The girls have all been on my back about writing a post (every day they ask feel the need to ask me 5 times how my posts are coming along) – so to obtain a couple days of relief I’m posting my first blog entry!
For the last 2 weeks Neha and myself were in rural Nkoaranga at the local hospital, working in the dental clinic. Dr. Frank Akyoo is the only dentist working at the hospital and due to staff shortages he is also employed as the hospital radiologist. These positions are too much for one person to handle so it was very rewarding taking over the dental clinic at the hospital because it allowed Dr. Frank to focus on radiology, and for more patients to receive treatment each day.
To get to Nkoaranga, you can take a “dalla dalla” van for a 20 – 30 minute drive from Arusha, then hop on the back of a dirtbike called a “piki piki” for a ride up into the foothills of Mount Meru. During the first week there, Julia, Alina, and Dilan were also helping out in other parts of the hospital. In Nkoaranga, there is not much to do after hours (the town consists of a hospital and a couple of variety stores). Before dark, we would sometimes go for a jog along dirt roads (which turned out to be good training for climbing Mount Meru, as the hills and valleys were exhausting!) – all of the locals just stare at us all the time, and frequently call out “mazungu!” which apparently translates to “white man” but the locals use the term for anyone who does not appear to be from Tanzania. There is also an orphanage on the hospital grounds that gave us a lot of entertainment on various evenings when we would go relieve the staff for a while by distracting the children. On a couple of occasions I felt the urge to lift weights…this provided some entertainment for the others when I was using the balcony railing as a weight bench and lifting hockey bags and backpacks filled with food and clothing for my workout. On one evening, Neema, a nurse/midwife at the hospital invited us to her house to demonstrate how to make the local foods “Ugali” and “Chapatti”. She then (for reasons I still don’t fully understand) proceeded to show us graphic videos of complicated baby deliveries…during which the girls got some weird enjoyment from watching my reactions to the videos instead of watching the videos themselves!
We worked with hospital administrators to write a letter for local churches to post on Sunday Mass indicating that we would be holding a free dental clinic from July 18-20. Patients would show up in the morning beginning at 9am and wait in line to receive treatment. Thankfully, the MedOutreach Nursing and Meds students volunteered to help us out with equipment and sterilization procedures. This allowed the clinic to operate much more smoothly. With only 1 dental chair and so many patients showing up, we had to “create” more operatories in the front hall of the clinic – treating 2 – 3 patients at a time while they were sitting in regular wooden chairs.
Communication was an issue, as most of the patients did not speak English (Our Swahili is limited to basic terms and common dental terms, so you may imagine how difficult it would be to discuss complex healthcare issues with patients). In order to improve the efficiency of the clinic, we hired one of our local contacts “Godlove” to translate for us, and the hospital also sent one of is administrators over to help with record keeping and translation.
Most of the procedures conducted were dental extractions, as most people here avoid the dentist until their affected teeth are too decayed to be restored. Neha and I worked well as a team to tackle the challenging extractions, and once in a while would seek the help of Dr. Frank for complex surgical extractions. Many of the patients required multiple dental procedures, however due to the number of patients arriving and our limited funds to pay for their treatment (we paid a fee to the hospital for each extraction and also for any antibiotics, painkillers, and mouthrinses we prescribed for patients) we were unfortunately only able to provide 1 – 2 procedures on each patient to get them out of pain before moving on.
We now have returned to Arusha and are resuming work at the “Seventh Day Adventist” local dental clinic under Dr. Tecklie, Dr. David, and Dr. Zumo. We previously visited 2 orphanages to conduct dental/medical screenings, and are in the midst of arranging for those children who require treatment to be brought to the Arusha clinic. The orphanages were very grateful of our support and we found it very rewarding handing out soccer balls, stickers, clothing, and other items that were donated to MedOutreach throughout the year.
This weekend we go on a Safari into the Serengeti and Ngorogoro crater – a trip we are all very excited for. I look forward to seeing a lot of wildlife and posting some great pics!
Having a blast in Tanzania. Having tons of great experiences and am with a great group to share them with. I look forward to telling everyone more about this trip when I get back.