Posted on behalf of Danielle Dhaliwal (PL3)
Jambo from Arusha!
The house we are staying in in Arusha is up a steep hill away from town but it is on a bustling street - between barking dogs, nightly music, honking horns and pouring rain we are thankful to have ear plugs to allow some quiet sleep . The house is adorable and we are currently sharing it with a 3rd year medicine resident from Denver, CO. A medical student from Australia will also be joining us this week.
The living room in the Exempla House where we are staying.
In Arusha we began our time at Selian Hospital. As Danielle and Emily mentioned, it is about an hour and a half walk up a muddy hill but, fortunately, there is a retired Medicine physician from MN, Ron Eggert, who is here for the next year and he and his wife are kind enough to pick us up and drop us off on most days.
The walk to work this morning.
Ron's wife Ingrid works at the Plaster House, and we had the privilege to get a tour of the facility the other day - what a beautiful and inspiring place. The Plaster House is a home in Arusha for children from around Tanzania to recover in after they have had corrective orthopaedic surgery, plastic surgery or neurosurgery for a disability. The Plaster House is particularly busy this week - a group of surgeons just arrived last evening and will be performing a number of complex surgeries over the next 4 days.
The Plaster House
Today was the screening clinic and Dr. Swanson and I helped in seeing some of the pediatric cases to ensure they were safe to proceed with anesthesia. We saw so many children today who will benefit immensely from their being here, I was so happy to be a part of it. A majority of the cases were cleft lip/palate and burn contracture revisions. One of the cleft kids was referred to us for a heart murmur. Not only did she have a 6/6 holosystolic murmur but she had a webbed neck, short stature, shield chest, and other features possibly suggestive of Turner's syndrome. Another child had fallen several months ago onto her chin. She had fractured her mandible at bilateral TM joints and without proper physical therapy her TM joints fused and she was unable to open her mouth and her mandible growth had been stunted. Another child had sustained burns to the back of her legs and sadly developed severe burn contractures and was only able to walk with both of her knees bent.
One patient had been seen by the plastic surgeons however was referred to us because of severe and poorly controlled atopic dermatitis. The patient had been seen in clinic before and was diagnosed with urticaria but had not received topical steroids and has since developed superinfection of many lesions and possibly eczema herpeticum.
Poor guy was so itchy and uncomfortable and so inflamed that I could feel almost every lymph node he had. It was my first time feeling epitrochlear nodes.
We prescribed a number of medications and to ensure that this infant received what we had prescribed I walked with her and her child to the pharmacy down the street. Between the topical steroids, antihistamines, emollients, and antibiotics the bill at the pharmacy was 45,000 Shillings (the equivalent of ~$30). Given that most Tanzanians make less than 5,000 shillings a day this family was unable to pay and so Dr. Swanson and I split the cost for the medications. I only hope that when the time comes for refills they will be able to do so on their own. I am having them follow up with me in two weeks so I will let you know how he is doing.
We do often walk home and when we do we are always called into the home of an elderly man sitting on his porch. He has severe bilateral lower extremity pitting edema, JVD, and a necrotic ulcer on his calf. We gather from these findings and what we can understand of his Swahili that he was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease but only was able to pay for one month of his medications and has not been seen in clinic since. He is such a sweet man and clearly is suffering despite the fact that the hospital is a 20 minute walk from his house. Treatment and monitoring of chronic medical conditions is something that we struggle with even in the US, however in Tanzania it is profound.
We spent our first weekend here in the Zanzibar archipelago. Stone Town is the main city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its being a former center of spice and slave trade and it is rich with diverse influences of Swahili culture with a mix of Arab, Persian, Indian and European influence. We spent most of our time soaking up the perfect weather and relaxing on the beaches of Jambiani.
This is actually a real picture I took
I have so many more stories to tell but I need to finish packing. Tomorrow morning we head out on a three-day hiking expedition up Mt. Meru, a volcano that looms in the distance at 14,800 ft. Can't wait!