(This post was already on my Facebook page, but I realize not everyone has access to that)
So...now that we are all done with our South African journey, it will take awhile to process the trip, and all I have seen and done. I managed to do five surgeries with no mishaps, no needle sticks, and, thank goodness, no bad outcomes. It is amazing how much they do with so little...Yet, their operating room was equipped with all of the same instruments that we use, including cautery--and they are very aware of the high risk of blood contamination, because EVERYONE wears a protective "apron" under their surgical gowns, and EVERY package of gloves comes with two pairs. On the last day, when we were supposed to be packed up and gone by 4:30, I could not say no to doing a stat CSection at 4:00 when there was no other doctor around. I feel good for having done "good", but at the same time, I was always SO much more vigilant than usual, thinking of my family and myself, and what would happen to me if there was a surgical mishap when most of these patients are HIV positive. It was exhausting. Would I do it again? Definitely. Would I do some things differently? Definitely. Working for a short time in two different places, although interesting in terms of variety, is not as effective, I believe, as working for longer in just one place. I had JUST gotten to know the layout of the hospital, who to ask for the key to a locked office, and who is the nurse in charge of booking a C Section; then we were leaving. They told me they learned so much from me, but it was truly both ways. I now (unfortunately, because of their patient population) know when to put a patient on anti-retroviral medications, how to treat TB, and how common cervical cancer is in a place where no one gets a Pap smear. One thing I can definitely say is that I would like to make a plea: the places we visited and worked are in serious need of money for supplies, equipment and education. Everyone who has been following and enjoying this blog (and your friends and family)---it would be so great if you could make a donation to either the Network of Caring, or the RSAA, the Rebuild South Africa Association. These are the two organizations that sponsored this trip, and both have websites where you can go to see their work and to donate. In closing, there is one declaration that comes to mind which sums up how I feel about all the doctors, dentists, nurses, contact people and everyone else who made this trip possible. To quote from one of my favorite musicals, (Wicked)------"because I knew you....I have been changed for good".