Posted by: kat | April 27, 2010

On the run with a local

I went for a run today with Tony Bartleme from the Post and Courier, who’s here covering the work that the Medical University of South Carolina and Madaktari are doing in East Africa.  Here are some of the spectacular sites of Mwanza and Lake Victoria, but nothing beats having a local African elder woman join us.  Sadly, dressed in full garb from head to toe (and singing African chant), she still outpaced me.

Lake Victoria in Mwanza

Check out the first of Tony’s series which ran in today’s Post and Courier.

Posted by: kat | April 27, 2010

Six Feet Under

I expected many things on the way to Bugando Hospital but I didn’t anticipate George, “as in George W. Bush” he said.  George is one of the many coffin shop-owners lining the last mile towards Bugando Hospital, which is a tertiary medical center that serves 13 million people. George has been in this business for the last seven years, and it’s provided a decent living for him to support his wife and three children.    Before, he worked as a mechanic but made very little.

George shows us an unfinished coffin from his workshop.

George sells three to four coffins a day but “it depends on how many people die that day." Most have died from HIV/Aids, malaria, TB or other infectious disease the plague the country.

It was only noon and they had already sold two coffins today. One of George's employees is painting the name, birth and death dates on a cross for this morning's customer.

Prices range from $75 for a child's coffin to $280 for those who can afford to have one painted, adorned with decoration and lined with silk.

Death in Africa is just a fact of life, although hat may seem harsh to our American way of life.  We may prolong death or become overwhelmed by the sadness of our loss, the seeming unfairness of an untimely death, but in Africa, they accept it and move on – maybe because of necessity, maybe because they are stronger, maybe they’ve just seen more.

Posted by: kat | April 27, 2010

Welcome to Mwanza

Welcome to Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania.

This is baggage claim . . . come one, come all.

Posted by: kat | April 23, 2010

First Stop Detroit

Made it from Charleston to Detroit safely, although quickly learned to check the seating assingment on check-out.  Nothing like sitting in the last row of a small plane.  I stopped counting after the eighth passenger of the flight asked me about the vacancy of the bathroom, as if I keep a running tally!  Maybe Delta should offer last-row passengers a discount for this service.  Happy to hear that not only does Dr. Ellegala have a role at the World Economic Forum in Africa, but so does D. Word, Madaktari's Executive Director.  Off to a good start.

Posted by: kat | June 19, 2009

Family Advocacy Day in DC

Children are not little adults.  And the truth is since they aren’t adults, they can’t vote.  But they can have a voice and eight-year-old Matthew Chase is just one example of that!  Matthew was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome which essentially means he was born with half of a heart.  When he was only a few days old, he underwent the first of a series of surgeries to repair his congenital heart defect and now runs around like any other “normal” kid.  Well, not ANY kid.  Matthew, a budding philanthropist and entrepreneur, decided sick kids need all the help they can get so he started a fundraiser at his school in North Charleston.  He only intended to raise $2,000 but “accidentally skipped over it” to raise $3000 for the patients at MUSC Children’s Hospital.

I traveled with Matthew and his family, and other members of MUSC Children’s Hospital as part of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals Family Advocacy Day.  Children’s hospitals across the country bring a patient family to meet with their respective delegation and advocate for children’s health care.  Here’s Matthew’s pre-trip interview with the Charleston Post and Courier.

Posted by: kat | June 19, 2009

Surgery in the Bush

I had a picture in my mind of what the OR would be like here.  I expected a makeshift tent perhaps like on the set of the old show MASH, but was surprised to find an actual OR.  However, that is where my surprise ended.  Anesthesia is limited, equipment is close to non-existent.  I watched a patient wake up during surgery.  Our doctors taught Dr. Nuwas and the medical students how to remove a tumor the size of a baseball froma  seven-year-old boy.  This poor child had retinoblastoma – the tumor had ruptured through his eyeball.  The pain was extradorinary, and no doctors in Tanzania knew what to do for this child.  In the US, this malignant tumor would have been discovered quickly and he potentially would live a long life.  Here, the surgery was palliative, only serving to remove the tumor and give the child a few months with far less pain before he dies.

haydom day 2 700 5884

Haydom day 1 300 3806


Posted by: kat | June 19, 2009

Life of a Child in Africa

I meet the sweetest child, although I’m hard pressed to use the word “child.”  This seven-year-old girl walks through the patient ward carrying her baby brother on her back.  Her mother is in the hospital with a terrible illness and she must take care of both her mom and little brother.  I wonder who is taking care of her?  Yet, she sheds no tears, no whines.  This is her life. . .a life so different than the world we’re from with children crying at the grocery store aisle because they want a piece of candy or throwing themselves on the floor in a tantrum for yet one more toy.  She knows no other life and accepts her fate.  I can’t help but melt when she reaches for my hand and soon she is following me down the corridor.  I can’t resist so I give her a stuffed toy – a dog that barks when you press its ears.  For the first time, I see the child inside — she is the one grinning from ear to ear and laughing at the toy.  Over the next two days, she continues to find me and brings more friends with her.  Yes, I realize it’s not that I’m such a novelty, but the lure of gifts are great.

Life of Child in Africa2190

Posted by: kat | May 28, 2009

One Person Can Make a Difference

Posted by: kat | May 14, 2009

So Different Yet So Similar

As I’m watching Dr. Golby teach Dr. Nuwas, a little girl comes up to hold my hand.  We can’t speak the same language but she smiles in the room — it’s a hospital room unlike any we’d enounter in the U.S.  Six to eight patients stretched out on beds in one room – no fancy, sophisticated machines.  Yet in some ways, the scene unfolded very similarly as back home.  Family members gathered around each bed, desperately waiting for doctors, nurses, anyone to tell them any news or information about their loved ones’ condition.

Different Yet So Much The Same

Different Yet So Much The Same

Posted by: kat | May 13, 2009

Radiology Rounds

After chuch, we head to radiology conference where all the students and doctors study each case.  It gives them a chance to collaborate and also teach.  It is here where I have a brief encounter with altitude sickness.  (Haydom sits on a plateau in the middle of the Great Rift Valley at an altitude of over 5,000 feet) My head starts to nod off, the way it did back in school when you were terribly bored from a class but trying hard to look interested.  Yet, it had nothing to do with boredom.  I had plenty of sleep, but quickly realize that I haven’t been drinking any water and we’re at a much higher altitude and my body is adjusting.  I head to my room to grab a bottle of water and end up sleeping for an hour not by original design.  I am now separated from my group and am unsure of where to go.  But I’m assuming a group of Americans will stand out rather quickly.  I accidently find out that “operating rooms” is not understood in Swahili and are instead called “theaters.”  I finally find Alex who is rounding on patients with Dr. Nuwas in what is called the “old ward.”

MUSC Dr. Patel teaches Dr. Nuwas during radiology rounds

MUSC Dr. Patel teaches Dr. Nuwas during radiology rounds

Doctors and students study medical images

Doctors and students study medical images

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