Our last day of work at Ndala Hospital was the usual mix of the mundane and tragic. Two pediatric and one obstetrical death clouded the flow of things and in the surgical department we had two acute abdomens, one of which was a simple appendicitis and the other a nasty typhoid perforation. She should be all right as she came immediately without wasting time with a local healer. Making rounds on our remaining patients I realized that this is the first year I have had no post-operative deaths. Again summing up life and death cases in sports terms:
ELSKIPO 8 GRIM REAPER 0
That feels really good. And, you know, the equipment here isn’t even as good as Sumbawanga and the availability of lab and x-ray even less. No, there’s still no running water in the wards and one is hard pressed to find a toilet that works. But it’s the people who care. I’m not only talking about the nuns, there are only six of them and not all work at the hospital. The rest of the personnel are trained to a varying degree but all of them seem so committed to patient care that it doesn’t even seem like the same country. The assistant medical officers function well, accept suggestions and love their jobs. It is they who really determine the level of care. Morning report at 8am weekdays is a serious meeting dedicated to continuity of care and it works. As discouraged as I felt in past years, I leave Ndala feeling there is hope for the medical system here and that people really do care about their parts in it. My hope is that the public/private/government partnership that supports this project can continue to make progress not only in Ndala but across the country. This formula seems to work. During the day we were summoned to the administrator’s office and I’m thinking to myself, “OK, that’s it. You pissed people off again and they are running us out of town.” What they did was question us for almost an hour about what we would suggest to make the hospital better. By now I have learned the niceties of a Tanzanian policy meetings and I think we did the dance really well as they wound up taking copious notes about “mutually arrived at” ideas concerning equipment, organization, record keeping and scheduling.
The night before departure was party time again. This time it was the sisters’ turn to wish us well. Over beer and that jug sangria they each made a little speech attesting that our presence was appreciated. They gave each of us a little gift – an African shirt for me and those cloth wrap around things for Grace and Stacey. We were quite touched by this unexpected gesture. I’m sure they were equally moved by our donation to their foundation which is richly deserved.
So, that’s about it. Early this morning a Landcruiser showed up for us with our driver and a sister for a chaperone and by 4:30 we were on our way back to Shinyanga to catch our plane to Dar then Arusha and to start our safari.
I’ve only been able to share a few photos of this experience in this blog. Over the next month or so I will publish an album on Facebook but be patient. I have a lot of catching up to do.