admiration. Makes me very thankful for the Australian medical system. Great book. ( )
  siri51 | Oct 22, 2012 |
The theme for my local book club this month was "Medical" so I read [Bandaid for a Broken Leg] by [[Damien Brown]]. Damien is an Australian doctor who goes to Africa as a volunteer to work in a couple of MSF health care facilities. He writes about the working conditions, his relationships with the local health care workers and the other volunteers, the local customs etc. For example when performing an operation in the "theatre" a male relative is present, is shown the offending appendix (or whatever other body part is involved) and he gives his permission for it to be removed. I found the book really interesting. Damien shares some of his feelings about the situations in these communities and how difficult it is working there. Definitely a good read. ( )
  Roro8 | Aug 23, 2012 |
In Australia, Medicare subsidises doctor visits, medicines and hospital care and access to quality health care is something many of us take for granted. Band-Aid for a Broken Leg is fascinating true account from Dr Damien Brown of his time as a volunteer with the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)organisation. In Angola, Mozambique and South Sudan, he is faced with the reality of medical care in isolated regions beseiged by war, in fighting and political indifference.

Born in South Africa, Damien Brown emigrated with his family to Australia as a child. After completing his medical training in Australia, he studied in Peru for a diploma in tropical medicine and then volunteered at a clinic in Thailand. He applied to the MSF and was offered a position in Angola an area of Africa still recovering from a 27 year long civil war.
Mavinga, a small township near the border of Namibia, and outlying areas, rely on the MSF for all aspects of health care. Damien describes the primitive conditions of the hospital surrounded by leftover landmines, staffed by a handful of expat's and semi-trained locals. The hospital treats hundreds of patients each day for conditions ranging from severe malnutrition and malaria to grenade wounds. While the conditions sound miserable, there is no modern plumbing and the generator is temperamental, Damien accepts the circumstances with remarkably good grace. He writes of the challenges of treating patients with limited resources, many of whom present when it is almost too late. There are cultural differences to work through, he knows little of the language and the hours are long and punishing, yet he takes solace in even the smallest victories and finds humour where he can.
After six months Damien returns home to Melbourne but finds it difficult to settle back into life and finds himself reapplying to the MSF. He is diverted from his first choice of posting after an outbreak of fighting in Somalia and winds up in Mozambique assisting with a vaccination program before being sent to Sudan.
Damien's experience in Sudan is not dissimilar to that of Mavinga, the hospital is busy and crowded and patient care challenging. But here gun battles erupt nearby, death seems to be more frequent and the stress of the circumstances gets to him. After six months he heads back to Australia wondering how much good he did. Damien's reflections on his experiences are thoughtful and make it clear answers are not easy to come by.
Damien Brown's style of writing is confident and accessible and I am glad he shared some photos of his time in Mavinga and Nasir within the book. I can't express how much I admire his willingness to share his skills with those who need them and his choice to confront the challenges of being a doctor with the MSF. I have no idea how the man is still single!

Band-Aid for a Broken Leg is a heartbreaking, yet uplifting, glimpse of Africa and the challenges of one doctor to provide medical care for it's poorest communities in difficult circumstances. Fascinating and thought provoking I happily recommend it to travelers, those interested in volunteering overseas and anyone who needs some perspective on their latest first world crisis. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jul 20, 2012 |
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Damien Brown is a twenty-nine-year-old Australian doctor, inexperienced but motivated by a strong desire to help, when he arrives in Angola - an impoverished, war-torn country in south west Africa - for a six-month posting with Medecins Sans Frontieres. It's his first stint with the organisation, and he thinks he is ready.

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