Our last two days in Tanzania:
On Thursday, Becky, Sharmean, Marian and I returned safely to Arusha Tanzania from our adventures with baboons and other wild animals and enjoyed two great days with our partners at Nkoaranga Hospital’s Palliative Care Program.
Friday morning after breakfast served by Mama Kyara, we went to Nkoaranga Hospital for morning prayer service with the staff. It was neat to hear them sing “How Great Thou Art” in Swahili (which we sang in English). The chapel is a cozy six sided building on the grounds of the hospital, where the staff start their day grounded in their faith. We then met with Dr. Bartholomew Bakari, Mette Kristensen (the Danish missionary nurse) and Tumaini to plan for the day.
Mette told us more about Goodluck, the young man we wrote about earlier who fell out of a tree several years ago and is now age 22. He is paralyzed from the waist down and had not received care from his family, so he lay on the floor unable to turn himself, resulting in hideous ulcers. Thanks to donations by Gilchrist, we took boxes of wound care supplies with us among the 14 checked bags. Becky, Mette, the hospital matron Elizabeth and Marian went to see Goodluck to look at his wounds and to confer about the dressing changes and the new products. The dressing changes for his 5 ulcers (one of which has eroded down to the femur) took a full hour. Amazingly, his 13 year old sister was present, observed the whole procedure, and indicated she would like to become a nurse. In Tanzania, the family is responsible for personal care for the patient. The hospital is trying to discharge plan for Goodluck which may involve his young sister providing care at their father’s home.
Robin and Sharmean went to see another patient who the palliative care team admitted to the hospital (transported by the new ambulance) during our visit here – Mr. Wilgard Masare who has gastric cancer and needed to drain a liter of fluid from his abdomen. He was more comfortable but appeared to be declining quickly and near to death – while he is still able to communicate, he has stopped speaking the universal Swahili and has reverted to his tribal language, the Meru dialect. The counselor for the hospital translated.
Mr. Masare has stopped eating and sleeps most of the day. Dr. Bakari is hoping to get him home to die – which is preferable for families in Tanzania. We had an interesting conversation later with the counselor, who felt it was important for the patient to remain hopeful and to continue to eat. We shared our US hospice views on balancing hope with honoring the natural dying process, and allowing patients to direct their end of life experience.
Later that evening, Dr. Paul Mbando and the ELCT team (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania) hosted a dinner for us with ELCT, the hospital management and the palliative care team to again praise and thank the Gilchrist Hospice Care and GBMC community for all that we have done over the past six years for Nkoaranga’s Palliative Care and Hospice Program. But more importantly, they spoke about how important the relationship is, beyond the actual help. They are grateful that we have had multiple educational exchanges and have come to know one another well.
We were struck by how welcoming each and every attendee was to us, how genuinely interested they were in us and their desire to honor us as representatives of Gilchrist. They speak frequently about feeling hopeful and loved as a result of our partnership. Dr. Mmbando added that when they don’t see us we will always be in their hearts.
They gave us a batik pictures to hang on our African wall – one of a Massai woman with a baby on her back and a basket on her head and a basket in her hand, but somehow reaching out to help another child. Dr. Mmbando likened this to our Gilchrist family and GBMC community, saying although we at Gilchrist have our own patients to be concerned about, we still reach out to our brothers and sisters in Africa.
On Saturday morning, we had an opportunity to see Jeremiah Saruni Kaaya, our friend throughout these 6 years of partnership. Jeremiah visited us in the US in 2013 and retired at the end of July after 10 years as the Administrator of Nkoaranga Hospital. Prior to leaving the hospital, Jeremiah was a businessman for many years and ran for political office. We presented him with an engraved clock for his desk, reading “To Jeremiah, Enjoy your retirement, Your friends at Gilchrist Hospice Care.”
We left Tanzania on Saturday evening, and of course cried when we left them – and look forward to the time we will see them again!
Thank you again for all of your support and prayers during our educational exchange to Tanzania.
And don’t forget to come to the Benefit Concert for Tanzania on September 26! More information