Archie in Africa II

I'm indulging myself a bit and writing a sequel to my earlier blog entry on recent medical work in Africa.

I've now been here for 10 weeks and have finished working at the Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital (SHMH), Dar es Salaam. The SHMH is a private hospital and in theory is very good with lots of clever gadgets, an intensive care unit (ICU) and other magic. The reality is that no one knows how to work the gadgets and the ICU is just an air-conditioned room with a working door. If you find yourself in Tanzania - and sadly probably a lot Africa - I would suggest that if you're a bit ill (e.g. malaria, manflu, hangover) you will probably be ok, but if you are actually quite poorly you will need to keep your unwell wits about you constantly. If you need surgery, just get back home any way you can. Is this a little racist? Am I being bit of a tit? Certainly not. Here's why.

I'm sure there are some great Tanzanian doctors - I don't want to condemn them all - but here is a story of the most spectacular surgical cock-up. It's more of a 'balls-up' actually:

I was on duty looking after the post-surgery patients, on this occasion a 50 yr old gent post-prostatectomy, I should add that this procedure has nothing to do with testicles (for the docs: in tanz they do an open lower abdo procedure not turp). Patient was doing well but on examination had a rather mysterious bandage over his balls. So I had a look and I found just the one testis (for the docs: men normally have two). So this was not expected. I had a thoughtful scratch of my chin - after carefully removing my gloves, of course - and looked to see if his notes could shed any light on this unusual finding, before cautiously questioning the patient... He too clearly expected his full package intact but had no idea this was not the case (!!!). So I re-examined him. Again. And again....until he was as confused as I was. I then went to see the surgeon.

This unforgivably incompetent surgeon had done the wrong operation. The poor patient was not only left with his original problem but had a crown jewel removed for fun. I don't know what will become of this but I know the surgeon is trying very hard to wash his hands of the affair and I very much doubt the unfortunate, paying patient will ever feel satisfactorily compensated. Nightmare!

So we should all be grateful for our health system in England that, at least, attempts to be just and ethically run, with fewer scalpel wielding maniacs. For anyone that has had or will have an op in England, you should be reassured by the impeccably high standards of our surgeons. They do a great job and I'm grateful for that. If I was my Uncle Paul Keeling I'd call the whole thing "marrrrrrrrvelous."

I'll be back in Blighty on Saturday. Hurrah! What an adventure it's been. While being here I've seen near-extinct rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater and witnessed lions devouring an elephant in the Serengeti. On a $10 snorkelling trip in Zanzibar (thanks for the tip Kate!) we had a snorkel and the way back intercepted some impressively leaping dolphins. Not content with watching, I promptly leapt in front of their sine-wave trajectory and had a splash with this rather intimidatingly curious and numerous pod of monsters. 38 in total. Surely there are only a few places where such fantastically wild opportunities present themselves?

Thanks for all the support and kind words over the past 10 weeks, it's been a blast but I'll be glad to be back (just in time for the World Cup), and start the long adjustment to normality.


Hey Archie, Great story and poor old chap with one ball. Yes, thank mankind (the European variety), for the wonderful world we live in.

Posted by: george | June 06, 2014 at 07:50 PM

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