Stories from Indonesia
After the Earthquake: Doctor Nicky’s Story
It is nearly eight in the evening by the time Dr Nicky and the other members of MAP’s mobile health clinic finally drag themselves back from an exhausting day of clinic rounds in Sigi in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi.
“I am okay,” says Dr Nicky, “it is not the physical fatigue that affects me the most, it is more the emotional side of it. When you listen to the patients for four hours, you hear their stories, their problems, their distress, it is really not easy…”
Dr Nicky, 27, was born on Java Island and grew up between Indonesia and Singapore. “I wanted to study something useful, something concrete, to learn skills that I could use in my everyday life. As a doctor, you carry with you the knowledge you need to help people at all times. In my country, most people still think diseases are something to be cured. My dream is to change this mentality. Diseases are something that can be prevented. I want to show people how to stay healthy and take better care of themselves and their families,” he says.
After graduating in 2017, Dr Nicky worked for a year in a very remote part of the country. “One day, the mother of a young child who came to the clinic asked me to help her withdraw some money from the ATM machine,” says Dr Nicky. “She needed the money to pay the medical treatment for her son. She had 150,000 rupees (the equivalent of USD 10) in her bank account. This was all she had. But she was not complaining, she was just happy to have enough money to be able to help her son. This episode made me realize once more that we need to do our best, always, to help others.
“Of course I was afraid when MAP offered me this job in Palu. Media reports were talking about aftershocks and insecurity in town. My father told me I was completely foolish, he said ‘Everyone is leaving Palu and you want to go there!’ However, I knew that if I refused to help people once, then it would become a bad habit and I’d always find an excuse not to help, a reason to stay in my comfort zone. I didn’t want to become this kind of person,” says Dr Nicky.
"I knew that if I refused to help people once, then it would become a bad habit and I'd always find an excuse not to help... I didn't want to become this kind of person"
A few days after the 28 September disaster struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi, Medair’s local partner MAP put in place a mobile health clinic to reach people in the most remote affected areas. People come to the clinic to see the doctor and receive medicine.
“The earthquake has severely damaged or destroyed houses in Sigi,” says Dr Nicky. “People now live under makeshift tents, in very crowded spaces and with extremely poor hygienic conditions. This has already led to an increase in diarrhoea, stomach illnesses, and respiratory infections. Many people tell me they feel something wrong in their chest, they feel anxious, they cannot sleep at night, they get easily scared when they hear noises. Not all wounds are visible,” he adds.
Dr Nicky hopes to add psychological services to the clinic in the coming days. “My biggest dream would be to have an unlimited amount of time to dedicate to each patient. When I have hundreds of them coming, I need to move forward and I can’t stop,” he says.
The day is almost over. Dr Nicky grabs his guitar and sings a song for his team. “Playing music helps me a lot. It clears my mind and prepares me for another intense day,” he says with a smile.
Medair has a team of experienced emergency relief workers positioned on the island of Sulawesi, looking to begin operations in the affected areas of Central Sulawesi. The team has entered partnerships with three local nationally registered NGOs which are working in the affected area: Yayasan Menara AgungPengharapan –Indonesia (MAP), YayasanBumiTunggah (YBT); and CiptaFondasiKomunitas (CFK). Through our local partners, Medair is proposing a distribution of emergency shelter, non-food items (NFI), and hygiene items in key areas in Donggala, Sigi, and Palu districts.