January 04, 2017

This story appears in the Winter 2017 issue of Field Notes, the MSF Canada newsletter.

 

Diane McKenzie is proud to call herself an “MSF mom.” She holds a close connection to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — her son, Bruce Lampard, is an emergency physician who has been involved with MSF since 2001 and was the former president of MSF Canada’s Board of Directors.

Lampard has been on eight overseas assignments with MSF, from Afghanistan to Chad  to Somalia. Most recently, he provided medical care at MSF’s Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, in 2014. Whenever her son worked abroad, Diane kept in touch over email. She even printed off his stories and is planning on compiling them to create a book.

Looking back, her son credits his humanitarian spirit to his mother. Diane is a nurse who worked in the community health field and has always been passionate about helping others. Like her son, she was raised in a household that also valued the importance of giving back.

“In many ways, our work is similar except mine is on a  one-to-one  basis  as  opposed to 1,000-to-one, as Bruce would say about  his work,” she says. “I could  fully  appreciate what he was going through. It gave me a very special connection and pride in what he was doing.”

This special connection extends to a long-lasting commitment to MSF — both have decided to leave legacy gifts for MSF in their wills. “I think that it’s so important to look back at what means a lot to you in your life, and give back,” Diane says. “When you’re involved in this end of it, you’re just trying to encourage others and spread understanding of what MSF is all about.”

Bruce feels just as strongly about his decision to include MSF in his will, especially given his intense involvement with the organization. “MSF has had such an impact on my life that the decision was pretty easy. There’s a massive need out there by the organization in terms of what they do,” he says. “I’ve got some money that I want to send in that direction, so I’m going to make it  happen.”

 

Support that makes it possible to save lives

Bruce appreciates how MSF’s financial independence makes the organization’s work unique. He explains that this independence allows MSF to respond to crises quickly and effectively, often within 24 to 48 hours. “The most important reason for MSF being out there is that we’re working with people in crisis — whether it’s conflict or neglect or abuse or epidemic-related issues. The needs are absolutely incredible,” he says.

As a former MSF field worker, Bruce knows what it’s like to respond to the urgent medical needs that legacy donors help support.  He still remembers the face of the first patient he treated in a brand new, MSF-supported hospital in eastern Congo.

“There was no hospital there previously. When we arrived, it was just myself, three nurses and a few logistics people,” Bruce says. When his team first opened the hospital doors, no one came. A few days passed and Lampard grew concerned about the lack of patients. But the Congolese nurses reassured him, saying, “Bruce, don’t worry. In fact, you’re going to regret you ever said  that.”

They were right. “For months and months, we just couldn’t keep up with the volumes of people arriving,” he recalls. “But I remember the face of the first eight-year-old boy who was brought to the hospital  by  his  father. All he had was an ear infection but I figured, ‘You’re our first patient. We’re going to admit you to hospital.’ ”

The boy’s admission turned out to be a good omen — the team realized that their hospi- tal was missing lights and food. Frantically, they scrambled to find lanterns and cooks to prepare dinner that night for their first pa- tient. It was a memorable experience that has always stuck with Bruce.

“The friendships you’re able to create with some of the local people who are absolutely phenomenal is pretty important. It’s always about the people,” he says. “The relationships that you make along the way play such a big part and keep us all coming back.”   

 

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