Doctor Gains Fulfillment Through Algerian Stint

May 23, 2019
By Aybek AskharEditor: Ling Xiao
Doctor Gains Fulfillment Through Algerian Stint
Li Li poses with some of her Algerian colleagues and patients for a photo at the Centre Hospitalo-Uni-versitaire de Setif in Algeria. [For China Daily]


The gynecologist is positive that work abroad will help her get through bad days

As a member of a Chinese medical team in Algeria, gynecologist Li Li completed 10,750 outpatient clinic services and 1,608 cesarean sections.

Now that the 48-year-old has returned home after two years of hard work, she still feels delighted talking about her journey to the west. Unlike monk Sanzang's adventure in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to seek the truth, Li's experience in Algeria was more about helping and caring.

Before she went on her stint in Algeria, Li had never been abroad. She was born in the city of Xiangyang, Hubei province, and still lives and works there.

Growing up in a family of teachers, Li was taught to be a helpful person and so after graduating from high school, she accepted an offer from a medical school without any hesitation.

Li said she did not expect she would be able to use her specialized skills one day while she was a student studying medicine and that these skills could give her the ability to serve in a developing country in a way that many others could not.

After graduation, the then-22-year-old was recruited to work at the Xiangyang Woman's and Children's Hospital and became a gynecologist. Over the next 20 years, Li worked assiduously for the hospital, but also had a lot of stress and pain at the same time. She raised her daughter on her own after her divorce.

"I raised my daughter alone, and that was probably the most difficult time of my life," Li said.

"Maintaining a balance between work and family requires tremendous energy and determination, but I had to keep going no matter what.

"My job is to bring hope to families welcoming new members, and I kept reminding myself that I could do the same for my family too."

In 2014, Li's daughter was admitted into a local university, and that news was a great relief for her. From then on, Li decided to live a different life, so she turned her attention to a medical assistance program launched by the government half a century ago.

It has been a long time since Chinese doctors started providing medical services to patients in Algeria. Since two years after Algeria's independence from France in 1962, China has been dispatching medical teams to the country to provide medical care for its people, and hospitals from Hubei province were the first to join the program.

Some of Li's colleagues had been to Algeria before, and she was interested in working abroad after talking to them. For every doctor who had been there, it seemed that the two-year service had left unforgettable memories, and almost everyone told Li that she should take up the challenge.
"My willingness to go to Africa was more of a professional complex. A senior doctor whom I admire went to Algeria many years ago, and he shared a lot of fascinating experiences with me at a meeting. From then on, the idea of working and living abroad was like a seed sprouting in my heart," she said.
Li enrolled to be a member of the medical team in June 2016, and she soon embarked on an intensive six-month quest to learn French.
More Chinese doctors today may consider the possibility of working abroad as China's global influence grows. However, adapting to life abroad is never an easy thing to do, and the language barrier is always the main obstacle.
"We met a dedicated French teacher during the course, and through my continuous efforts, I could cope with simple communication by the end of the course. I also learned some medical terminology in French which turned out to be very useful," Li said.
With seven other doctors, Li took a flight to Algeria in March 2017. They were assigned to different departments at the Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de Setif, a major hospital in Setif in the east of Algeria. Li began mission work the moment she arrived.
"Working there was completely different from working at my hospital in Xiangyang, Algerians have a different view of childbirth than the Chinese. They do not get abortions, and some of them prefer cesarean sections. These were the things that kept us busy, and there were surgeries almost every day," she said.
Li helped to deliver more than 10,000 babies. It takes Li an hour to finish a C-section in China, while the duration to complete one was much shorter in Algeria. Li set a record by finishing an operation within 20 minutes, and that kind of efficiency won the admiration of her Algerian colleagues.
"In the beginning, they were a little skeptical about whether I could handle all these surgeries, but I soon reassured them with my performance. Sometimes, I needed to perform more than 10 operations a day. I had to seize the day because there were always many women waiting for the operations," Li said.
In addition to providing diagnoses and surgeries, Li and other members of the team had to teach local medical professionals advanced medical skills, and this helped change some of the obsolete medical techniques and ideas in childbirth that had always existed among the local doctors.
"We have successfully carried out many highly complicated surgeries for the locals, and the mortality rate of mothers in Setif was significantly reduced through our joint efforts," she said. "But we were constantly under pressure due to a lack of equipment. Algeria needs to invest more in its hospitals."
Li's constant devotion earned the gratitude of the Algerian people, and they gave her the title of "excellent worker" before she left.
Although life in Setif was quite fulfilling, Li sometimes felt a bit of homesick. "Different dietary habits were one of the biggest challenges for me when I worked there," she said. "When I ate Algerian food for the first time, it evoked my nostalgic feelings of home."
Li is hoping for another opportunity to work abroad, and she said she had gained valuable experience from her time in Algeria, and that might guide her through bad days.
"There may be times when everything will appear too difficult to manage," Li said. "But the entire journey will turn out to be the most rewarding experience of my life."

Doctor Gains Fulfillment Through Algerian Stint
Li with three babies she had just delivered at the hospital. [For China Daily]


(Source: China Daily)

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