Photo (from left to right) Drs Cleve Sides, Shenali Abeysekera, Maggie L in, Richard Sharpe, Gail Burgey, Chineye Nwachuku
February 13, 2016
Our team of six physicians posed for this photo at the Philadelphia International Airport prior to the first of several flights which will land us at the Douala Airport in the evening of 6 Feb. After over 24 hrs of time in the air and sitting at airports, we will be ready for a rest and another day of travel by ground to our final destination, the Mbingo Baptist Hospital (MBH),in Cameroon, Africa. We expect our fatigue from travel will rapidly vanish as we get settled into our areas of specialty and get to know the great people working at MBH and the patients entrusted to our care.
This team includes specialists from orthopedics (Dr.Nwachuku), obstetrics and gynecology (Drs.Burgey, Sides and Abeysekera) and general surgery (Drs. Lin and I).We carry with us many supplies donated by St. Luke’s University Hospital and AmeriCares; these supplies fill some critical needs at MBH.
This page will have numerous blogs from us encompassing all of our specialties and areas of service. We trust you will check back often and thank you for your support!
February 16, 2016
After a safe 36 hrs of travel, we had dinner at a local restaurant in Douala (photo 1)and spent a restful night at guest quarters arranged for us. The next day,we traveled by van to Bamenda and finally to MBH. The trip was broken up into several stops for fresh fruit, one being ripe pineapple which proved to be quite tasty but a little messy (photo 2). Many photos were taken during the ride as we absorbed a lot of this new and interesting culture. A boy with a pot on his head was selling “bush meat” which,as the name implies, contains any kind of meat killed in the surrounding woods and fields.Not surprisingly, none was adventurous enough to give it a try.The evening was spent at MBH having dinner and getting settled in for a busy week. As expected, we arrived tired but eager to get starting with the staff at MBH.
February 16, 2016
The kitchen starts its work early by starting the fires both under the large pots in a shed and in small brick openings that sit under the big cast iron stoves in the general kitchen. The shed has a place for firewood that is used on all fires and is replenished daily. Today the kitchen table is covered in freshly harvested carrots, and large bags of beans sit nearby.
February 17, 2016
Gardening here means providing for your family and sales at the market place. All types of terrain is cleared by hand with raised beds…mountainside, valley, and small gardens near the home. While the soil appears dusty now, and planting is just starting in the dry season, the depth of the furrows makes for arduous work. The hoes are small shovel blades on a small handle. As one person digs, the other pulls and clears the brush. Some small trees are left. When the planting is done, some tall sticks are placed for the beans to grow up on.
February 18, 2016
Busy week. I am impressed by the type of surgery that this hospital does on a daily basis with the resources it has. I knew it would be a challenge to tackle the cases here, but felt as a gynecologist trained in the times of open procedures I would be up for it. While I feel I have been able to do an okay job, I feel woefully inadequate and admire the cases that they cover as general surgeons everyday. Feeling like the lighting is not good enough, the clamps and instruments are the wrong size and only partially function, the self-retraining retractor doesn’t, and suture type and size is variable. Even a basic case would be challenging. But there seems to be no easy cases. The cases here would be a challenge even in our facility. Being here makes me even more aware how spoiled we are, that we complain about our operating room times…and pout if our favorite piece of equipment isn’t ready. The resources that we have, take for granted, and often waste is a shame is even more apparent to me now.
February 18, 2016
The maternity ward is run by midwives with nurses. There are 7 midwives that all rotate the 3 eight hour shifts. They handle all the labor patients, deliveries, postpartum and post operative care. The front room is divided into two sections that look the same, with the nursing station in between. The left is for the vaginal postpartum patients and the right is for the cesarean postpartum patients.
When a patient is being evaluated in labor, she is taken to a small room with 4 beds in the back. Her vital signs are checked every 4 hours and fetal heart tones are evaluated every 30 minutes. The midwives will use cytotec for cervical ripening, and will begin pitocin as needed to augment labor. There are no pumps so any medicine is given in the drops per minute method. Everyone must have a caretaker, and that person stays with them throughout their stay.
When the patient is ready to deliver she is taken to the delivery room. The midwives deliver all the babies, including breech if the patient has had at least one vaginal delivery before, and twins. They will repair most lacerations but if it involves any of the rectal sphincter the surgeon will be called and she will go to the operating room for repair.
If a cesarean section is needed, the surgeons are called and the patient taken to the operating room.
February 18, 2016
The busiest week of my life (literally)
Due to a medical conference scheduled a while ago, four of the general surgery residents and both of the general surgeons were gone this week (14 – 20 Feb). In addition to this, one of the visiting general surgeons could not come leaving me as the only general surgeon here for 7 straight days. I am 5 days into this experience and can honestly say that I have done more surgeries than in any consecutive 5-days in my professional career. Add to this the responsibilities of supervising and teaching the 5 residents that remain coupled with over 175 clinic patients in three days and you can imagine that it has been a whirlwind of activity from dawn to dusk (and later). Many were seriously ill and required ICU level care and attention. While three of our patients died, many more were saved and countless morbidity averted simply because we could offer surgical care this week.
A significant blessing to me was that our team from St. Luke’s included Dr. Burgey, an OBGYN, and two OBGYN chief residents, Drs Abeysekera and Sides. Drs Burgey and Abeysekera were able to cover all the c-sections and gyn surgery leaving me free to focus on the general surgery. Dr. Sides was able to fill a critical need at Banso Hospital, which is about a three-hour drive away, and will be returning to Mbingo today. He will likely have some great stories to tell tonight at dinner time!
Dr. Nwachuku, the orthopedic surgeon in our group, has literally been operating everyday and has expressed to me his amazement at the type of cases he has managed this week. Hopefully, we will see some blogs from him soon. He has some terrific X-rays to share!
February 19, 2016
Last day at Mbingo, saying goodbye to one of my roommates, who is usually on the wall, or in the shower stall, until the light goes on, then he leaves…
Having the last cup of early morning coffee from Dr. Sharpe, who kindly made a pot every morning and shared a cup at 0600. A lifesaver as breakfast wasn’t until 0800.
Not sure what made me want to come, or what I expected to do, or if I expected to find something for myself. All I know is it was a very humbling experience: to see what people go through here, waiting to get health care that we take for granted, traveling to get healthcare that we have right down the road, the thankfulness for the care they receive and how the physicians and surgeons are able to care for them as well as they do with their limited resources.
I hope I made a small difference, and maybe was able to help some people. Most importantly I hope I have learned how fortunate I am to have the healthcare and resources available to me, and not take them for granted. Hoping I will be fortunate enough to come back and do it all again. Thank you to all who support this project and to my family for supporting me.