Habari zako from Nyakato. What an amazing team we have again this year. It is such a treat to see how each team comes together each year—so many job backgrounds all coming together to make a well-oiled machine. We have a multi-talented team that has been able to flex into each others roles very easily. It has been exciting to see all the changes that have occurred since we were here last year.
Surgery: This year we were moved from the clinic to the maternity center. Here we were able to have a great surgical suite with new shelving units (that didn’t tip over when bumped), an overhead surgical light, a surgical table that is adjustable and a great view out the back windows. We have a room for pre-op, post-op, pre-op evaluation, supply/autoclave and a room for staff to take a break. The bathtub we used the past several years has been retired and replaced by a scrub sink. This year because we have overnight hospital stays available for our patients, we are planning some bigger cases: thyroid resection for goiter, 3 abdominal hysterectomies, etc. The sad part is that being away from the main clinic, we don’t get a chance to interact with the local staff as much. Our surgeon, Eric Brekke, continues to impress the patients and staff with his expert knowledge of Swahili; I have suggested that he will need to come back next year so he doesn’t forget the Swahili that he has learned.
Electricity: Last year we typically had electricity only 12 hours per day at most. This year has been amazing so far. The electricity was off the first day we arrived but has been almost continuous since. In the past we usually went to bed early due to no lights; now we play euchre way too late—Thursday night we played 6 handed euchre. You really don’t know how much you take this for granted until you don’t have it.
Medical Students: This year we have two Tanzanian medical students. In the past we have had have had medical students from Europe and the US so this is a bit different. They are spending time with us in the clinic as well as in the operating room. Since they train in English, they are also great interpreters. In addition to the students, two of the clinical officers, Bon and Fidelis, have also been spending a lot of time assisting in the OR.
Green grass: Last year when we were here, it was so dry everything was very dry and shriveled up. We had never seen it like that before. This year they have gotten more rain and everything is lush and green. More rain also means more electricity—compared to last year, we have had almost nonstop electricity.
Highlights: For me the highlights in coming back to Tanzania are seeing all the friends we have made in the past. They are so appreciative, warm and inviting. Another highlight was doing medical exams barefoot while working at Starehe Children’s Home; we took off our shoes before going into the buildings to keep the floors clean. This orphanage is amazing in many regards—the kids are very well cared for and love to be held. This is the second year here so it was fun sharing with the kids how much they had grown from last year—the boys especially want to be tall and strong, no different than back home!
Today is a big day in surgery. Two total hysterectomies and two minor cases. It will be busy with several possibly needing transfusions due to initial low hemoglobins. We have the blood we need in the lab so we are prepared. Thanks for all your comments; I print them off each morning, and we pass them around while we eat breakfast.