Our medical mission team, which we named Team Luyando (meaning “Love” in Tonga), arrived at our base in Zambia to safari tents complete with cots, electricity, and fans. We were on the Zambezi River in a national reserve with neighbors of hippos, crocodiles, monkeys, and the occasional elephant. We were excited and ready to get to work!
Our first clinic day was spent at a village of around 5,000 people. We met with the chief’s emissary, the Prime Minister, who told us about the village history and customs. We set up clinic in a small health center that usually saw 1,800 patients with just two nurses. That day, we saw 300 patients with a variety of ailments. One woman had a snake spit into her eye years ago, which had left that eye blind. Another patient had a history of stroke and high blood pressure, and we were able to refer her to a larger health center for further treatment.
We talked to all of our patients about hand washing, basic hygiene, stretching, the importance of clean water, and smoking cessation. One of our patients firmly told us that he had decided to quit smoking after seeing photos of a healthy lung followed by photos of a diseased lung belonging to someone who was a heavy smoker.
On our second and third days, clinic was at a prison. As the female prisoners were allowed to have children with them under two years of age, we came ready to treat patients young and old. Our patients were smiling and polite and willing to talk about the reasons they were there. These ranged from cow stealing and elephant poaching and ivory dealing to car theft, cannabis trafficking, assault, and murder. We saw 278 patients that day for a variety of conditions and 217 the next day for two-thirds of the prison’s total population.
Part of our team went to the nearby School of Nursing to teach neonatal resuscitation and delivery complications to a group of midwifery students. We left donations of Dopplers to help them hear fetal heartbeats, obstetrical delivery kits, speculums, and bag-mask ventilation units.
The next day, we went to a village about 30 minutes from our base and saw more than 450 patients. We cared for a number of patients with different ailments, including an elderly woman with a deep foot ulcer. A member of our team took off her own socks and gave them to the woman to help keep her wound and her dressings dry.
We held community education classes all day on hand washing, oral hygiene, oral rehydration, malaria prevention, HIV, smoking, water purification, hypertension, and family planning using cycle beads. The women seemed excited to have information about the female fertility cycle.
In the afternoon, we visited a government-run old-age home where some of the men reported their ages as old as 117. Most of the residents had no family or friends to visit them. We left behind donations of oral rehydration solution, adult diapers, calcium supplements, vitamins, and stool softener.
Overnight some of us noticed a large figure peering at us through the fence. With our flashlights out, we determined it to be a hippo that had wandered up from the riverbed. Not something you see every day. The caretakers at the hotel banged trashcans to make noise to convince him to go back where he came from.
Our last day of clinic found us in a remote area at a rural health clinic about 45 minutes from our base. We saw a large group of children from a nearby school, who were mostly healthy, and visited with a group of pregnant women. A mother of nine learned she was pregnant with twins! We offered ultrasounds and pelvic examinations that none of the women had ever had.
“I got to experience the joy and relief of an expectant mother hearing and seeing her baby’s healthy heartbeat for the first time The relief that she felt at seeing her healthy baby made the traveling overseas to gain additional training even more worthwhile.”- Sanah, medical student and Team Zambia volunteer
We greatly enjoyed being able to provide health care and education to the people we met in Zambia and look forward to a return trip with IMR.