I know this is a low-quality photograph, but it's all I have documenting my time in Dakar.(Special thanks to Kim for sharing!)
Many people enter our lives for only a short period of time. Very few of those short-term relationships leave a lasting impact. Such is the case with the above woman: Dr. Ararat Iyasu (middle). She was the woman replying to my "I have a fever that won't go down" text messages and the one who listened to me beg her to send a PC car to my site so I wouldn't have to take public transport. I met her at about 8:30pm on September 7, 2011. She was wearing a beautiful purple outfit and had a calm demeanor. (I, on the other hand, was freaking out.) She poked and prodded my body, took my vitals and a urine sample, then forced me to drink water all before I thought to ask her name. I remember thinking that she must think I was the most rude person she had ever met. I found out that she is the regional MD and PCMD (PC medical director). She was filling in for a week in The Gambia, away from her permanent post in Dakar.
I was pretty out of it that whole night, so when I woke up at 3am with the chills and a general sense of panic, I wandered out to the reception room. She immediately sat up from her slumber on the couch to tend to me. The next day she tried to force me to eat in-between sleeping,
fought communicated with headquarters to get me to a place with better health care, and sat beside me on my bed to comfort me. That night she saw me off in the airport with the promise of seeing me in less than a week. The expression on her face told me that she was doubtful of my ability to travel alone. With God's help I did, in fact, make it to Dakar.
I woke up the first morning in Dakar to Dr. Ullie telling me that the guy from the lab was here to draw my blood. Viles of it. We're talking feeding-baby-vampires-status. Dr. Ullie reminded me of my own grandmother, Oma. She told me, "Ararat said she is your mother, so that means I am your mother until she returns." It's true. I had those same thoughts about Dr. Ararat. She was like my mother. (She is, in fact, older than my own wonderful mother.)
Dr. Ararat continued to be my advocate as I laid around the PC office fighting fever, rash, jaundice, and stomach viruses. She visited me every day, and I would sometimes hike to the 3rd floor just to sit in her office while she worked. She gave to me from her own prized stash of Quaker instant oatmeal (rarely found in W Africa). She ordered the other Senegalese volunteers to take care of me. She put my personal requests in the communication logs with headquarters. She was there for all the doctor's appointments (when she wasn't out of the country) and took Kim (other girl pictured) and I to N'Ice Cream during those outings. She spoiled me and cared for me as if I was her very daughter.
Dr. Ararat, you are unforgettable. You made my whole Peace Corps/med evac situation the best it could have been. I cannot wait for the days we will reunite. I am thankful for you!