Saturday, April 9, 2016

Reaching the Untouched Side of Zambia

This week our time was originally scheduled for Limalunga Clinic. Limalunga is the village where the King lives and is famous for the Koamboka ceremony that takes place annually.  Instead of staying at the clinic, we were fortunate enough to accompany two medical officers (Kuwabo, and Lucia) and a pharmacist (Henry) on excursions to rural villages. We were to bring supplies to the villages and to introduce a new TB charting protocol. We would drop off Henry at Mwanawina Rural Health Centre (named after King Lewanika) to distribute ART medications, and then return the next day to pick him up.

Over the course of the time we spent with Henry, Lucia, and  Kuwabo, we were able to experience a side of Zambia we had not yet seen. It was amazing to see how many people live out in these rural villages. Although they don't have much, they manage to function and live happy and healthy lives. However we quickly saw how this can change when they get sick. They most eye opening thing we saw was how far people need and are willing to travel to reach a clinic and gain medical attention. For example, we drove one patient from the clinic back to her village after she'd walked all that distance to get there, and it took us 45 minutes driving. We can't even imagine how many hours it would have taken her to walk. On our second day, we reached the clinic, and this time conducted some assessments on patients that were staying on the ward. We assessed one lady who was severely dehydrated and suffering from cryptococcal meningitis which is an opportunistic infection that is commonly seen alongside HIV. We ended up transporting her back to Mongu to admit her to Lewanika General Hospital. Normally, these patients travel by oxcart which can take many hours. Our drive back was about two hours. This just shows how long it can take to receive health care, even simple things such as blood work can take weeks, as there are no labs out in the rural areas.

We had a great week out on the road with our team. We learned so much from Lucia and Kuwabo while travelling to the clinics about rural life in Zambia. Henry also educated us about the different medications used to treat HIV. We are so thankful for their insight and guidance when assessing patients. They welcomed us with open arms and encouraged us to fully engage in their work. The most important lesson we learned was to take time to have fun, to take a break from the medical work in order to enjoy our opportunities and surroundings.

With any great road trip comes good music, and we had a fun time singing along to country, top 40 hits, and African gospel music.

- Hayley & Janeva

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