We arrived in South Africa ready to make a difference and improve the overall health of the communities we visited. We discovered that many of the health issues the people were suffering from were related to HIV and lifestyle issues.
It was reassuring to learn that the local health organizations were working hard to help treat and prevent HIV, and our community education teams had already planned to help the patients improve their health through basic lifestyle changes. We were looking forward to a great week!
One of our nurse practitioners was a pediatric specialist so she loved seeing all the kids. In addition to the usual ear infections, rashes, and upper respiratory infections of children everywhere, she did see one three-year-old girl who would only drink sugar water and eat nothing else. She talked to mom and gave her some basic information about nutrition. She also told her how important it was that she change her daughter’s diet. Mom was receptive to the information, so hopefully there will be some changes for the better in their house.
On our clinic day in the inner city, we treated patients who were primarily refugees from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of them had experienced war first-hand and were terrified of strangers. They had a variety of health issues, including PTSD. One man had a spider bite from four months earlier that had become necrotic – the surrounding tissues had been damaged and died. He needed treatment beyond what we could provide so we took him to a nearby hospital.
The children we saw for community education were so quick to learn about good hygiene that some wanted to stay and help us teach the next group that came in. It was very exciting to see children teaching other children, and we hope their attitude continues as they go home to their own neighborhoods and even back to their own countries.
“It always amazes me how health education really does make all the difference, especially for long-term change. Definitely one of my favorite parts!” – Michelle, Nurse Practitioner and Team South Africa volunteer
One day we saw a group of patients who were primarily Indian. Many of them were elderly and greatly appreciated our care. One of our providers provided acupuncture for a number of patients to relieve their aches and pains. Although many of them had never received acupuncture before, they were excited to have the relief afterwards. One patient he treated with acupuncture to help her overcome the grief and loss of appetite she had been experiencing since losing her husband.
Our last day of clinic took us on a beautiful drive through the South African countryside, meandering through ravines and along rivers. Despite being in a very rural area, we treated 85 people for everything from aches and pains to high blood pressure, chicken pox, and tuberculosis. We also fitted many people for reading glasses and handed out sunglasses, bath soap, and toothbrushes.
We greatly enjoyed our visit to South Africa and getting to know and care for her people. We look forward to returning again soon!