I collected two small bottles of frozen pasteurised milk from one of our banks – in fact from the most northern one. The plan was to bring these samples to England in order to have them tested bacteriologically, by a reputable and independent laboratory in England.
It was quite a challenge to take these precious bottles from the freezer in Banso Baptist Hospital, NW Province Cameroon, and carry them to Warkton village, Northamptonshire, UK, without the milk becoming unfrozen. With the help of ice from hospitals and hotels, it was indeed possible – with the use of a reserve special thermos flask from the bank at BBH – to get the milk to Douala airport, from where I flew home. The milk, in the thermos flask, was in my case, and the case would enter the hold of the aircraft, where it would remain cold until its arrival at London Heathrow.
The fun started after having checked in, on arrival at the appropriate Gate for departure. There I was told that I must report back to Security, as there was something about my case which needed explaining. The Security office was tiny, untidy and sticky with tropical heat. Inside were 4 Security ladies who spoke no English, one Security gentleman, who spoke passable English and some French, and an X-Ray screen with my case displayed on it for my benefit, and me. I had to admit that the picture revealed what undoubtedly might have been a bomb; the stainless steel thermos looked decidedly menacing. I was now in the quaint situation of trying to explain to the gentleman what a breastmilk bank is, what it does, who I am and why I am carrying some baby milk to England. I have to do it in steady English without giggling; he has to translate it in steady French, earnestly.
The 4 ladies reclined in their chairs, bare feet up on other chairs, alternately shifting their corporate gaze between the gentleman and me; wide eyed with incredulity.
When he heard I was a doctor who had visited Banso and Mbingo hospitals, the gentleman became quite excited; he had been born in Mbingo. I was able to impress him with facts I knew about Mbingo. My story began to be accepted. When I said that I founded a Charity for the seriously sick children and babies of Cameroon, and that I had pursued that cause for 14 years, I was believed. I offered to open the flask; the offer was declined. They all seemed happy that the flask was packed with ice and baby milk, not Semtex. I wasn’t able to photograph the screen, but here is my drawing.
The frozen milk goes for testing at the laboratory of the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking at Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital, London, very soon.