Today has been an exciting day. Prof Hesseling, nurses Glenn and Vera and I travelled to a small village called Ntada where parents of 3 children treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma awaited us.
All 3 children were well. The parents will form the nucleus of a new parent group which will teach villagers to recognise the cancer and support other “new” parents. Afterwards Glenn and I addressed staff at a nearby Catholic Health Centre, where I was also asked to see 2 more children with non cancer related problems. Prof Hesseling was given a live chicken (suitably trussed) and I was given a large cylindrical pawpaw (the sweetest variety).
I thought that I would write about a few “minor” problems. Problems are there to be overcome. I am writing from our Registry room at Mbingo. I arrived here on Thursday. The noise of a large generator nearby, is battering my eardrums but I should be grateful for power to write this mail. My room in the hostel here, has a flashing strip light and a sink with no water (so I thought). I have learnt how to turn a valve to give a cold supply! The hostel is full so I am sharing with a young American internist (this is not a problem). I have just had dinner with a Dutch surgeon working for Smile Train (repairing cleft lips), an American cardiologist and his wife, and a Catholic priest and his mother. Mbingo Hospital gets a lot of visiting specialists unlike Banso Hospital.
These are only minor problems really. but I do not want you to think that my 2 weeks in Cameroon are all holiday excitement and adventure. Prof Hesseling has been working hard to review all the children’s files and enter data into a spreadsheet. It is only by doing this that we know that the one year survival of our little cancer patients is 63%, the best recorded in small hospitals in a resource poor setting in Africa. The frustrating thing for Prof is that our African colleagues sometimes write poor records (the nurses are better than the doctors at recording!) but he is very patient. I have been entering the same data into POND (paediatric oncology network database) – a confidential website from St Jude Children’s Hospital, Tennessee, USA. I use a template which I designed (or customised). Those of you who know my computer skills will realise that this is a minor miracle – or an answer to much prayer. Prayer changes things and people!