Update from Nkoaranga dental clinic!

Hujambo friends!  My name is Shannon and I’m a 4th year dental student on the MedOutreach 2013 team 🙂

Just a quick update from the dentistry side of things…Unawuma wapi? / “Where does it hurt?” is the most common Swahili phrase that we use when a patient walks in to the dental clinic here in the Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital where we have spent the past week.  It is the only dental clinic in the small, high altitude (1700m), Meru-tribe-based town of Nkoaranga (en-kor-anga). The dentist we are working with is also a doctor (radiologist), so with Sam and I covering the dental clinic, he is able to spend more time on the medical side of his practice and therefore really appreciates having us there.   The medical and nursing students were able to see some interesting surgeries here when they were here last week.  We have seen a lot of toothaches and dental infections done lots of extractions!   My Swahili is slowly getting better thanks to the help of our friend and translator, Godlove (a typical name for the very Lutheran/Catholic area of Tanzania that we are in), who is one of the boys that MedOutreach has gotten to know over the past few years (see below). Today was really busy –we saw a pretty big facial swelling and one of our patients walked 6 hours to get to the dental clinic, and had tooth pain since 2007.   After we thought we were done for the day, a patient arrived for a consult and we are pretty sure the diagnosis is oral cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).  We referred it to a hospital in Kilimanjaro for biopsy. I hope he is OK. It was the first time I have seen a lesion like this outside of lecture/textbooks.  We have gotten a lot of great experience in Nkoaranga.  We are back in Arusha now and are looking forward to spending next week with Dr. Teckle at the Seventh Day Adventist dental clinic here in Arusha and will return to Nkoaranaga again the following week. 

Another highlight of our time here is getting to a great group of boys who grew up together in an orphanage that MedOutreach used to support. The boys are now ages 18-22 and many of them still live together.  They have been very welcoming and showed us around the city helped us get a more local perspective on life in Tanzania. They also help us get local prices around town, rather than “mzungu (white person) prices”, which is nice since mzungu prices are considerably higher!  We’ve had a great time getting to know them and learning from them.  They showed us the room/house where they live.  It is very basic, but it sounds like they have a lot of fun together.  Most of them are in school or college and they are all VERY kind and polite and truly wise beyond their years.  We were talking about our favourite foods yesterday and I mentioned that I love avocados and one of the boys surprised us at our hostel this morning with a HUGE bag of avocados to give us that he had picked from the tree outside their house.  We went to see their house this afternoon and he showed us how he picked them…he climbed up this huge avocado tree like a monkey and tossed them to his rafiki (friend) on the ground! Anyway, the avocados here are GIGANTIC and sooo good.  There are bananas and mangos that grow there too, but they’re not in season yet.  We took the boys for dinner tonight and had some walli kuku (rice and chicken) and chips maeye (French fries/egg – so good!) at a local restaurant near our hostel.  We are having a great time here so far and learning lots.  Thanks for reading!

Shannon :o)

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