Monday, 20 May 2024

Dhanda: Thanks for supporting African humanitarian mission

I just returned from a humbling experience in Chad, Africa. I would like to thank all of the people of Lake County who supported us in our humanitarian mission to Béré Adventist Hospital.

Nothing says thank you like the smiles of the patients and the families who we helped. One man said “Dr. Paula, I have nothing to give you for what you have done for my wife. All I can do is thank God for sending you here.” His smile and gratitude was more than enough thanks for me.

We did three or four major surgeries a day and saw 15 to 20 patients in consultation. The hospital announced that there would be a gynecologist coming and women came from the surrounding areas to be seen. Many of them walked all the way and waited outside all day in the heat to be seen. There were language barriers to overcome but their gratitude needed no translation. One woman who had recurrent miscarriages said that she knew that her current pregnancy would be OK because I had put my hands on her. As a physician, surgeon and scientist I could only hope for the best.

The whole team worked very hard. Peggy Landini our occupational therapist did amazing work. She got a burn victim walking after 12 years of ambulating on her knees. Surgeons had released her leg contractures but without Peggy’s help she was unable to walk.

Carol Broughton and Shan Dhanda worked tirelessly assisting in surgery, helping on the ward, and reorganizing and cleaning the rat infested hospital pharmacy. In the midst of all this we handed out clothing, stuffed animals and puzzles to the children. Even the nurses had fun doing the children’s puzzle as many had never seen one.

I know we accomplished a lot of good in our short time but it was not enough. After performing a lifesaving surgery I would walk out to the floor or emergency ward to see a child dying of a disease that is normally considered preventable and feel inadequate. The children are often malnourished and brought in too late for us to help. What more can we do to help these people?

Thank you again to all the generous people who donated to this mission. Your support is so essential and appreciated. We have so much compared to these people who often go without food, shelter or medical care. By the way, we all lost about10 pounds in 2 weeks living on the diet of our host in Béré.

Paula R. Dhanda, MD lives in Kelseyville.

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