VWCS Supports World Medical Mission Efforts
Valley Wound Care Specialists supports its staff through humanitarian efforts and world medical mission outreaches. Recently, our own Kristina Fawcett traveled to Africa to teach, encourage, learn and provide wound care to patients in a hospital in Mbingo, Cameroon. Medical, wound care supplies, and financial contributions were not only donated by Valley Wound Care Specialists but also by our amazing patients and supply vendors. Please read her inspriring journal of her time there. All photos are property of Kristina Fawcett and should not be duplicated. If you would like to learn more or contribute to our mission outreach, please contact our office. Enjoy….
Well here we are in sunny, warm, dry Phoenix Arizona, in our Sonoran desert, preparing to embark on our journey that hopefully will be the first of many. Our flight
I am wearing my necklace I received from a patient whom I cared for earlier this year from an Arizonan Native American tribe to help bless safe passage on our travels (you will see the necklace again . . .)
After some fun photo ops and some Parisian baguette sandwiches – we boarded our flight to Douala.
As you have probably seen some of our previous posts we recently participated in a medical mission in Cameroon. This is my introduction to an upcoming 12 posts over the next 12 days, creatively titled ‘12 Days of Cameroon’ to describe our adventure and share our story and photos with others. I forgot to take a photo of all our bags packed, but you can see the photo of inventory of about ¾ of donated supplies that we brought with us in our donated suitcases. I had a lot of support from local vendors, patients and peers in the community, all of which to replenish a much depleted stock of wound care products for the Mbingo Baptist Hospital wound care clinic and surrounding health centers/clinic.
I should preface with a little background on how we became involved, after all how does one end up halfway around the globe in Cameroon? I have to thank a local (now) retired physician in my community – Dr. Allen Sawyer for including me in discussions about Cameroon and medical mission opportunities up to several years’ prior leading up to this trip. Some of you know that he did deliver Ila, Erika Perkins daughter as well as Savannah, Christina Sanchez daughter.
Our journey starts Sunday 5/14/2017. We are accompanied by Dr Mandy Rai and Dr H. Grewal. From here we would connect flights in Atlanta and Paris. Were we met up with the 5th member of our team Dr A. Sawyer. This is start, for next 12 days, of my ‘12 Days of Cameroon’.
If you find that our story inspires you and you wish to donate to support this mission and supplies we appreciate the support. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/medical/wmm-doctors/
Donating to: Fawcett, Kristina(030659)
5/15/17 Cameroon Day 1! Arrived at Douala international airport late afternoon. Here we are with only about ½ of our luggage in the shot, and it is bright and warm – what a welcome! We met our Cameroon Baptist Convention team van and truck driver, took two vehicles to bring us and our entire luggage to the local guest house. Driving in Cameroon is different compared to any other country. Traffic is chaotic. Our driver John says that you have to have a big heart (his version of bravery) not to mention a big bumper! From there an overdue shower and off to a wonderful meal at a local Mediterranean restaurant. That night, blanketed by a mosquito net and liberal DEET we spent our first night.
5/16 Cameroon Day 2
And we are off, starting our road trip from Douala to Mbingo. First we have breakfast on the veranda – omelets and crunchy bread. We see many cats and debate writing a book Cats of Cameroon but quickly get back on track. Here we are on our 9 hour van drive . . . making various stops along the way to see the country up close. Our driver, Samuel, make stops and purchases various ‘snacks’ for us to try. I mean why not dive in head first? Road is less than maintained, and once the torrential rain hit we were really slowed down.
None the less – we arrived to Mbingo. Dinner consisted of plantains, lentils and puff puff – staple item (basically fried dough ball). Unfortunately not all our bags could fit in the van, so not all of our stuff is with us… We receive a very basic orientation to Cameroon Culture and Pidgin English – more to follow in other posts.
5/17 Cameroon Day 3 Wednesday –We go to chapel and are formally introduced to the hospital. I head off to the wound clinic (after CIMS conference) and Bryan heads off to the IT department bearing gifts of new access points. Then breakfast at 0800, with lunch at 1200 and dinner at 1730 (no variation and most consistent event throughout our trip) At 1000 Dr Rai and I take a van to Nu Hope, a village adjacent to Mbingo, with the wound nurse and hospital support staff. Nu Hope Village is the home for many displaced but cured Hansen’s disease patients. After following up with patient needs, assessing wounds we return to the hospital to care for patients in the clinic the remainder of the afternoon. Lunch! “IT Bryan” sets us all up on Wi-Fi and exchanges SIM cards. Bryan, Dr Rai and I decide to venture off into the market down below hospital to see what there was to offer. We ended the night with a friendly game of cards and Dr G taught us his version of the game. Bryan summed up his day as describing his day is comparable to being at summer camp. Its official, Bryan is the most popular guy in the hospital!
5/18 Cameroon Day 4 I had one request when I arrived – and that was to give an in-service to the wound team on Thursday morning. Well today was Thursday, however in my jet lagged brain – I thought it was Wednesday. So while the clinic nurses were waiting for me, I was in Tumor Board conference listening to the presentation on a patient with an eccrine tumor. . . FAIL . . . I did however manage to get our four large suitcases filled with goodies to the clinic today and start to help them arrange and organize these.
Today we had some in-patient consults, similar to how the wound team works back here in the States. Most notable was a consult that came through in the ICU, a husband and wife who had both suffered burns from a kitchen fire involving petrol. It seemed burns were common, as there was another burn patient in the ICU, a mechanic who suffered a burn while working on a gas tank. We also see an infant on maternity with a blistering skin disorder, biopsy pending for epidermolysis bullosa.
Again, after work, we ventured out to the market to stretch our legs and see the countryside. Dr G taught us a card game involving counting and math, Bryan was a star player. At this point is when we decided to teach the group Euchre to level the playing field.
5/19 Cameroon Day 5, today was the day for my in-service! I had handouts and everything. I was excited to share the new products to introduce to them. They were most excited about Sorbact and quickly wanted to try on several patients. The nurses in clinic are eager to learn and ask many questions. I have to pace myself . . . as you all know I can get talking a million words a minute, especially if I am excited . . . which you know I was!
Ok here is some Pidgin talk and Cameroon culture. When interviewing your patient:
If you want to know if they speak English you would ask “you hear English?”
If you want to know if they experience dysuria you would ask “you pee hot hot?”
If you want to express sympathy or empathy you say “Ashiah”
You also do not ‘go to lunch’ you ‘take lunch’ and if you are feeling sick one would say ‘my skin no well’
5/20 Cameroon Day 6 First day off Planned a hike with Mamaduex – Saw several waterfalls and Fulani horses. No wildlife, not even a squirrel. Saw livestock of cows, goats and sheep. Our picnic consisted of a packed lunch, boiled egg with a roll and some bananas. Today was quite an adventure, we had shade from the clouds and occasional misting of rain to cool us down. We were feeling adventurous, so we elected to take a longer route to see more waterfalls, only to run into a time constraint with the cows, our guide had to remind us several times ‘please hurry the cows are coming’ they seemed to think Bryans red backpack and hair may be upsetting to them . . .
5/21 Cameroon Day 7 Church service with the most amazing singing and African drums. When the congregation joined in singing it was like the entire chapel was filled with choir members! It was stunning! We heard a testimony from a woman who had traveled to the hospital with her sister. Everyone in their village had said their goodbyes to the sister for they knew, because of her illness, she would not be returning. However the sister was able to undergo a dramatic and amazing surgery and had a full recovery and now she and her sister would be going home together. The women spoke with such powerful and eloquent words, it was very moving. It still gives me goosebumps today as I retell her story.
After lunch we were greeted with an amazing rain storm then went for another hike to the ‘knob’ a small hill just above Mbingo II. Passing smaller little ‘neighborhoods’ children waved and said hello, it was fun for them and us. Pizza for dinner, was awesome – Margaret is really working in the kitchen.
5/22 Cameroon Day 8 –Rounding on the HD (Hansen’s Disease) or U (ulcer) ward. Here I mastered the ‘sterile’ technique for performing dressing changes. This included using only sterilized instruments to touch the gauze, wound and dressing materials. By this time I had come to realize that what I was used to as being ‘clean technique’ here in the States, required as ‘sterile’ of technique there. It is respectable and impressive; it changed my outlook on their care. We rounded with our resident Dr Kyoto who was interested to have us try some of the advanced skin substitutes, soon to be known as ‘magic’ to the patients. Patients on the ward seeming curious about who I was and what I was doing. Monday evening our neighbor on 3rd floor hosted a potluck and it was quite a party. We were able to meet the other volunteers and long term missionaries. The food was amazing!
5/23 Cameroon Day 9 – today was formal rounds, what an amazing experience. Each patient is seen by the team. The team consists of the physician, wound RN, social worker, physical therapist, chaplain and the charge nurse.
All the wounds are looked at, plan of care developed and each patient is prayed for with the team. Truly moving – neighboring patients also participated which was vary touching. I really got busy with debridement’s, treatments dressing’s and grafts!
Today I was invited to be ‘taken to lunch’ which consisted of my host buying me lunch, very traditional. We went to a restaurant that is well known to the hospital staff.
5/24 Cameroon Day 10 By this day patients on the HD/U ward were warming up to me and waving and greeting me. It was on this day I felt like I was starting to fit and and find my niche, when we only had a short time left. A little more background on the hospital. Each patient whom is admitted as one or more caregivers. It is the caregivers responsibility to provide food, assistance with daily activities and support while in the hospital. This requires the caregiver to be present 24 hours a day. Some families have shifts where they sleep during the day and others help the patient. There is a kitchen, bathrooms, showers and water stations provided by the hospital for caregivers to use. In addition they do their and the patients laundry. At the beginning of the shifts on the surgical ward, where they have a high patient turn over, the charge nurse will make an announcement about expectations for patients and caregivers and how through God they will care for their loved ones and to be respectful of the staff and other caregivers.
5/25 Cameroon Day 11 – Our last full day, bitter sweet and a rush to the finish line to follow up on skin substitutes applied and follow ups on our inpatient trials of new products. Today was Ascension Day, all non-patient care areas were closed and hospital was running light and the wards were starting to empty out. The wound team was on light working load and we shared stories about family and illness. One of the wound nurses, Delores, sister had passed away Tuesday night after being ill for a couple of days. It was felt that she developed ‘black water fever’ from Malaria. Since was a light working day we convinced Mamaduex to take us on another hike this time walking from Mbingo to Belo. While in Belo we were on a quest for a ‘cold’ drink – anything – ‘cold’ we were unsuccessful — however our ‘taxi’ driver did have to get gas and there was a convenient store there and we were able to get a cool glass of juice!
5/26 Cameroon Day 12 – Last Day in Cameroon and boy would it be a memorable one. My morning started with chapel, then off to the clinic. I was given ‘pears’ from Regina from her home. I quickly brought them to our mess hall for our cook to cut them up for breakfast – only to discover what I call a pear is not what she called a pear. . . you’ll see the photo below.
This morning, poor Delores again, last night her daughter who is 8 years old, was admitted to the hospital for symptoms concerning for Malaria. It seemed that illness affected everyone; no one was exempt, despite your accommodations.
We rounded on a few more patients and I said my goodbyes to a few that I had felt a connection with. Bryan and I took photos with our teams and hoped that we could still stay in touch through ‘WhatsApp’ and exchanged numbers.
There were 3 other physicians who were leaving the same day as us. They left around 0930 while we were finishing up settling our rooms and donating our shoes to the Hansen’s clinic and scrubs to the medical residents. We then waited for our chartered plan to take us back to Douala. Well, today was a day for the books when it came to the weather. You could always count on rain then the sun to return. Today, Mbingo was crying and bellowing as the rain and wind would not settle down. We had to make some adjustments to our flight plan. This involved dropping off co-pilots and picking up remaining passengers to ‘lighten the load’ to be able to have a formal take off in Bamenda. This just turned into one unbelievable story into another. Fortunately – as you all are aware – we landed safely and are super impressed with our pilot’s skills.