Jambo from Arusha, Tanzania! I returned here to Tanzania three weeks ago and I have been so blessed to reconnect with friends, reacquaint myself with the neighborhood, and reintroduce myself at the hospitals Selian and Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC). For those who do not know, I have recently finished my training in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, graduating from the residency program at the U of M, and I have taken a role this year of Global Health Chief Resident. Essentially, this means I will be in Tanzania from July to December, then return to the U of M from January to June to work in the hospital and help manage the residents at the U of M, namely those interested in Global Health. It is a joy to see certain things have changed for the better since I was here 4 months ago, namely the NICU at ALMC is setting new standards in Arusha for neonatal care. When I first saw the NICU in January of this year, it was a cramped room about 15ft x 15ft, there were a few oxygen flow meters and an eclectic group of donated incubators that seemed to be in different states of disrepair. The lighting was poor and the general mood was tainted with general unease and despair. One of the big projects for Steve Swanson and Derrick Matthews, two of the visiting physicians to ALMC from the States, was to renovate a new space and to begin to develop the first truly functional NICU in the Arusha. The city has such a need for good maternal and child care; Selian alone sees about 180 deliveries per month, which is a small fraction of the whole city. The new space has two rooms, about 8 incubators, a plethora of oxygen sources, and the ability to do CPAP and rated CPAP. The nurses and local doctors have gained a huge amount of confidence and pride in working with the babies, which is even more inspiring than the space itself. There is a general feeling of positivity, among staff and parents alike, that even a few children born at less than 1kg (less than 2lbs), stand a chance to grow up. This would not have been possible by any stretch of imagination, even 6 months ago. I believe they are beginning to see the possibilities now that there is a functional space, support from Drs. Swanson and Matthews, and an excellent group of detail oriented and caring local healthcare workers.
As I did last time for blog posts, I would like to continue to relay some Swahili lessons that I have learned. I find my language skills are still comprised of basic survival phrases, but I wish to continue to learn and experience the richness of the language and culture. This week’s phrase is Karibu Tena, it means “welcome back”. There are a few uses of this phrase, such as when you are leaving a store and the shopkeeper hopes you will return for more business or when you are leaving work for the day. The context I have experienced these past two weeks is a “welcome back to our community”. Having spent two months here earlier in the year, I have been so happy to reconnect with friends that I made at that time. As many of you know, we hosted two Tanzanian doctors in Minnesota for the Global Health Course, which is offered through our Department of Medicine. We were so happy to have David and Joseph visiting during the month of May, to share the sites of Minneapolis, show off our Midwestern cultural quirks (they can’t believe we eat cold sandwiches and drink “foul” tasting beer), and give opportunity to continued cultural exchange. It is now full circle to see them and our other colleagues back here in Tanzania. Some are surprised to see me return (some of the shopkeepers and kids seem to remember me); some may not have noticed I was gone. My favorite is the child at the top of big hill on the long walk to Selian who always jumps out to karate chop me. He did not miss a beat, welcoming me back with an array of chops and kicks. Coming back has made me feel closer to Arusha and to my colleagues than I ever did last time. I have a bit more comfort, knowing some of what to expect on a daily basis. But it is more than that experience which draws me closer. When people say Karibu Tena, I can feel their acknowledgement that I have a vested interest here. It reaches out to challenge me with the notion that change does not always come quickly. Being in a relational culture, I can see that working towards the common goal of improved healthcare in Tanzania involves committing to each other. The “welcome back” recognizes a bit more commitment, hopefully a bit more trust, and ideally will advance our mission together. Until next time…
|Drinking Chai with Dr. Sameji, pediatric registrar|
|The NICU with Dr. Linda, pediatric registrar, and Sarah, NICU nurse|
|The walk to Selian with Lizzie, medical student from New Zealand|