Day 3 – The Flying Medical Service

February 22, 2011

Today we traveled through an extremely impoverished area of Arusha. The poverty level is difficult to describe. Most Americans will never see this level of poverty. Even the internship I completed in rural Appalachia does not compare. No modern conveniences exist and one realizes very quickly why even clean water may not be found. We are rounding today on a pediatric ward. There are many of the Massai tribe here and in this area they are becoming fractured, kids living with grandparents, many single moms and severe malnutrition. The Massai are hard to describe as they vary a bit in region. The Massai will eat beef or lamb but no chicken or eggs. They wear traditional clothing, and depending what region you are in still carry spears and knives to hunt and gather. We saw a 2 year old who weighed 11 pounds. We attempt to give our opinion on a 5 year old who weighs 23 pounds, most of us believe there is an underlying disorder, but we are limited in ability to make any difference here other than discussion for we are not their treating provider and testing capability is limited. There is a pecking order for meals and who eats first in the family -husband, older men, wives and lastly children. If one makes it to adulthood they remember what it was like to wait as a child, so now they overeat and perpetuate the malnutrition cycle. Much education is being done for the home life on water, cooking and nutrition with certain foods like eggs. We visited the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), it was eerily quiet as there are no alarms or sounds because there are no machines, no oxygen, no ventilators and still no gloves or standard infection control precautions. We see other diseases but the malnutrition at this level overshadows the experience. Today feels like we have traveled back in time.

We moved on and visited with Father Pat and the Flying Medical Service. They rescued 27,000 patients last year! Most patients are from motor vehicle accidents but there are also snake bites, other animal bites, wounds, etc. Payment is “half the cost of a chicken” or $6. He or one of his other pilots flies the patients to medical care. He has an amazing passion for his work and has lived in Africa around 30 years. He has started a program for the disabled on his property. They actually stay for 18 months to learn a trade such as sewing. Payment is upon graduation and is in bags of cement.

We next had a lecture on Tsetse Flies which carry African Trypansomiasis also known as “African Sleeping Sickness”; we will see this disease firsthand later in our journey.

Father Pat’s school for the disabled – students learning to sew.

The Flying Medical Service