Time Moves On In Our Village

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

Time moves on in our small Tanzania village.

My daughter Uli had a test in Kiswahili yesterday. I am not sure she was fully prepared for how tough the Sister’s tests could be! Regardless, her Swahili confidence is increasing. The other day, she wanted to buy a roasted ear of corn. After rehearsing the conversation in Kiswahili, she successfully executed and purchased the corn from a woman vending on the street. The roasted corn is delicious, by the way. A bit like popcorn-on-the-cob.

Earlier this week, the herbalists found an old woman in the ward with a displaced femur fracture who was getting ready to be transported to the regional hospital for surgery. They fashioned a traction splint from acacia branches and applied it with good effect. They thought they would not have to do that again until today, when a seven-year-old boy was brought in after being trampled by an elephant calf. He had many injuries, among them a femur fracture. Again, the herbalists whipped into action and fashioned another traction splint. Their Wilderness First Responder training is paying off.

For most of this week, I was the only doctor at the hospital. Normally there are two doctors with surgical skills, but one went to a meeting in Arusha and then the other had a death in the family. It was a bit overwhelming, especially when it came to rounding on the male ward. I felt like I was in an alien world. Interestingly, the male cases are somewhat less complicated. Here the men are mostly affected by trauma – motorbike accidents, falls, and animal bites. The women, on the other hand, have internal processes – cancer, pelvic abscess, and pregnancy issues. Everyone did fine, but I was relieved when the other doctors returned.

Next week, we start cervical cancer screening using a “see and treat” model. This means we will look for precancerous lesions and will treat them with cryotherapy or freezing on the same day. In this area where women walk a long distance to reach the hospital, the availability of same-day treatment means a lower likelihood that the women will be lost to follow-up. I am excited to see what the response of the women will be.

This is our last weekend in Tanzania.
We will go on a night time safari on Saturday evening!

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