Week Three: Lakes and Surveys

23 06 2012

June 22, 2012

Habari za mchana tena from Mwika Uuwo!  We continue to get settled in here, with the help, meals, and music of Mama Nancy.  Thanks to Mama Nancy’s husband Gilbert, we’ve also been able to take in some local vistas.  After hiking down rocky trails carved into forested cliffs, we were in awe of Ndoro Falls, a waterfall collecting runoff from one of Kilimanjaro’s slopes.  Two days later, after another hour’s hike down another cliff, we lounged on the rocky shores of idyllic Lake Chala.  Sitting in the shade of trees rustling with vervet monkeys, we could see Kenya on the other side of the placid lake.  I wish our Internet here were reliable enough for me to share pictures, since my descriptions don’t give these sites any justice.  Of course, we’re here to do a little more than Lonely Planet on a budget, but these mini-safaris are a great bonus.

We’ve observed more workings of the dispensary in the past week, including laboratory testing, pharmacy, and medical records.  Uuwo Dispensary has seen quite a few malaria cases in the past few days, including some inpatient cases.  Thanks to lab sessions in microbiology class at Duke, I’ve seen a fair share of stained microbe colonies pinned under cover slips.  It’s another level of reality to look into a microscope and see Plasmodium schizonts nestled in red blood cells, with their host shivering and semiconscious in the inpatient ward a few meters away.  Fortunately, the dispensary is well stocked with all sorts of antimalarial drugs, which clear patients of the parasites within a few days.  Still, the successful development of a malaria vaccine would prevent much of the feverish suffering seen here and in many other places.

Since we can’t really help the dispensary in medical procedures, we’ve instead come up with a plan for backing up patient information on registration numbers and names on a color-coded spreadsheet. Patients occasionally forget their dispensary registration numbers when they return to the clinic, leading to the staff creating a new file losing their previous medical history.  After we create the spreadsheet and enter in all existing records, a staff member can enter new patients into the computer every week to prevent this loss of information.  Backing up patient files isn’t the most exciting work, but we think it will increase records efficiency in a sustainable, simple way.

Outside of the dispensary, we’ve finally begun our surveys!  We’re glad to have the help of the village chairman and subvillage leaders in logistical issues and in leading us to randomly selected households.  Of course, our translators have been invaluable as well, and without them we would just be mzungu lost on the clay roads.  So far, the interviews have gone smoothly, although most men tend to be out at work on market days.  Both men and women generally approach our surveys with enthusiasm, making our task much easier.  They seem happy to take a brief break for our health knowledge assessment, even before they know about our compensation gifts of small bags of sugar.  With luck, we’ll be able to reach our survey targets in just a few weeks, and we’ll have collected detailed information on Mwika’s health perspectives.


Until next time,

Brandon Metra







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