I have learned more on this trip than I ever even imagined I would. It was almost one year ago that I was the over-eager, incoming freshman (I hadn’t even lived on campus yet) emailing Dr. Krishnan with questions about the trip and if I could go. All I wanted was to learn some more about the SLHS program and Africa. Again, I am amazed at how much more than that I have been blessed with. We had to say goodbye to the Beit Cure staff at the end of our meeting. It started to dawn on me how much I will miss this special place thousands of miles away from my home. The support I have received from the team and the Zambian people touches me, and I find myself thoroughly grateful. Zikomo (thank you) to all those who made this trip so wonderful and even possible! Tonight at the farewell dinner, instead of saying goodbye, I will say “until next time.”
31 May 2013 1 Comment
Well the time has officially come that we are done with our program in the various clinics/locations that we have been at for the past two weeks. And boy have these 2 weeks flown by!! In a little over 24 hours we will board the plane back to the US and although we will go back to our daily routines, I know that we will all carry the memories and knowledge from this trip with us forever.
Today we ended our trip at Beit Cure Hospital. It was a slower day, as they try to move as many patients as possible out of the ward by Friday. ENT and Audiology were also pretty slow. This gave us some freedom to go to different areas that we may have missed or just wanted to see again. For me, the great clinical experience that I have been receiving while in Zambia didn’t stop just because of a slower day. I did tympanograms on patients of a wide range of ages, found hearing thresholds, and sat in on some hearing aid consultations. I even got to make some ear mold impressions….something that even grad students don’t get to do right off the bat at home!
We ended the day after lunch (that of course included nshima!) with a powwow session of us students, the professors, Mr. Mwamba, Evelyn, Charity, Precious, Lars, Patson, and Chisomo. I got some amazing insight from that meeting that I will remember forever. Basically, what the ENT/audiology department, Cure, and Zambia as a whole need is KNOWLEDGE. And they need us, who have visited their country, to be ambassadors. Many people may think of Africa as a poverty-stricken, AIDS infected area where people wander around with no shoes. But that is not the case. What these people need isn’t a donation of clothing. They need knowledge. They need people who can train others to do basics like hearing screenings, so that even very rural areas can have access to hearing healthcare. And they admit that it won’t happen overnight, it is a multi-step process but with help, it can be done.
Knowing that we are leaving tomorrow is just sad! I’ve had the most amazing experiences here. I’ve done things that I never thought I would get to do as an undergrad such as earmolds, and I’ve done things I never thought I would do, period (zip lining, anyone?). It’s hard to put into words what this trip has meant to me, but I know that I will always rememeber my experiences here and who knows, maybe I will come back some time down the road!
This morning everyone joined the sleep club before beginning our last day of clinic work. We were even more refreshed with the surprise of a new toaster at breakfast. Ending where we began, Emmie, reliable as ever, drove us to Beit Cure Hospital where we were given our assignments for the day. I was put in the ENT clinic which was really exciting for me because that has been some of my favorite type of work this trip. Mel and I joined Evelyn in checking the ears of various Zambians. We saw a multitude of issues including: otitis media, otosclerosis, fungus, and plenty of wax. I learned about the difference between sucking the wax out verses syringing it out with water. Evelyn and another clinic worker, Precious, even let me help with some of the removal. As an incoming sophomore, this sort of experience is amazing and not practiced at my level in the states.After a couple of hours of working with the nurses, Dr. Uta arrived and asked Mel and me if we’d like to sit in her office while she consulted with her patients. She didn’t need to ask twice as Mel and I jumped up for the opportunity. Dr. Uta was wonderful at explaining the conditions of her patients and often let Mel and I look in their ears ourselves. I found it really neat that a couple of these patients were people we had just seen at Evelyn’s desk, so we were able to witness the follow up. The time came to switch out and I worked with Evelyn a bit more before going to lunch.The group congregated in the grassy area outside the kitchen as we enjoyed one of our last meals of nshima. Kale, beans, and beef were also served for those who wanted it. Once we had our fill, it was time for a meeting with Mr. Mwamba and some of the other staff in the ENT clinic. We finally learned about Mr. Mwamba’s story of coming to the states to play tennis and ending up in audiology. We learned about new programs that are in the works and hoping to help the children with hearing loss in Zambia. Plenty of other great information was given. I think the take home message was brought up at the end: what we can do to help. The problem is not money, it is education and the cultural ostracization of those with disabilities. People, including myself before going on this trip, often have an idealized image of an Africa with breathtaking rolling plains, the big 5 stomping around the savanah, and villages of bone-thin children staring at each other with deep, mournful eyes. That is not necessarily realistic; there are cities here within the plains, we did not even see all of the big 5, and there plenty of affluent people here. Zambia, and even Africa, does not just need money. The best way to help is through education and the sharing of knowledge. What Zambia does with it is up to them; it is not up to the West to decide. The best we can do is to stay positive and innovative.