I am finally home after a long trip from Addis Ababa. It was a good week in Ethiopia but it is very good to be home with Micky and Sean.
After leaving my guesthouse in Nairobi at 2:30 AM, I arrived early Monday morning at Addis airport and I then shared the six hour drive down to Soddo with a missionary family who were returning from the States with their three children, including a new-born child. They were jet-lagged and we were all glad to set foot on the grounds of Soddo Christian Hospital.
I haven’t been here for almost two years and I was amazed at the growth of the campus. The PAACS housing has been finished, the hospital has expanded (including some outpatient space, a CT scanner, new conference/library, a new gazebo and a new generator building. There were new houses and one two-story duplex going up. The landscaping has been markedly improved and many of the areas around the houses resemble an English garden. In the past, I have come during the dry part of the year and this time, everything was green and lush.
My timing for this visit was not good. The only expatriate surgeon at Soddo was Bob Greene, an orthopedic surgeon, who is here for a limited time and the PAACS graduate, Tewodros, who had only been back on campus for ten days when I visited. Even half of the PAACS residents had left to attend the COSECSA (College of Surgery of East, Central and Southern Africa) tropical medicine course.
Since the loss of Paul Gray earlier this year, we have not had a dedicated general surgeon at this hospital and the education of our residents has suffered greatly. I met with almost all the missionaries who were present(many are gone at present) and with the administrator in an attempt to figure out what needs to be done to make our training here more effective and to figure out how to retain the general surgeons who may come. We have lost three surgeons since we began the program and recruitment is not easy. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons given for leaving the mission field is conflict with other missionaries and that is certainly true here, too. Please pray for God’s leading on all of this and for His unity at the hospital.
After only 48 hours, I was back on the van heading back to the capital city. We perfectly timed our arrival at the domestic airport; as we drove in, my traveling companions were walking up. Jon Pollock, Tim Love (a senior resident at Emory who hopes to come to Ethiopia as a missionary) and Bill Wood (PAACS Academic Dean) traveled with me to the resort city of Bahir Dar. It is located on Lake Tana, the start of the Blue Nile. This planned city is about an hour’s flight north and west of Addis Ababa. When in Uganda, we lived on the start of the White Nile in Jinja but I never dreamed I would visit both headwaters of the Nile.
The Surgical Society of Ethiopia was the occasion for the trip to Bahir Dar. In a country of almost 90 million people, there are only 300 surgeons in government service (the number in private practice seems unknown). This was also the occasion for a regional meeting of the COSECSA Council so it was good to see some friends from that august body.
The first question I asked of my COSECSA friends was about news on the decision on the Malamulo accreditation visit. I was informed that they had granted full five-year accreditation (both MCS and FCS) for Malamulo. I could hardly wait to e-mail that great news back to those in Malawi. What a blessing!
Over the two days of the conference, we did a lot of networking. Five of the PAACS Ethiopia residents were there and two were there from Kenya (one from Tenwek and one from Kijabe). Dr. Wood and I met one morning with the CEO of the COSECSA and talked about various ways we could collaborate. I renewed acquaintance with a Christian brother from Zambia, Dr. James Munthuli, who I had met at the CMDA meeting there. He is a protégé of Dr. Jim Jewell. I also received some information that I needed regarding the basic science and surgical skills courses.
Six papers were presented (one as a poster) by surgeons from PAACS–Ethiopia. The residents did a good job. Jon Pollock gave a report on his preliminary work on determining the impact of PAACS surgeons and that would win the nod as the “Best Paper”. It came with a $500 prize that Jon plans to plow back into the program.
Travel around town was in three-wheeled Indian taxis that are commonly called “Bajajs” (after the brand name). They dart hither and yon and narrowly miss upsetting each other. It was a good reminder that trauma is becoming a leading cause of death in Africa. However, it was too far to walk and the $1 price for two people was a bargain.
My friends at Tenwek were kind enough to share their cold virus with me before I left there and this weekend has been rather miserable. I finally got a chest x-ray (negative) and began antibiotics, but it was sleeping around the clock that seemed to make the most difference. Under normal circumstances, it is bad enough to get on the plane coughing but with the Ebola fear, I sure didn’t want to be seen as a risk to everyone’s life nor spend weeks in isolation. I knew the symptoms were different but I am not sure they would. .
The next few months will be spent working on PAACS “stuff” – lots of projects to finish up and advance. If a new Executive Director is selected, that will affect what I do. I will have one conference in early October, the Louisville Conference the second week of November and our PAACS meeting in Chicago the third weekend of November. If flights are still open in Africa, I will be going to the COSECSA examinations in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the first week of December.
Praise and Prayers:
- Praise for the traveling safety in the past week and please pray for safety as I leave tomorrow for a conference at Charlotte.
- Praise God that the back spasm is almost completely gone.
- Pray for wisdom as we continue to address the issues of PAACS-Ethiopia.
Yours, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce, back with Micky and Sean