Saturday, June 29, 2013

Doctors Wanted! Making a difference in rural Tanzanian health care

Dr. Will Metcalfe and Vikki Milne with an NGO Home Based Care Volunteer visiting a patient in the village of Isipii in Mufindi District, Tanzania

Week three of June was action packed as well, and had a distinctly health-centered focus.
On Monday (17th) Charles Mwagala from the Children’s Village attended a meeting at the Luhunga ward office that discussed issues with AIDS, and what issues to bring up when upcoming district guests visit the village the following day. We are being invited to all of these Ward meetings these days held by the government, and we take it as a great sign that the local government wants to include us whenever they can.
Children’s Village/Community Outreach manager Jenny Peck held a meeting with the sewing school leaders (teacher and top students) and discussed a future plan to generate steady income for the school. Things have really taken off since volunteer Annelies Vermeij visited and gave the program a shot in the arm. Jenny then gave a small seminar on HIV education to the guardians at the Children’s Village, and announced the visiting doctors Will and Vikki would be giving a full seminar before they leave. We have a goal that everyone working with our NGO will become a local expert in HIV, so there will be even more education about the disease spread to the community at large.
Will and Vikki then did a round-up around the Children’s Village, and made a check-up on all the children with health issues.

Tuesday brought a trip to town as Nache, an 11 year old HIV+ boy at the Children’s Village, needed an x-ray (available only at the district hospital for now), to diagnose whether or not he had tuberculosis. He tested negative, but a complicated treatment plan was put in place to treat him for Pneumonia. The Mufindi District HIV team came later in the day to visit the Children’s Village. We are located quite a distance from the district capitol, so again it was great to see this inclusion by district leaders. We were able to bring up all of our concerns such as CD4 reagents for the Mdabulo Care and Treatment Clinic for HIV, broad-spectrum anti-biotics for HIV patients, line 2 ARVs, and infant tests for HIV. It was useful to get a voice with the stakeholders at the district level on HIV treatment. We continue to voice our concern that our area is underserved in relation to the high prevalence of HIV in such a rural place.

Wednesday the 19th featured more health focus, as the NGO health department called a special meeting to discuss the developments of two children at the Children’s Village (Nache and Meshack) who were starting the second line of Anti-Retroviral treatment. This begins when the body builds immunity to the first line, and it is very dangerous as in Tanzania there is no third line. This means that proper health practices such as diet, and strict medication adherence are literally vital concerns now for both of these children.
Jenny and Peace Corps/Foxes’ NGO volunteer Stacey Droll discussed and planned the schedule for remaining week that Doctors Will Metcale and Vikki Milne would be present. They themselves spent the day visiting areas in and around Luhunga village including Mwefu, Kipendaroho, and Igoda, seeing patients. They saw many patients affected by HIV, and who were afflicted with opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis.

The next day physiotherapist Sigi Steiner arrived and she immediately worked with Hezron, an 18 year old boy living at the Children’s Village who is HIV+ and physically disabled due to severe cerebral palsy. Sigi has been teaching guardians some exercises that will help Hezron feel more comfortable and be more independent in his life.
Stacey brought Doctors Will and Vikki off to Kidete village in the morning as we were fortunate to have a visit from Dr. Schuyler Wood, and his wife Kavisa. Having Schuyler present meant that he could help with Nache’s complicated pneumonia treatment (which included daily injections and refilling of an implanted IV). This allowed Will and Vikki to see more patients. The next day doctors Will and Vikki visited the Mdabulo CTC. It was clinic day, and they were able to help with the abundance of patients (over 100) that arrived on the one day. Sigi came as well so that Stacey could take her on home visits where family members were taught how to help their disabled relatives.

Dr. Metcalfe with Zakayo (in the Dr.'s right arm) and Vasco (on his right) with their family members. The children successfully re-patriated back with their families earlier this year after spending the past four years at Igoda Children's Village

Saturday the 22nd featured a long day of travel as we checked up on Zakayo and Vasco who had left the Children’s Village and gone home to their far away village of Kilosa to leave with their respective families again. We were overjoyed to see that they are doing very well. This is something that we all love to see as our main goal is to have every child live in the village with his or her family, and successful ‘re-patriation’ back into the village is our goal for every child at some point. We see this as an overall good sign of development for the surrounding community as more and more families are becoming able to take their children back to their village homes. They are gaining the ability to care for their own children as positive development improves their lives. Doctors Will and Vikki made the trip, along with Sigi, and they all saw patients in Lulanda, and Isipii villages.

On Sunday the 23rd, Will and Vikki gave Nache his last injection/IV refill, and he had shown signs of improvement. We hope for the best for Nache, but he is in a very fragile condition. Just as his cough and pneumonia symptoms were improving, he was diagnosed with shingles. He has medication (left by Dr. Leena Pasanen from her previous visit) and his condition will continue to be monitored very closely.

The week really showed us what kind of impact medical volunteers really can have. Under the right local guidance, medical volunteers can help overall health on a case-by-case basis, but also through educating the masses about better health practices. Our NGO has been blessed with some great medical volunteers in the past, and as the Mdabulo Hospital is ready for its grand opening, we will have the capacity for medical volunteers of all kinds including dentists, surgeons, nursing professionals, physiotherapists, and others. We welcome anyone who would like to make a difference in a very underserved rural population that is on the road to recovery.


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  2. Excellent progress making such a difference to those who live in this remote rural area.

  3. Vizuri sana, i thing the volunteers are doing a wonderful job, I know time will come when Africa will grow and develop, and we will be able to save others by learning from you guys.