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Voluntary work in Malawi
Arletta Chryścionko returned to Poland after almost three weeks spent in Malawi. The Polish pulmonologist worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre as a volunteer. During her already second stay at the Malawian hospital, the doctor called attention to the many shortages in the equipment and shortcomings in the management of the hospital, including organisation of the work of the medical personnel, which results from the huge shortage of qualified personnel, doctors and nurses, and the lack of access to medical literature of conferences. To the best of her ability, she tried to support the personnel in improving the procedures and effectiveness of treatment, ‘Today I handed over to the doctors here the ALS procedure that I had worked out and I conducted a training with them. The procedures in writing will be displayed hanging at the Department of Internal Diseases and at the Endoscopy Laboratory so that anybody might have a look at them at any time’, wrote Arletta to us.
In Blantyre the pulmonologist encountered a lot of cases of diseases that are treated without any bigger problems in Poland but in Malawi – due to the shortage of knowledge and equipment – event the basic diagnostics is impossible, and consequently so is effective treatment. One of the female doctors who Arletta worked with did not have a stethoscope or a pulse oximeter of her own – she received both form the doctor from Poland. Procedures and work organisation fail frequently, too; e.g. there are no doctors’ rounds in the evenings or at weekends. therefore, the main task that Arletta took upon herself consisted in educating the local doctors, who are full of enthusiasm but often lack proper education, ‘Today was an outstandingly intensive day and I finished as late as at about 5.30 pm: doctors’ rounds, new patients and planning the diagnostics and treatment for them. Today, I also taught the young doctors here how to perform full physical examination, which often plays the key role in the therapy due to the lack of more advance diagnostic options. I provided a lot of instruction at the patient’s bed: disease differentiation, diagnostics, what can be done here and what the European procedures are like. Skilful evaluation of examination findings and therapeutic options’, reported Arletta to us on 4th July.
The volunteer faced various cases of diseases ranging from suspicion of hyperthyroidism, severe haematological issues, such as advanced pancytopenia in a young, 37-year-old female patient in the case of whom it was necessary to collect bone marrow, which is not a routine action in the Malawian circumstances, through exacerbated heart failure with fluid in the pleural cavities in a 68-year-old female patient and a successful struggle with sepsis in another female patient after peritonitis and with stomach perforation who also suffered undernourishment, to strokes due to hypertension – here the patients will be helped using the ambulatory blood pressure monitor purchased from donations. Arletta also brought with her to Malawi some toys for children made by a friend of hers. Children in Malawi do not have toys, and soft, colourful and pleasant to the touch toys are very helpful here – they help in diverting children’s attention away from pain and fear.
The pulmonologist brought up the need to equip the hospital with a device for monitoring critical laboratory parameters, such as gasometry, creatinine, electrolytes and other, as well as with ECG devices.
On the last day of her voluntary work, Arletta received words of gratitude from her head of department and other staff for her hard work, involvement and all the knowledge that she shared with the personnel. PMM also joins in thanking her for her willingness to work and share her skills. We are proud having such doctors in the ranks of our volunteers!