Friday, June 1, 2012
Surgery in South Africa
Where on earth do I begin to talk about the last 4 days of our trip? We got on a van, with an attached trailer with all of our belongings, and after a mishap with a speed bump disengaged the trailer, we were finally on our way-(after it was fixed of course)- to Tegula Ferry, a town in the mountains of South Africa 7 hours from Johannesburg and about as poor as they come. It's the home of a large orphanage where forty % of the population have HIV or AIDS, and we came here to open a temporary dental clinic and for me to do whatever I could. The dental clinic was a resounding success-- seeing and taking care of many children (and adults) who had never seen a dentist. They filled cavities, did check ups, extractions, root canals and gave away about a thousand toothbrushes.
As for me, it turns out that the list of "whatever I could do to help" was long indeed. The one (ONE!!) main doctor here, who is responsible for almost all of what goes on at this 300+bed hospital is a wonderful, sweet, overworked general practitioner who told me he is a "jack of all trades and master of none"....more like he is a Superhero and something close to a Saint, all rolled into one. I went on rounds with him, advised him on at least fifty different patients' treatments ( for example, for those of you in the L&D world, they had a 10+weeker on Mag Sulfate, and wanted to Section a primip who had slight fetal tachycardia but no IV!!) I did many sonograms, saw patients at their high risk antenatal clinic, and did three surgeries. The surgeries were a D&C ( they don't have suction), a postpartum tubal ligation that I convinced him could be done with a sub umbilical incision instead of a Pfanensteil, and believe it or not I repaired a female circumcision on a woman from Somalia who had been almost completely sewn up. I hadn't seen this in real life before but had read about it in preparation for this trip. All three surgeries were successful, and the learning opportunities here are amazing....and not just what they can learn from ME!!! It is what I can learn from them--- like how to run a maternity ward with only one working fetal monitor....how to judge how pregnant someone is without really knowing when their last period was or having an early sonogram...how to diagnose and treat multiple conditions without the methods or technology we take for granted every day, that truly stand out in my mind. I am in awe of what they do and truly did not come here to tell them how to do it "our way". They have taught me that our way is certainly not the only way, or even necessarily the BEST way; but that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to manage all that they do here using only the most basic of tools; skilled hands, a sharp mind, and a kind heart.
This is the midwife in charge of L&D in the hospital in South Africa. Note the name on the t-shirt-- they're going to put it on the model doll that they use to teach breast feeding to the moms.
Thank you Dr. Levy for sharing some of your experiences with us. We are so excited to see you back at work this weekend. We are very excited to hear more about your adventures!
Posted by ashley at 4:26 PM