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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Our Trip Begins by Playing Traveler’s Jigsaw




God brought together a team for this year of all veterans to Tanzania. And our veterans sometimes like to make their own arrangements for side trips before or after our trip. So we had an interesting puzzle to plan out for our first day.

Cindy Pennie, RN, Stillwater, OK, is again our team leader. Nancy Bean, retired Veterinarian, Weatherford, Tx is assisting our nurses, putting her medical knowledge to use and will be again acting as our unofficial ambassador. Cindy flew to Dallas and joined Nancy for a direct flight to Doha, Qatar.

Pati Murdock, Rogers, AR, is again acting as our team manager. Debbie Jones, Xray tech, Tuttle, Ok will be assisting wherever she is needed but will be particularly valuable in reading any Xray results. Pati and Debbie met in Chicago and caught a direct flight, also to Doha, Qatar.

Both sets of the team met in the airport in Doha. An interesting part of their flight involved a 16 hour layover in the international city of Doha. But Qatar airlines has a wonderful way to overcome that and includes the cost of a room for each traveler at a 4- or 5-star hotel. A quick hop on a shuttle bus led them to the Oryx Rohara hotel. The foursome enjoyed a leisurely meal at a Tapas restaurant and hit the sack for a great night’s sleep before catching the last leg of their flight this morning into Dar es Salaam, where they arrived at 3 pm and were met by Tabita Kilatu. who is the representative from the Tanzanian church and helps the team in every way.

Dinner in Dar with Kilatu, waiting for the rest of the team to arrive.
From L to R, Kilatu, Cindy, Pati, Nancy and Debbie. 

Meanwhile, John Houck, ENT MD, Edmond, OK was enjoying a tour of Italy with his wife, Sally Houck, who is a pastor in the ELCA and joined us two years ago, along with John and John’s brother David. David is an engineer and lives in Millpitas, CA. John and Sally left Italy to go to France, where they visited with family. David joined them in France. After their time there, Sally returned home and John and David caught a flight from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam and are scheduled to arrive about 11:30 pm.

Gamma Cyprian and his wife, Emily, RN, live in Neosho, MO. Emily has been on the team in two previous years and actually met Gamma on her first trip with the team. The couple later married and have two beautiful daughters, Andie and Eva. The family was able to arrange to serve on the team this year and will be introducing their daughters to their Tanzanian family. Gamma will serve as our advisor, guiding us in the social and political ways, and will be translating as well. Emily will be working as one of our RNs. They intended to join Cindy, Pati, Debbie and Nancy on the flight to Qatar, but were unable to get seats.  They were able to book a flight but were forced to leave one day later so will be arriving in Dar es Salaam tomorrow around noon.

Finally, our team will be complete once Lance Miller, retired engineer, Hot Springs Village, AR and his wife, Eileen, retired music teacher and their granddaughter, Courtney Giebel, Naperville, IL arrive on Monday night. Courtney is graduating today from Northwestern University, Il, so the Millers attended Courtney’s ceremony and will fly out tomorrow.

We will all be together for the first time Tuesday in Morogoro. So please continue to pray for safe travels for us all.





Saturday, August 5, 2017

Last Thoughts


It is Saturday late afternoon and the team is packing in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning for Dar es Salaam.

Friday afternoon we wrapped up our last bit of work—Doug and Chris and Ashley and Zach had three minor procedures that kept them busy while the rest of the team inventoried and packed supplies being left for the hospital and those being given to a remote dispensary, Mkulazi. 

Medical team with (L to R) Epsilon, Kishumu, Eliah and Christine (Nurse anesthetist)
And Will and Lance were tapped for a final repair on the cautery machine. As evening fell, we said our farewells to the Mazimbu staff and to the Tanzanian part of our team, Kishumu, Eliah and Epsilon. Goodbyes are tough but, God willing, we will see each other again next year.

Kristen and Tisho and their baby Ethan dropped by Friday evening to visit. Kristen and Tisho are missionaries who have worked with the team in the past and now live full time in the Morogoro region. They are preparing a move to an area a bit far out from the town because Tisho has accepted a position as director of an orphanage. He is also working with an organization called GO (from go and make disciples) to bring a school to his home village of Melele. It was so good to catch up with them!

This morning we became tourists, getting up before dawn to drive to Mikumi National Park, about an hour and a half away. A little more than a year ago Tanzania elected a new president who won election based on his promise of sweeping change and stopping corruption. This means that there are many changes happening in the government. We were told earlier that one of those changes requires that the entrance fee to national parks be paid before going by loading the amount on a pre-paid debit card designed just for that use. The parks no longer take cash for the entrance fees. That little errand took Cindy and Kilatu 3 hours at the bank yesterday to arrange, but we arrived with debit card in hand. What we were NOT prepared for was a new rule that will not allow vehicles into the park unless they have a permit and have already paid the taxes for the fees. This cannot be done at the entrance to the park. That meant that our comfy mini-bus would have to be left in the parking lot and we would have to use the vehicles and drivers provided by the park. These only seat a maximum of 9 so our party of 12 required 2 vehicles. It was an additional expense that was not budgeted but we found that we really enjoyed driving around in the open-air vehicles. One of them was an old Toyota 4Runner that had had the top cut off (Will says this is a no-no since it is a uni-body frame but that won’t ever stop a Tanzanian who wants to solve a problem) and 3 tiered rows of seats installed so that each row could see above the heads of the row in front of them. The second vehicle was on old mini-truck that had a similar modification of tiered seats added to the bed of the truck.

Click the link below to enjoy a few of the pics taken of these wonderful animals!


Our driver is picking us up in a few minutes for dinner at the diocese with Bishop Mameo. We have not seen the Bishop yet as he has been in the US studying for his PHD. He has just arrived back in Tanzania so this evening will be our only time to pay our respects.


As we wrap up this year, we want to thank all of you—our friends, family, church families and other supporters—for your prayers and encouragement. We are so far away here from all that we call dear, but the people of this beautiful land have become a part of our hearts. Your support allows us to go and, most importantly, to return to your warm and loving welcome.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Final days at Mazimbu


Our surgeries over the past few days have gone smoothly. Chris and Ashley, our surgical technologists, have enjoyed working with their Tanzanian counterparts. For all of our non-medical folks back home, a surgical technician is responsible for ensuring all necessary supplies—sutures, instruments, medications, etc—are ready for each procedure. A surgical technician also scrubs for the case so that they are sterile and can assist the surgeon. That can include clamping blood vessels, suction, cutting suture, retracting tissue and passing instruments. Peter and Faudha are the technicians at Mazimbu and, as they have worked with Chris and Ashley over the past week, their set up has begun to mirror our surgical setup.
Ashley with our anesthesiologist, Christine

Faidha and Peter

Chris with Faidha


This streamlining of prep seems to have resulted in a faster turn time in the theatre. It is Thursday, just before noon, and we have just begun our third case of the day. In past years it was not uncommon that the SECOND case of the day did not begin until afternoon.

Cindy and Pati were approached yesterday by a Maasai mother, Lukia, seeking help for her oldest son, Papaa, a 17-year-old-boy. Because our schedule has been full since last week, the initial reaction was one of sorrowful regret that we cannot help. But Lukia was persistent. As we talked with her, we learned that she is raising her six children alone since the death of her husband and that she came from a very far distance to see the team. Papaa has been suffering with an abdominal distension for six months and has been to hospitals and to doctors and none have found the cause. When we examined the records, we saw that Papaa has an enlarged spleen and liver. Lukia has sold cows to pay for this medical treatment over the past six months and has none left to sell.
From L to R, Cindy, Papaa, Lukia, Goa and Pati


In the evening, before dinner, we were able to relax at Rosemary’s duka again so the problem was brought before the team. It is a difficult problem because the next step is to go to Dar es Salaam, where there is advanced medical treatment available, but there is no way to know in advance the cost of those tests and treatment. After discussion, we decided to give Lukia the bus fare to Dar, money for meals and lodging for a few days, and enough additional to cover consultation with a specialist and for at least some more testing. Our hope is that they will receive a diagnoses and that Papaa’s condition will be treatable with medication.

However, we encountered another problem today when we met again with Lucia and Papaa. She has never been to Dar in her life and does not think she would be able to navigate the challenges of this city of 4 ½ million people. Eliah, who helped with translation, said it would be like “leading her to the lion and leaving her”.  This is when God stepped in again, in the form of Goa, a man who was treated by Doug four years ago. Goa had heard about the team and brought one of his family here this year, who had surgery a few days ago. Goa is evidently a distant relative of Lukia’s. It is not clear if he even knew her but just realized from her description of her village that he was related. But Goa stepped forward and offered to take her and Papaa to Dar. They have Kishumu’s phone number and will let him know the results, and Kishumu will then communicate with the team. We will be praying that the money is enough and that God will send him to a doctor that is able to treat his condition.

On another note, Cindy had a bit of a mishap while flossing one evening and lost a crown. She caught it in the sink and brought it with her to Mazimbu today. The dentist, Dr. Patric, had everything he needed to pop that crown right back in and Cindy reports that it is even better now than before!
Cindy with Dr. Patric

Replacing a crown


















Our fundis have continued to be tapped on the shoulder for one repair after another. Today they were troubleshooting (successfully) computers that were not functioning. Thanks to Will and Lance!

Tomorrow will be our last day and it is a short one. Doug will only do outpatient surgeries because we will not be here for him to follow up on any inpatient surgeries. So we have set aside the morning for six of the team—Doug, Nancy, Will, Chris, Ashley and Zach—to climb Mt. Uluguru with Kishumu, Epsilon and Eliah. The rest of the team will sleep in and then enjoy a bit of shopping in Morogoro before meeting the climbers for lunch. After lunch, we will be packing up our supplies to donate to the hospital or to another dispensary, and then saying our farewells.
Pre-packing supplies

Kishumu has a few inches on Pati, despite the puffy hair!



Monday, July 31, 2017

Video of Cows at Rosemary's Duka


Faudhia Goes Home




Faudhia before discharge
Great news when we arrived this morning to begin our second week at Mazimbu! Fuadhia has shown marked improvement every day since her surgery and was well enough this morning to be discharged!

And then Doug began the big surgery for the colostomy reversal. We thank you for your prayers because all in all, it went as well as could be expected—it did not take longer than Doug had anticipated and he did not encounter any complications during the surgery. So now our prayer is that Salumu's pain will be manageable and that he will recover without suffering infection.

Our translators are invaluable to our mission and we could not do our work without their help. But as our work has shifted from the front desk and triage over the the surgery part of our work, we do not have as many patients that need the help of a translator to talk with us. So today we had to say goodbye to three of our translators, Juliana, Sarah and Magreth. All three have worked with us in past years and we look forward to seeing them again in future years.

From left to right, Sarah, Eileen, Juliana, Glennis and Magreth

From left to right, Sarah, Magreth, Cindy and Juliana



Will doing another emergency repair on the Bovie, with Cindy and Glennis looking on

Soldering the Bovie
We were able to leave the hospital at 5:30, which meant we arrived back at LJS at 6 pm. Although dinner is served at 6, several of the team enjoy walking the short distance off campus to a local duka where we can enjoy a beer. This is a small, local storefront owned by Rosemary, who lives in back with her family. When we arrive, we walk behind the duka and shout “Habari” until the family waves to let us know they will be right there to help us. Chairs are brought out for our comfort and we can watch the local life around us. It is very relaxing.

Beers after work

Rosemary's duka



Tomorrow will be a long day for us again—the team will be assisting Dr. Swai, who is doing a gynecological surgery on two of our patients. And we have three more procedures in addition to those two. Since it will be a late night, we are planning dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, the Oasis. Which means we will not be posting to the blog tomorrow night. But we will catch up with you on Wednesday.

Benedictor, our first patient tomorrow morning