I came to a crossroads in life - threw caution to the wind and decided to live - I mean really live. I travelled to Arusha, Tanzania with Projects Abroad, where I volunteered on a medical placement at St Elizabeth Hospital, whilst living with my host family in Moshono. Little did I know it would be the adventure of a life time.
Although the days were long and dusty, food was scarce and a hot shower unheard of - the days were filled with laughter, friendships and life changing experiences. I would go on to not only experience surgery, but to witness the creation of life. A miracle in itself.
The journey unexpectedly would see me climb Mt Kilimanjaro and find peace amongst the clouds. Finally, it would end on Safari, witnessing animals in the wild - free as they were meant to be. And... as I watched the sunset - I knew that I had just begun to live...
There would be more adventures to come.
ORGANISED BY : Projects Abroad
St Elizabeth Hospital - Arusha
DATES : 1st August - 2nd October 2010
Medical Placement with Projects Abroad
Adventure continues on Kilimanjaro...
The following are the emails sent from Tanzania at the time.
Sent 8 Sept 2010 WEEK 1 - THE BEGINNING!
Are you missing me yet??????
Don't lie I know you are! Oh my God!!! what a week.
After 29hrs travel I arrived at host family (Makange family) at 8.30pm in the middle of a blackout. Let's not even go there (they were very hard to see - lol...) Anyway - would you like a shower they say - oh yes!!! Ahhhhhh Toilet was a hole in the ground (no probs have used them before) but obviously I was way too tired because I manged to hit everything except the bloody hole. Did I mention there was a blackout!!!! I then tried to have shower which was a bucket and cup whilst holding a torch. ha ha ha - I should have gone straight to bed. Let me tell you that peeing at 2am in the dark only got worse. I have decided to never try and sh#t - God knows what will happen.
OK so things were much better the next day - power back on and a normal shower could be had - including no more wet hair (hairdryer working) - yeah!!!! Toilet still a hole in the ground but aim is getting a little better (only hit half the room). Seriously it's been absolutely amazing - the people are soooooooo polite, relaxed (pole pole which means slowly slowly) no stress here - except for crossing the road - and you thought AIDS would kill me - let me assure you it will be a bloody car or mad dala dala (which is the bus - mini fast lunatic buses).
Day 1 - I started at 8am and by 10am I was in surgery watching my first appendectomy - with the chief surgeon firing a million questions at me - ahhhhh! did he realise I wasn't a doctor (he sure knows now - heeee heee hee) - but I'll never forget how to stop bleeding - clamp clamp clamp - with what??? ANYTHING! - ha ha ha Oh MY God!! Did I mention he makes first incision and the girl starts kicking - as calm as a cucumber he says - you know what that means (I'm guessing so!) he says - the anesthetists are bloody hopeless - she's still awake - ahhh the 2 female anesthetists are great and just laugh (I'm now friends with the whole surgical team which consists of only 3 - which means I can go into surgery any time I like - yeahhhh! By 12md I had watched my first circumcision - pay attention you want to make sure you don't end up with a bend in it or you will be jailed he jokes. No probs - now know how to get no bend in penis - hee ha ha and then after a short lunch break I raced back to have my hand broken by a women in labour (made friends with the midwives) and watch my first natural delivery. Do you know how to do a internal pelvic examination and measure how dilated she is - what???? did they think I was a doctor - what???? OK no probs 10cm is a go. Nearly caught the baby as it literally flew out. No worries - clamp clamp cut and tie. Oh yeah make sure baby doesn't choke on crap. A BOY by the way.
The next day I watched a cesarean at 10am (why anyone would choose back home to have this done is beyond me - bloody hell - major surgery) - although have learnt how to tie and cut the tubes. Any volunteers???? Then they asked if I would like to ASSIST in the next 2 circumcisions - Ahhhhhhh! Oh my God!! I was that nervous that the doctor says OK cut but not the knot - ha ha ha my hand was shaking sooooo much I thought I was going to cut the poor kids penis off! I was a bit better on the 2nd - although the doctor nearly cut it off instead.
I'm having a blast - social night last night (met a lot of people - 50 volunteers here at the moment). It's Saturday and I have just finished watching an orthopedic surgeon hammering and screwing a metal rod into a poor ladies leg. (Note - drink plenty of milk and don't break bones) - Ahhhhhhh! Anyhow heading off tomorrow to middle of nowhere where they have an outreach program (clinic) set up for everyone to come from miles around.
Have been sleeping well!!!!! Funny that - work???? who would have thought...
PS: As for the 2 little girls (Gladness 2yrs and Glory 4yrs) - ha ha ha very cute first day I arrived home from hospital after 12hrs on the go - dusty and tired - they come up and hug and sit on my lap and I think great moment for a photo - well... Gladness pisses on my leg whilst photo is being taken - she's on my hit list.
Take care and try not to miss me toooooooooo much - yeah I know you will.
** JOHN - Happy Birthday to you!!!! - Hope you had a great day and played my song back (I'm such a good singer)
** ADELL & STEVE - Good luck on your trip - have a blast and keep in touch.
Everyone else - luv ya and miss you (only for a glass of wine really lol....)
Sent 20 Sept 2010 WEEK 2 / 3 - STARVATION !!
Nooooo! - I am not dead - so no celebrating just yet... - although it may not be far off... I've been dying and working and working and dying!
AND - let me tell you that starvation may not be far off either!!! - Here I was worried of busting out of my pants and living with a big Mama - ha ha ha- I'm living with a skinny family and food is not high on their agenda - Ahhhhhh!!! I feel like I'm on an episode of 'Survivor' - starvation is high on the list lol.... My Italian flat mate (Eugina - 19yr old lunatic) screams - 'look at my lips, look at them, I will die before I leave!' - I can't stop laughing as I feel the same way - ha ha ha My Japanese flat mate (Chieko - 34yr old quiet and sensible) - steals food at night.
BY THE WAY NEARLY DIED! - Do you care?????? you better!!!! - OK maybe not death but who would have guessed that with 13 vaccinations not one of them would have protected me against 'dust mites' ha ha ha - by Sunday night I was dying ( thank God for allergy tablets which took 3 days to kick in) - took Monday off as a day in lieu (are volunteers allowed to do that??? - hee hee hee) well I don't have a union and I don't think they have ever heard of sick days. The head nurse has Typhoid Fever and is not taking time off (says it makes him work harder) ahhhhhh they are all mad!!!! What happened to pole pole??? (slowly slowly) ...
By the way I have had 3 marriage proposals in 3 weeks (and thy're all under 30yrs old lol....) - and there I was thinking it was because of my imposed starvation that perhaps I was looooking hot!! - Noooooo!!! - I found out that the average life span here is under 50yrs - Ahhhhh! - now I've realised they probably think I'm white and rich and only have a couple of years to live - Ahhhhh
Anyhow - let me take you back to the Sunday I was going off to the middle of nowhere to do a clinic. WOW!!!! what an experience (not sure it can ever be topped). Ended up going out to Masai Land where Masai came from all around 52 of them (inc 32 children) just for the clinic. They said we could take "pictures" so of course my Japanese DNA kicked in and I start snapping anything and everything whilst everyone else is sitting quietly listening to the Masai women signing to Jesus. Of course I stand up and take a photo of the Chief Masai elder who was sitting minding his own business. He calls me over - Ahhhhhh!!! - oh no - they said I could take pictures.... Not my new camera! Does he want the photo deleted or does he want to stomp on the camera???!! NO! - he wants to take a picture of me. Now you need to imaging this is the first digital camera he's seen. I spend the next hour teaching him how to use it (no kidding a whole hour) - he also appears to have Japanese DNA. I am now friends with Chief Masai... He finally allows us to start the clinic and I now have diagnosis down pat... headache, fever and cough (definitely MALARIA) and there I was thinking FLU ha ha ha - and as for a cough over 2 weeks (definitely PNEUMONIA) - antibiotics no probs. Don't ever cough around me or complain of a headache - I will instantly give you Malaria treatment - no more Panadol for you! Anyway really amazing experience - stayed out there till the sun went down and then headed home at 10pm (no - no lunch supplied or snack or water or ANYTHING!!) - and you doubt I'm starving lol....
So - didn't think things could get better and then last Thursday this mad doctor came in to do a cholecystectomy (remove a gallbladder) and asks if I want to 'scrub in' and really assist. OK sure - WOW! - but does he realise I don't know anything !!! Oh my God! - nearly didn't have to worry - lady nearly died prior to first incision - ahhhhh! Finally we start and ahhhhhhh! 2 1/2 hours of standing there with my hands in this ladies insides (yes I was double gloved) - with this mad doctor screaming 'you have two hands make sure they are both working - pull on the instruments - hold that - push down harder and get the organs out of the way - you're not at the market now!!!' - 'my God I'm a hundred years old and you are shaking more than me!!!" he screams - ha ha ha - heck I was still shacking an hour after we finished whilst I was trying to drink a coffee! Believe it or not I actually love surgery. By the way whilst we were at it might as well search further down, pull out the intestines, check and do an appendectomy. Finally done and he leaves - the nice doctor says would you like to close up and stitch?! - Are they all mad???!!!! - Ah no thanks - maybe next time I say. Ha ha ha poor woman has been traumatised enough - imaging her waking up to some of my handy stitch work (I wonder if cross stitch is acceptable??? lol...)
Seriously it has been flat out but amazing. Yesterday had a real go at my first delivery - WOW!!!! and then spent 4hrs sweating to death assisting in a full hysterectomy (OK so maybe dehydration will be final cause of death - lol....) At least I must be getting better - he said I was a 'ironwoman' and he wished there was more like me- heee hee ha ha - he said I was a natural and next time I could close up and stitch - ha ha ha seriously they are insane!!!! but yep that's me ironwoman - you heard it!! I now just need traction for my back (no kidding I'm sure they have never heard of a chiropractor or physio here!!!!) I will be crippled by the time I get home!!!
Michelle - you might have a bad back but let me tell you - you don't have to attempt to squat every hour over some miniature hole lol.... (seriously need a physio)
Anyhow it's Friday and I've taken the afternoon off (jigging lol...) and tomorrow I plan to spend the day lying by the pool in a really nice hotel my 2nd husband found. Yep that's me - pool, sun and heck might even pay for a cocktail - hee hee hee
That's it from me... You all enjoy and take care...
PS:** Evert - hope all your exams went well - no doubt they did. Good luck with the rest..
** Adell and Steve - can't believe time has flown so quickly... by the time you get this you will be on your cruise but I'm glad you've found your dream retirement in Calgary.
Have fun and see you soon.
LUV Marg XXXX...
Sent 27 Sept 2010 WEEK 4 - RELAXING
OK! - so 3 working weeks was all it took to kill me. I'M DYING!!!!!
Now - you have to picture this... really... I get up at 6am (that in itself is insane I say). Breakfast is a slice of stale bread with vegimite (thank God I brought vegimite) and a cup of coffee (must admit great coffee) - even bought a couple of tins to take home. I contemplate the world and as the sun comes up I look out the window and Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! - there's always the same view (I don't know why I'm compelled to look out every morning!) - yep always a mouse or rat running back and forth - OMFG!!! Mind you I haven't screamed or cried - so I consider myself quite brave (or actually mad for not packing my bags and making a run for it). Kim says I will be bored when I get back looking out at the ocean and I just laugh and laugh - hysterically!!!!! Give me my ocean view for breakfast any day!
Then... - my day begins as I cough and splutter my way down the dusty goat track (10min HIKE! - thank God I brought my trusty hiking boots) to get to the dala dala where I am one of 22 people squeezed into a 12 seater (I kid you not) - if I could take a photo I would - it's hilarious. After 20min I get off and HIKE another 20min through dust and madness to get to the hospital. Mind you the locals do it wearing long skirts and sandals - OK so I'm a wimp... and I will never make it on the catwalk- ha ha ha!
WELL - this week I decided I WAS NOT cut out for hard work and thought I would take it easy!... ha ha ha I pictured myself lying by the pool - maybe getting fit at the gym and definitely a glass of French wine and some cheese every afternoon. On Monday I thought this would be a possibility with no deliveries, no operations and a very quiet day - all over by 12md - so I snuck out - ha ha ha (I could be the first volunteer sacked). Instead........ here I am Friday and the week has been a disaster! I'M DYING!!!!!!!!!
Monday I coughed my through work - and they were determined I must have an pneumonia and wanted to have me tested and give me drugs (anything you want - free, valium, morphin, - tempting - ha ha ha). If I'm not careful they'll want to remove a lung soon (I've seen what they do)... Ahhhhhhhh! I may need to be airlifted out to escape - or maybe try and find some cough syrup or more to the point some ventilin!!!! By Tuesday my back was killing me (pinched nerve - possibly prolapsed disc) - ahhhhhh! probably from lifting 100kg patients back into their beds after surgery - or from squating in ridiculous positions to wash clothes - either way no MRI machine here, no chiro or physio - ahhhh! (no wonder no one lives past 50) - OK so 3 weeks in and I wanted to cry!!! By 12.30pm I was in a taxi on my way home (but not before stopping to buy a pillow to put between my legs to alleviate the pain so I can sleep)... By Wednesday I was prepared to take them up on their morphin offer!!!! ha ha ha (mersyndol not working ahhhh!) By Thursday I thought seriously what I need is to lie by the pool - only to discover those bloody Malaria tablets do make you 'sun sensitive' - I now look like a red lobster! I even tried to get fit at the gym... - now it's not just my back killing me - I can't move my arms!!!! (I swear I only lifter 3kg weights).
BUT I decided to go to the social at night and discovered that alcohol is a great pain killer and much to my horror I also discovered that I THOUGHT I could sing after just 1 beer - hee hee heee Got to love that Karaoke (thank God everyone else was just as bad - although I like to think they were worse!).
All in all however (4 weeks down) - I'M STILL ALIVE and continuing to meet great people...
- Alex, the owner of the local Pub on the corner has offered me free beer and a lift home every night - well, well, well... things are looking up!
Try not to miss me toooooo much!!!!
Be good - see you soon...
Luv Marg XXXXXXXXXXXXXX...
Sent 6 Oct 2010 WEEK 5 - The Waterfall
Hi everyone!!!!!, - I'm still here! hoooooray!
I hear you say - come, come I know you miss me...
Very quiet week - yes I am still turning up to work (occasionally - ha ha ha) - no really I am. (a couple of photos attached just to prove it - although I realised they all look the same - green, green and green... I really need to have different coloured scrubs for each day - ha ha ha)
One of the Italian girls (Alesia) convinced me to hike to the waterfall with her. WOW!!! - yes I thought, I really wanted to do that - ha ha ha 2.5hrs she said it would take - 'really???? - is that all' - sure...lol... Took 2 pain killers and off I went...
Yeah right - 2.5hrs to get to the start of the hike - ahhhh I was having a heart attack within the first 10min and couldn't stop laughing (well not really laughing because I couldn't breath) - but I kept thinking of Alex in Colorado and of course then I had flash backs to canyoning - ha ha ha I'm sure Alex & Evert know what I mean.
Well - 8hrs later I was glad to be back and still alive - ha ha ha Really great day!!! - no seriously it was (who has ever heard of hiking 2km in thongs through a river bed and up and over rocks - yes thongs!!)
Now I'm heading off to the gym - because someone performed a lobotomy on me last night and I've decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro!!!!! - next Monday - ha ha ha I'm losing it!!!! I googled and it said 2 months training should be OK - right I wonder if 2 weeks will work?????
PS: still having trouble walking after the waterfall hike - Ahhhhhhhh! BUT... back feeling much better
Miss you all - Marg... (actually really just the food and a real shower!)
Sent 12 Oct 2010 WEEK 6 - Farewell...
OK - Goodbye and farewell...
If you don't hear from me in a couple of weeks - it's because I'm still on the mountain and they are having trouble recovering my body!!!!!
I finished off at the hospital on Friday and had a nice farewell cake (chocolate of course!!!! - my first cake in Tanzania)I head off on Monday morning and the plan is to reach the summit on Saturday morning (a 12hr hike in the middle of the night) - ahhhhh!!!! No probs... only -25 degrees ahhhhh! They tell me it's like doing a very slow marathon in need of an oxygen tank (no probs - I know what that feels like) - and your hands literally freeze 1hr from the summit (ha ha ha I bought an extra pair of gloves - although we are talking Tanzania - so imaging how thin they are!!!! - ahhhhhh) I'm going to DIE!!!!
There is a reason I don't like going back to Sydney and that's because the temperature drops to 5 degrees - God help me!!!!!
I"m having flash backs to Michelle & I cattle mustering in what I swear was below zero - and nearly dying in our sleeping bags!!!!! - or it could have been the fact that I bought my sleeping bag at a garage sale for $2 (bargain I thought) - till I nearly died in it!!! I'm not sure Tanzanian below zero sleeping bags are any better!!!! Ted has decided to come with me - he really didn't want to, but I think he will regret it if he didn't... I couldn't actually find him any thermals in his size (heck had enough trouble finding clothes for me - you can tell I came really prepared for this - ha ha ha ) Anyhow I hope he doesn't freeze solid - ahhhhh! If I had more time I would knit him a balaclava lol..
BUT - I am told we get a CERTIFICATE if we make it to the top - ha ha ha - I have no doubt I will get a certificate - a DEATH CERTIFICATE more like it!
Right all jokes aside - still missing you all (you can tell I've been here tooooo long and that I'm heading off on a near death experience) ha ha ha
See you soon... Marg... (lots of love just in case I die!)
PS: Had to send that photo of the waterfall hike (I just received it in an email from one of the girls - and now I'm thinking - sweating to death and hiking through a river bed in thongs is much more preferable than freezing to death - ha ha ha