Fourth Team visits Korogwe and Sister Avelina 

 

 Korogwe, Tanga, Tanzania. April 16-26 2015

Team Members: Zoe Vlamaki, Consultant Surgeon UK and team leader, Mr. Akram George, General Surgeon UK and Surgical trainee Nele Close from Germany.

Up on arrival at the airport we were welcomed by Sister Surgeon Avelina Temba, with our local driver  Omari. The rainy season had cooled down the high temperatures that I was expecting. We were the third team to visit Korogwe. We all were visiting Tanzania for the first time. The drive to Korogwe was a little more than 6 hours with the lunch break on the way, at a local restaurant. Trying for first time the local food was good and tasty with a variety. The road was good. Half of the way we were welcome by the local monkeys, who looked magnificent in the green landscape. We reached Korogwe town in the late afternoon. The Hospital staff gathered together to give us a warm welcome. 

On the same evening we visited Sister's Surgeon Avelina Clinic at the Convent, and her single operating room loaded with the basic equipment. Sister Surgeon Avelina Temba is the soul of all the missions organized. She organized, our registrations to Tanzanian GMC and prepared our arrival and welcome. We stayed, at the private White Parrot Hotel. The room cost was 30-35$, breakfast included, and dinner cost in a range of 10$ per person. Each member of the team covered the cost of living individually. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful and their local cuisine was very good quality. But be aware of the rooms on the second floor where the water pressure in the bathroom is less than desirable. This hotel seems the best in the town. Exploring other hotels in the nearby, the White House Hotel is good value for money with reasonably good facilities to use.

On Sunday afternoon, sister Avelina and her local doctors gave us the selected patient, all of whom had their HIV and Hepatitis checks performed. The preadmission area was divided into two wards, female and male patient covering age group from 10-84y old. The clinical cases were of inguinal hernias, unilateral and bilateral, mostly large and scrotal. In the evening, we took all the equipment we had brought with us to the operating theatre, in preparation for the operations the following day. Unfortunately one suitcase with vital surgical equipment was hold up by the airline and was only retrieved back 4 days later. Considering the importance of our mission and the patient list, regardless of this shortage we went ahead with the plan.

On Monday morning a local pharmacist, provided us with a small amount of sutures that we were able to use, on that day. The mosquito mesh (LDPE mesh) for the hernia repairs  was supplied by Professor Andrew Kingsnorth, Director of Hernia International. The hospital anaesthetist Dr. Bessi assisted us all the way.


 

The team's working hours began from 08:00 until 6:30 pm, Monday to Friday with an early finish at 03:00 p.m. on Friday. We worked in two ORs and I have to say from my experience having air conditioning made a big difference. We experienced electricity cuts and we had to rely on the driver to go to Dar es Salaam to buy a generator to fix the problem. The electrician worked through the night so our work was not interrupted in the morning.

Mr. George, and myself operated on 48 cases, of which were: 6 bilateral cases, 6 umbilical cases and one incisional hernia post appendectomy. The majority of cases were performed under LA. The local anaesthetist Dr Bessi assisted us in 16 cases of GA. We had opened the third operating theatre only on Wednesday p.m. by Dr Joseph who is a local GP. Dr Joseph also assisted us in some other cases. In addition to our operational work, I have also offered educational tutorials to local Doctors Sister Avelina Temba and Dr Joseph. Mr. George has also provided educational tutorials to the member of our team, surgical trainee Dr Nele Close. Dr Nele Close played an equally important role in our mission. Her assistance and knowledge, was used to assist in the operating, and gave her an opportunity to gain practical experience.

I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to the team, our hard work produced amazing results, and the local residents were grateful. Our mission has provided a most excellent job dealing with complicated clinical cases in a difficult environment with few provisions and we had managed restore health back, where possible to the local population.

All in the team shared in responsibilities to provide education, equipment and financial support to the local community. Our mission has also received contributions from my co - patriots from Greece, the organization of women: East Soroptimist Club of Athens and the family of Mrs. Eleni & Mr. Chris Loizou. They generously provided us with financial support and the funds were safely transferred to the staff at the Hospital who assisted us through the mission week.

 

It was very hard to say good-bye to the patients and staff at the Hospital. The trip on the way back, started, Saturday, a rainy morning, reflecting our mood. We said good-bye to Sister Avelina on Thursday, and we wished her all the best in her mission. Driver Omari took us back to the airport and he managed to show us on the way the best Millennium Sea/Breeze Resort, at Bagamoyo. Luckily, we had spared time to enjoy a swim and a cold drink of Fanta passion. Our driver Omari managed to get us on time to the airport despite the heavy traffic. Usually the trip from resort to the airport takes under two hours. Traffic jams on the main roads are a common occurrence in Tanzania and it is something to be aware of when you plan your trip.

In summary, I hope that our mission regardless the shortage of time, gave enough clinical support to local residents and local doctors.

Zoe Vlamaki MD FRCS - Team Leader


 

I would like to express my gratitude, for generosity of the companies: Ansell (surgical gloves), Swan and Morton (surgical blades) and Covidien (sutures), their help made this mission possible by supplying us with essential surgical equipment.