We started the day with Mama Kyara making us pancakes, which were kind of a cross between American style pancakes and crepes with vegetables inside. We then packed up the ambulance with 4 more bags of supplies and it was off to the hospital.
At 9:00 a.m. we had a meeting with 31 volunteers, who all came to meet us dressed in their best clothes.They were extremely grateful for all the support offered by Gilchrist. We felt like visiting royalty – they kept clapping for us and telling us how much they loved us. These volunteers are responsible for doing triage – they are the eyes and ears of the hospice program. Consider that Nkoaranga serves 900 patients with 5 staff members – they rely on the volunteers to know what is going on in their own villages and to communicate needs to the Palliative Care Team. We were struck by their sincerity, compassion, and passion for doing their work. They are led by a gentleman who is a retired businessman and pastor, and now serves as a volunteer. They expressed concern that HIV patients receive many more services from the government than cancer patients do. They also let us know that there is little for the very old, and that in some families the elders are killed. They expressed sincere gratitude for all that Gilchrist has done to provide stipends for them and to provide care for the patients.
Then we met Goodluck, a young man who is a paraplegic as a result of falling out of a tree. He has severe ulcers that encompass much of his lower body. We learned that his mother is a witch, and according to tradition she is supposed to sacrifice her first born child, but she prefers her daughter (the first born) and has decided to sacrifice Goodluck by direct and indirect actions. He has been living at the hospital because his wounds are so severe. When his wounds are better, he may go to live with his father, even though he has not spent much time with him due to his parent’s divorce. The team is concerned that the father is unrealistic, as Goodluck requires 24 hour care and the father must eke out a living farming. No one else wants to care for him because they believe his mother has cursed him. If he had been provided proper care by his mother, he could have been trained at the Usa River Rehabilitation Center to use a wheelchair and to practice a trade.
We then stopped to see the dentist, Dr. Frank, and provided him with the packets of toothpaste and toothbrushes that Marian’s dentist sent as donations.
And then – it was off to the orphanage – and guess who we saw? Ester!!! Ester is a child we met in 2010 when she was 10 months old and was orphaned as a result of her mother dying after a c-section. Ester’s picture hangs on our Tanzania wall in Hunt Valley, and on the bulletin boards at Howard County and the Towson Inpatient Unit. She is now 5 years old – she’s a sweet girl who is learning to write and read. We took lots of pictures of her, but we’re still having internet problems so we can’t send them. We gave out lots of dolls, and the rainbow loom bracelets that Marian’s granddaughter Campbell made.
We were taken by the brightness of their smiles, their intelligence and their eagerness for affection, and openness to new visitors, which also made us sad.
We then went off to a home visit to Mr. Thadayo Maturo, a 57 year old man with cancer of the tongue. Like many people in Tanzania, he was terrified of chemotherapy and radiation, so it took the team years to convince him to go to the Ocean Road Cancer Center in the south of Tanzania for treatment. It takes him 8-10 hours to travel across bumpy roads by bus to the center.
The next home visit was really special – we visited another child we met on an earlier visit named Goodluck (Goodluck Elkopeia). He is now aged 13, but looks as though he is age 8. He has HIV and is being successfully managed on anti-retroviral medication. Both of his parents died of AIDS and are buried on the small farm on which he lives with his two older sisters, age 18 and 21. They are taking excellent care of him.
Our last stop was to see Mr. Langael Nanyaro, an older man with diabetes. His home is the worst we’ve seen so far. All they have are stools to sit on, and burned walls from cooking inside the hut with no windows. He is deeply disappointed that his children do not provide better care for him and for his wife, as they devoted so much of their lives to them. His wife does the best she can, but she has to farm, milk the cow, raise the children, cook, etc. Mr. Nanyaro has lost his vision from diabetes, and he is not following the appropriate diet or attending the clinic as he should (it’s far, and bumpy roads, and no transportation). Today his blood sugar was 565 when taken by the palliative care team, and his BP was 160/96. The patient can’t check his sugar at home. Dr. Bakari got his wife to tearfully agree to the him being hospitalized to control his blood sugar.
We’re still having technology issues – the electricity has been out for over 24 hours (except for one brief hour). But seriously? How can we complain when we watch the heroic actions of the Nkoaranga Palliative Care team making saline in a water bottle with salt, making a poultice from un-ripe papayas, educating and explaining medical care to families that have no medical knowledge and coping with superstitions.
Well, we’re off to take freezing cold showers.
Keep us in your thoughts!
And don’t forget, if you are interested in how you can help our partners in Tanzania, come to our benefit concert September 26th (download the flyer now) or you can make a donation by selecting Global Partnership here.