Malawi outreach – update

Young-people-helping-with-testing-eyesSick-childMario-and-Muslim-that-speaks-ZuluImprompt-Service-Boabab-where-we-showed-Jesus-at-nightChildren-following-the-bakkieKankhonde-RonagueJames-Bandawe-local-Christian-ChurchBakali-NkariAmossi-Chisi1From the DFL Malawi medical team “Today we removed the eye covers of those who had operations. There was much joy and Mr Mario Rocha interviewed some of the patients. A little later in the morning Mr Rocha (representing DFL) was interviewed at a local government office. The message was broadcast 4 times yesterday and today, and twice on Friday. We are considering working till midday on Saturday and then moving to our next destination.”]]>

Malawi outreach – update

IMG_1962IMG_1968IMG_19901IMG_1980IMG_1977-1IMG_1974Day 2: The DFL medical support team departed from Pretoria at about 7:00 pm on Thursday evening. They arrived at the Zimbabwe border at about 2:00 am in the morning. Although, according to the border officials, two of the vehicle’s documents were not in order, they were finally allowed to proceed to Harare. They were stopped at various road blocks and because the police found fault with the vehicles, some small fines had to be paid. Mario Rocha – volunteer After an interesting drive through Harare the team arrived at the Highlands Presbyterian Church by 6:00 pm on 22 June. They basically drove for 24 hours and some of the drivers did not sleep at all. After a light meal in the evening, everybody retired early to get some rest. The next day they left for the Malawi border. The goal was to arrive at Salima, Malawi, that the same day. Day 3 “Driving through Malawi was an experience, especially at night. We had a few narrow escapes and it was obvious that the Lord kept us. At one stage we were behind a big truck and there was a stationary truck on the other side of the road. Suddenly another huge truck came from the opposite direction and probably did not realise that the other truck was not moving. The second truck came with a terrible speed and moved over to our lane to avoid a collision with the stationary truck. In the process it missed us by centimetres. In fact we could not understand how the truck could have missed us. There were these three huge trucks and us right in the middle of them on this narrow road. Oom Volkmar had to swerve quite a bit to avoid colliding with the oncoming truck. It was grace that we did not leave the road or even roll the truck.” The team arrived about 23h00 at Salima where they are staying at a neighbouring mission in tents. The people there really put in a lot of effort to prepare for the medical team’s arrival and the outreach. The team were all very tired after two days of continuous driving. After pitching their tents etc, they went to sleep after midnight. Day 4 On Sunday Pieter Bos left for the airport to fetch Dr Jacques Potgieter, Nick Ashton (MESF) and his colleagues Paul and Daisy. Unfortunately some of their luggage containing medicines did not arrive with them. The team tried to arrange a meeting with the officials today but it was not possible. They were going to meet them on Monday morning at 8am to plan the work. Eye surgery has however been delayed and would have only started on Monday night]]>

Outreach to Zambia – Field Update

IMG_6148The 1st outreach in Western Zambia, Kalobolelwa has come to an end. In total we prescribed 75 eye glasses, saw 112 dental patients, did 440 GP treatments, saw about a 100 other eye patients, 32 surgeries. Pathology in this area was incredible: gangrene, leprosy, broken leg, many malaria cases, HIV, 6 fingers on 1 hand, accidents, trachoma, cancers, weird growths etc. On our way to next area Sinjimbela on the border of Angola. Its even more remote.]]>

Doctors For Life Outreach to Zambia

30-Taking-the-Cruiser-for-a-swimTwo weeks from now we hope to be on our way! The apparently unavoidable last minute rush is starting as I am writing this. No matter how early you start, there will always be the last minute emergencies. Will we be able to get all the necessary documents in time? The medications and surgical supplies have to be picked up, the food supplies to be purchased etc. etc. The worst of all: Did we remember everything? We have done it lots of times before, but still there is this thing … A road team of about 9 people plans to leave from Pretoria on April 11. We’ll travel in three vehicles including the MAN truck with the mobile theatre on its back. First overnight stop is Francistown in Botswana, second Katima Mulilo in Namibia. The next day we’ll pick up the two ophthalmologists at Livingstonia Airport in Zambia on our way towards Sioma in the Western Province. Crossing the borders is still a bit of a nightmare with all our supplies, but as the staff at the borders get to know us they seem to become less suspicious. We hope to set everything up for the work at Sioma as soon as we arrive so that we can start screening and selecting patients on Sunday already. There are so many causes of blindness, and not everyone will benefit from an operation. It is nice to be able to help many of them, but it breaks your heart every time to see those whom we unfortunately cannot help. We are very glad to have two ophthalmologists who can take turns inside the theatre and outside. This should save a lot of time. We hope to perform lid procedures, cataract operations and other surgeries while our dentist and the GPs will help the other patients with their respective needs. We are looking forward to see our Zambian support team again with whom we have become good friends by now. They will help again with translating as well as other tasks. We greatly rely on them for identifying the areas we go to, notifying the people about our coming and other preparations in various ways. Sometimes they even put up “road signs” against trees or write them on the road so that we can find our destination. You see, we like going into the very rural areas, where hardly any services (or road signs) are available. From 16 to 20 April we plan to work at Sioma. Then the first team of ophthalmologists have to return to South Africa while the second team arrives again at Livingstonia. The other team members break up camp, pack everything and travel to Sinjembela, where we’ll be working the next week. Afterwards we’ll enjoy a rest day at Katima on the banks of the Zambesi River before returning to Pretoria on May 1. We are looking forward to another opportunity to reach some of the poorest of the poor to help them in their need!]]>

Angola: Medical and eye surgery outreach to Cuito Cuanavale and Mavinga

27-The-Clean-Team16-Eye-patientswimming_318-Dr-AlbuThe medical and eye surgery outreach to Cuito Cuanavale and Mavinga was probably one of the toughest ones DFL undertook thus far. The people in Mavinga are very isolated and the need for medical care is great. The approximately 200km took some of the team members almost 3 days due to trees that had to be cut down, and a puncture on one of the tyre. The 200km od trip between Cuito Cuanavale that we thought would take a full day, took the truck with surgery unit almost 3 days. We got stuck, flat tyres on the surgery unit truck, trees falling on the truck cab etc. Two people in the team were treated for malaria while being in Mavinga and the trip back was just as challenging. But going to these areas was worth it. The team of doctors, medical staff and volunteers were able to help hundreds of needy people. In return the patients often expressed their joy and thankfulness often in very illustrative ways. In total we did about 72 surgeries of which most were to treat or prevent blindness. These were mostly cataract and trachoma cases. We also gave out hundreds of prescription glasses and treated and screened many hundreds more for things like epilepsy, malaria, leprosy, abscesses etc etc. We also treated many for Trachoma (with Azythromycion) that is mostly linked to areas that have a lack of hygiene. We also assisted the people with dental extractions. We look back at our time in Mavinga and Cuito with thankfulness, that we returned safely and that we had the privilege to go to those remote areas regardless of the challenges.]]>

Zimbabwe: Cataract Ops Begin

2010-02-01-Zimbabwe-edited11IMG_1099IMG_1202IMG_1157IMG_1269By now you may already have heard about our eye surgery outreach to Harare, Zimbabwe. Cataract surgeries were the main focus, from a medical point of view. It was planned in collaboration with Celebration Health, the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences Department of Ophthalmology, and the Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, who all planned it well. About 7-8 eye specialists did surgeries in 4 different theatres over the 3 day period. In total about 87 staff members were involved (this excludes the volunteers and staff from DFL and Celebration Health) and about 202 cataract surgeries were done. But amongst the numbers that were helped, it was the individual stories that gripped us. One lady said our eye surgery was an answer to prayer. Others testified how they would be able to work again and go to church. Being able to read again also meant a lot to many of them. Patients came from all over Zimbabwe after they heard about the eye surgeries being advertised on a local radio station. Some came from as far as 200 to 300 km away. One man named Funny, told me that he could see that God had sent us to Zimbabwe. He was looking forward to reading the Bible again. Their thankfulness was heartfelt. Dr Roelof Cronje, who was part of our DFL team from South Africa, also did surgery on a lady named Nervie Jackson. Nervie is about 50 years old and had been completely blind for about 6 years. She used to farm and sell food for living but when she became blind she had to stop. She then stayed with her son who is 15 yrs old and who took care of her. Today he is looking for a job, so she moved in with her late sister’s daughter. I asked what she would do if she could see again. She said that she would cook again. However, she didn’t want to farm like in the past because, she said, she wouldn’t want to become blind again. I was surprised to hear this. Unfortunately I never asked her where she got the idea from that farming had caused her blindness. Funny told me something similar though. He used to be a cook but was told that his blindness had come about because of him cooking a lot of meat over the years. So he too didn’t want to cook anymore. Lack of knowledge seems to be a common problem in many of the rural areas. We also had many opportunities for devotions with the patients and staff. Often they would clap their hands in groups as a sign of their appreciation. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Zimbabwean medical staff who showed dedication and worked very hard. This is no small matter in a country where many doctors receive a salary of a mere US$200 a month. Our next medical outreach is to Malawi on 12 March to 3 April. Please remember us in your prayers Kind regards Johan]]>