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Volunteers in Katondwe, part 1

Volunteers in Katondwe, part 1

Muli bwanji! We welcome you from hot Zambia! Our names are Agnieszka Wasilewska and Magdalena Mrozowska. We are young doctors from Łódź and we would like to share with you our impressions from our stay so far in Katondwe, a small African village located not far from the River Luangwa and the border with Mozambique. After months of preparations and thanks to the help of the Polish Medical Mission and other organisations as well as support from a lot of people of good will, we arrived at the Katondwe Mission Hospital in mid-November last year. It is a hospital run by Sisters Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculately Conceived and headed by Sis. Dr Mirosława Góra, a surgeon from Poland. The congregation consists of both Polish and Zambian sisters whose work and involvement in favour of the patients and the whole local population really touches the heart.

It is not only people in need from Zambia that find help at the hospital but also patients from Mozambique and Zimbabwe find their way here. Some of them have to travel several hundred kilometres to get here. The hospital consists of a department for women and children as well as ones for man, infectious diseases and obstetrics, an outpatient clinic and an operating theatre. There is also a shelter for pregnant women waiting for the delivery, who come from far away, a dental clinic as well as X-ray and ultrasound facilities. The sisters also run a kindergarten and a secondary school for girls, which is renowned all over Zambia. The hospital supports itself to a large extent through donations from external donors; therefore, when we came here, we brought with us some medical equipment donated by the Polish Medical Mission as well as dressing materials, medicines and funds contributed by private persons, and also funds raised during a collection organised at St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe’s Parish in Pabianice and St. Stanislaus Kostka’s Archcathedral Parish in Łódź. The people’s open hearts and their generosity as well as the support that we received before our trip exceeded our wildest expectations. Dearly beloved, we thank you all, on our own behalf and on behalf of the whole Katondwe community!!!

We work day-to-day at the hospital departments and clinics and sometimes assist in the operating theatre in anaesthetising patients and participating in the procedures. Magda, currently in the process of becoming a specialist in radiology, also bravely examines patients at the ultrasound consulting room where patients are referred from the department and the clinic as well as from a prenatal clinic for periodic check-ups for pregnant women. Apart from the common conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, articular disorders or lung inflammation, we also encounter here very ‘tropical’ cases. We have already seen, inter alia, patients bitten by snakes, scorpions or crocodiles, which are really in abundance here(!), crises in sickle cell disease, malaria, schistosomiasis. Recently, we had a 3-year-old girl who had swallowed a several centimetre long screw. The little patient is already happily recovering after an operation. A lot of patients with injuries and fractures come here; other common procedures include caesarean sections thanks to which really many kids can be saved. Sadly, among our patients there is no shortage of very severe diseases, such as tuberculosis, HIV infections, viral hepatitis, syphilis or many advanced cancers, even in young people. So there is certainly no shortage of impressions and work. Additionally, a cholera epidemic broke out recently in the capital of the country, Lusaka, and is becoming increasingly widespread – the number of sufferers has already reached over 2,500 and is still growing. Schools and churches have been closed, there is a ban on gatherings and selling food in the street, wells are being filled up with earth. The entire country is taking all sorts of precautions. At our place, there has been no incident but the hospital personnel has already received instructions and procedures in case there is a need for an intervention.

The work is certainly not helped by the heat that can really take its toll. During the day the temperature is always above 30 degrees.

With greetings hot indeed,

Agnieszka and Magda

Part two of the coverage soon on www.pmm.org.pl