The dynamism of Dr Marek Karski

November 20, 2007 at 7:09 am (Fiction) ()

That year James received a visit from his boss from Port Moresby, Dr Marek Karski, accompanied by Temlett Conibeer, the District Malaria Supervisor from Wewak. Marek and Temlett arrived on an early morning plane from Wewak.

 Marek bounded out of the plane looking fresh and energetic and carrying a large brief case. Temlett looked somewhat the worse for wear, and despite his rather tall and large stature, he was overshadowed by Marek’s presence. On seeing James Ward, Dr Karski rushed to him and said: “James, my friend, it’s good to see you. We all have a lot of work to do. Arrange a meeting with the Medical Assistant, Assistant District Commissioner, and I’d also like to talk to Bill Clayton, your local member. Before doing this, have these radiograms sent as soon as possible.”

 As chance would have it, Bill Clayton turned up just at this moment, and James said: “Oh, Bill, this is Dr Karski. He is very anxious to meet you.”

 Marek started in at full throttle about the battle against malaria in the Sepik: “Bill, as the local member here, I want to outline to you the initiatives we intend to take in your electorate to fight malaria. I hear that you’ve been very supportive of James, and for this you have my appreciation and thanks.”

 Bill said: “Doctor, James is an excellent officer and he deserves my support. By the way, where are you staying while you’re in Angoram?” “Well, I’m not sure, Bill.” “You would be most welcome to stay at my house.” “That is most kind.  I’ll take you up on that offer.” James Ward then said:”Temlett can stay with me.”Temlett with a startled look said: “Thanks!” Bill then went off with Marek, and James took Temlett to his house, after arranging the luggage.

 They had all arranged to meet at James’s house for a working lunch. On the way to James’s house, Temlett held forth on the strain of being with Dr Karski: “He never stops. Last night, I was up with him until one in the morning, drinking all the time. This morning he was sitting down to a big breakfast, as bright as a button. You wouldn’t have known he’d had a drink. I don’t know where he puts it all. I hope you have a few cartons at home. He’ll drink most of them and stay as sober as a judge, but at least if you get pissed, it’s easier to put up with him than if you stay sober. The old bastard will talk malaria solidly for hours, so you just have to make sure the booze is flowing. He eats like a horse too, and if you produce a brandy after dinner he’ll polish off the whole bottle. He wants you to start spraying in the Grass Country. So, Ward, you’ll have to pull your finger out.” “Are there any funds for this?” James enquired. Temlett answered: “I don’t suppose so.”

 When James got home, he ordered Kami to make sure there was plenty of beer in the refrigerator and to cook a large meal of curry and rice. Bill and Marek duly arrived for the working lunch. One could tell looking at Bill that he had consumed a few beers. Presumably, Marek had also had a few drinks, but he showed no obvious signs. Kami gave everyone a can of beer and served lunch. Marek ate and drank with gusto, while talking at length of the progress of the malaria campaign. He said to the group: “Bill has agreed to give our campaign a high political profile in the next meeting of the House. James, I hope you have informed Des Murray and John Barnes that Temlett and I are here. Bill told me that they are the Medical Assistant and Assistant District Commissioner. I called into the hospital on the way up but Des was out. I’ve not had a chance to call into the Sub-District office yet. As I discussed with Bill already, James, I want to start operations in the Grass Country as soon as possible. That mass blood survey you conducted confirmed a very high incidence of infection there.”

 After lunch, Des Murray and John Barnes turned up and Marek put them in the picture about his malaria eradication plans. They were both impressed and told Marek that James could expect their full co-operation. While these discussions were going on, a considerable amount of alcohol was consumed. All except Marek appeared to be the worse for wear. Marek looked completely sober and animated. After some time, Des Murray and John Barnes excused themselves. Towards late afternoon the conversation turned to subjects other than malaria. Dr Karski said to Temlett Conibeer: “Temlett, I have great admiration for your gentle race and I’ll always remember fondly my time in England.” He then told the group about his time working for a diploma in tropical medicine in Liverpool. Next his war experiences in Poland came up. James Ward instructed Kami to prepare an evening meal, but before they sat down to this, a note arrived from Des Murray for Dr Karski, telling him that he had a very difficult case in the hospital and he required his assistance.

 Marek responded immediately, and after a period of about two hours he went to Bill’s house, saying only that he had performed a caesarean operation and telling Bill that he would now enjoy his dinner with a glass of brandy.

 The next day Des Murray told James what had happened. “James, I had this woman about to go into labour. I could see she was in a lot of distress. She was bleeding and had high blood pressure. I also feared that the foetus was in a breech position. Normally, I’d have got her out to Wewak, but it was too late for a plane to come in. I remembered that Karski had a great reputation in Rabaul as a surgeon. I thought he’s my only chance. All I can say is that he’s really brilliant.

 “As you know, our operating theatre is pretty primitive. Well, he quickly examined the woman, and said that he would have to operate as soon as possible. He confirmed the unborn child was in a breech position. He stabilised the haemorrhaging and put her on a drip. I gave her a general anaesthetic, and he proceeded with the caesarean. Everything went well and a perfect boy was delivered. Mother and child are both doing very well. There is no need for me to send them to Wewak. If he hadn’t been here, I’m quite sure that the woman would have died.”

 Dr Karski and Temlett Conibeer left by the early plane after Karski had visited the hospital to check on his patient.

 Karski’s dynamism would long be remembered around Angoram.

Excerpt from Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk

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