On May 21st we took Violet, a 10 month-old little girl, to KCMC for back surgery. KCMC is Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, one of the best hospitals in Tanzania. When we brought her there a few weeks before they did an MRI on a cyst or tumor at the base of her spine. She had been referred to KCMC by the doctors at Lushoto Hospital. They had x-rayed her back and said she would probably need surgery. At KCMC the surgeon said to bring her on the 21st and her surgery would be done on the 22nd. He expected that she would be released five days later.
Our drive to Moshi took six hours instead of the usual five because of road construction. Here when the road is being repaved, they construct a temporary dirt road alongside for traffic to get by. One of the three “diversions” was 20 kilometers long!
At admissions, the doctor said they were behind in their schedule and probably wouldn't be able to do the surgery until early the next week. He wanted us to go home and bring her back then. After almost 4 hours of waiting and talking, they agreed to keep Violet for her pre-surgical testing and then decided to let her stay. Because of the cost of diesel and the wear and tear on the car and Tom, we decided it was better, safer, and cheaper to stay in Arusha while we waited. The doctor said Violet’s surgery would be perhaps on Monday, but definitely on Tuesday. He also said that since we have two RN’s on staff, she could leave two days afterward instead of the usual five.
We checked in to Ilboru Safari Lodge in Arusha, where we get a great rate since we were here for an ELCA Mission Conference in March. They also have wonderful food and a big pool. We had some things to do in Arusha, including pricing out some medical equipment that a Swedish group want to donate to the home. So it seemed like a good plan. Of course, things here never go as planned. We should be used to this by now.
Violet, Mama Upendo, and one of our students, Felista, stayed in the children’s surgical ward. There are 14 beds in the ward. Each child/baby sleeps in a regular hospital with a mama or someone responsible for their care. The mamas cook the food for themselves and their child and bring their own linens. Whenever we felt tired of our stay at Ilboru, we thought about Upendo and Felista for a reality check. We said we were “trapped in Paradise”.
We visited KCMC several times, to bring food and to allow Mama Upendo and Felista a break from the ward. The time seemed to drag on forever.
Finally on Thursday, May 30th, we had a text message from Upendo that Violet had been taken to surgery. Later in the day, we received a text saying Violet was back in the ward and “Anaendelea vizuri. This is the usual reply for someone's health. "She continues well". Thanks be to God.
When we visited on the 31st, we were told that she would probably be released on Monday or Tuesday, two weeks after she was admitted. We had thought that it was smarter and cheaper to stay in Arusha, but who would have thought we would be there so long.
On Monday, June 3rd, we got to the hospital and Violet was smiling and cheery as usual. The doctor came to check her at around 10 am and said she could go home after the drain and IV were removed. The nurse came and removed them at around noon. Mama Upendo went to the cashier's to pay the bill. Unfortunately, they were closed for lunch so she had to wait and go back after 1 pm. By the time the bill was paid it was too late to drive back to Lushoto in daylight.
As we drove away from the hospital, Mama Upendo said with a bit of sarcasm in her voice, "Kwaheri KCMC". (goodbye KCMC) We all laughed and I asked her if she felt like she was let out of jail. She had been there for a total of 14 days with only 4 of them since Violet's surgery, away from her own three children and husband
One of the biggest problems here is that we often lose things in translation, or just don't understand. It turned out Violet's surgery was for spina bifida! I was very sure that when the ultrasound was done, the doctor had said it was not spina bifida.
Since it was so late in the day, we stayed at Uhuru Lutheran Hostel for the night. It is only a few miles from the hospital. We enjoyed a lunch/dinner at about 4:30 and slept soundly. Tom asked for and got a reduced rate because of the circumstances.
After breakfast the next morning, we traveled about six and a half hours home. Violet was wonderful on the way, sleeping a lot of the time. We had brought a car seat from the home with us to support her back. For her, the trip in the car was far better than an eight-hour ride in a crowded bus.
For those of you who knew about Violet’s surgery at the time, we thank you for your prayers and emails of concern. The picture attached was taken after we returned to Irente. Violet is now starting to walk with someone holding her hands or holding on to furniture. When she sees us, we get the most wonderful smiles from her. (but unfortunately, not in this picture)