- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 16 April 2016 16 April 2016
Friday is the end of our Mercy Medical clinic week, and a day of mixed emotions. The team is a bit worn. The patients are plenty. And we want to make sure we provide care to as many people as possible. Friday is the last day the American and Tanzanian teams work together with a common goal of providing healthcare to the local community. Friday is a day for endurance, perseverance and teamwork.
We again arrived at the clinic to over a hundred people waiting for our arrival and services. The day began with a moment of worship, scripture and devotion with the anticipatory crowd. The singing of a hymn and recitation of the Apostle's Creed and Lord's Prayer in Swahili remains a very powerful moment to witness when you are a believer in the same Lutheran faith. After this time of worship, Pastor Dave from the Mercy Medical Team worked with Bishop Angowi of the LCEA to introduce the pastors who have been volunteering at the clinic all week to the crowd. The goal was to encourage a connection between the people and the pastor who serve their local communities. At times it seems to be a bit outside of the culture and comfort zone for this socialization to occur between the pastors and those in attendance. This clinic is a great time to create relationships between the church body and the communities, and the pastors have been active throughout the clinic all week.
The clinic day ran quite smoothly as the local health district sent four physicians to work at the clinic today. Throughout the week there had only been two doctors treating patients each day. This increased number of providers really assisted with the flow of patients and allowed the clinic to run much more efficiently. As a team we provided care for 290 patients today and saw all those who waited in line during the day for treatment. We did notice that one person took advantage of the situation and set up shop selling fried bread and coffee to those waiting in line. The registration line was much more creative today and wound around the front property of the seminary to keep as much order as possible. There was a moment of anger and chaos by the masses when the order of the line was disrupted and someone cut in front of those who had been waiting longer. Human nature is ever-present.
Patients presented with a vast array of medical needs today. Throughout the week we have treated many cases of high blood pressure, and today contained just as many. The blood pressures here are very high (200s/100s) when they are elevated. One potential cause may be stress. There was a younger woman who presented today with hypertension. She is the second wife to her husband and is experiencing infertility challenges. However, the first wife of the husband is expecting a child, which is increasing the stress levels for the young patient. Other patients spend many hours completing manual labor to make enough money just to get by. Farm work is done by hand in most cases, with hoes and picks to work out in the fields. Life is not always easy. Elevated blood sugars continued to be a common diagnosis today. This may be related to the diet rich in carbohydrates and starches.
Today a mother came to the clinic with her 2.5 year old son who has hydrocephalus. The child has a shunt placed, but it stopped working one month ago. The mother of the child is having trouble finding a local hospital that can provide care. Shara and Frank, a local nurse serving as an interpreter, worked to make sure the mother has an appointment at a nearby hospital for follow-up for the shunt. One of the local pastors will call the mother this week to make sure the appointment is attended and will travel with the family to the hospital for further treatment.
Sharon and her Tanzanian nurse partner Mary have been treating a woman and providing wound care follow-up for several days. Today the woman arrived at clinic to be seen and brought two hard boiled eggs as gifts of thanks for Sharon and Mary. Another patient at the clinic today is expecting a child soon and enjoyed her nurse's name so much that she plans to name her child Marlene.
Lab testing was available to patients throughout the week. Out of 275 tested, seven cases of HIV were diagnosed and counseling was provided to these patients as they begin this new path with their health. Over 200 malaria tests were completed this week, and none of them came back positive. The pharmacy stayed quite busy as they filled 2,768 prescriptions for the patients treated at the clinic. The medications are free to the patients and guidance is provided to follow up with local healthcare clinics and providers for follow-up and refills.
At the end of the day, the first Mercy Medical Team clinic in Tanzania was a success. We were able to serve and treat 1,025 patients, collaborate with local healthcare providers, serve with members of the Lutheran Church of Africa and share our faith with the people of Tanzania. The clinic is now closed. The supplies are packed away, and the seminary in Himo will return to educating Lutheran pastors of the future. However, this American team has left a lasting impression here in Tanzania, and the beautiful people of Tanzania have filled our hearts. This is just a beginning. The team will leave Tanzania full of the joy of the African people.
To God be the glory.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?