Life In Our Small Tanzanian Village

Anne Dougherty, M.D.
Anne Dougherty, M.D.

I am waiting for my daughter to get off the school bus! She is being tutored in Swahili at the local school. Guido’s Swahili is progressing nicely. Mine, as always, is pathetic. I can barely get through the long, drawn-out greetings. The day is dry and hot, but recent heavy rains have turned the landscape green, and the crops are growing.

It is Saturday, but Guido and the herbalists are working in the minor theater treating wounds. There have been a lot of burns these past few days, but no lion bites yet.When we arrived, we found that the staff had continued to use honey and usnea (a forest herb) powder to treat wounds. They were happy to have the herbalists back so they could harvest more! Good progress.

The medical students and I, along with the doctor in charge, went to the “operating theater” to drain a massive pelvic abscess last night. In the United States, we would have tried to avoid surgery as much as possible, leaning instead on our interventional radiology colleagues to place a drain. But in this setting, surgery is the patient’s only chance. The procedure took a long time but she is doing well this morning. I have my fingers crossed for her.

Next week I will take the ultrasound which was lent to me by a colleague to some remote enclaves. Wasso Hospital outreach clinics travel upstream beds and across broken roads and bridges to treat pregnant women and children who cannot access the hospital. I am interested to see if the pregnant mothers will be as accepting of ultrasound as they are in Wasso. As has been done in Uganda, ultrasound can date pregnancies and identify high-risk pregnancies that should be delivered in the hospital rather than the home. The hope is that if the deliveries happen where there is access to emergency obstetric services, maternal mortality will be lower.

I am also hoping to conduct a cervical cancer screening drive before I leave. Cervical cancer is the number one female cancer in this area, and East Africa has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world.

Life in our small Tanzanian village is slow, but that is just fine for right now.

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