Message from Mbingo

A tropical storm is raging. I am working in our registry office slightly uphill from the hospital and water is pouring down the steps outside. Lightning crashed nearby a few minutes ago. The power is off and the hospital generator has started just outside my window. Even so the noise of the rain drowns that of the generator. This is the rainy season and dirt roads can become very difficult at this time of year. Fortunately our journey from here to Bamenda and then south again is entirely on tarmac.

In the last 2 days I have helped with paediatric ward rounds and seen a number of difficult Burkitt cases with Prof. Hesseling. Prof. has worked long hours studying every case file and collating the results of his 2011 Burkitt’s lymphoma treatment protocol.  Outcomes here at Mbingo are not so good as those at Banso and Mutengene. This may be partly because the hospital admits more advanced cases of disease but there are other reasons which we seek to address. Many doctors in Europe or the USA would say that the development of an effective children’s cancer treatment service in resource poor sub-Saharan African hospitals is IMPOSSIBLE: no infrastructure, no trained staff and no money (neither the hospitals nor the patients have sufficient funds).  We have proved that it can be done – in Christian hospitals where staff are committed to the best care possible within their resources. Prof. Hesseling’s 2008 protocol gave over 60% one year survival (equates to cure), the best results recorded in a resource limited setting in Africa and a great credit to our small Baptist hospitals.

On a lighter note we have just bought a pig, a two month old female (for 20,000 CFA) on behalf of the Parents Support Group here at Mbingo. It is a hybrid variety of good stock. There is a piggery at the hospital run by the Rehabilitation Department  – so the infrastructure is in place already. Prof. and I drew up a business plan and I roughed out a contract with the Rehabilitation Department. We have paid for pig feed (40,000 CFA). The pig keeper will feed, mate and sell 50% of the next litter for the Parent Support Group. The other 50% of piglets will be kept by the pig-keeper as a reward for his labour. If all goes well the sale of four piglets (there may be more) should yield 80,000 CFA (say £90) with more profit if the sow is sold (say 70,000 CFA) : a return of 150,000+ CFA on the initial outlay of 60,000 CFA – in less than a year. The idea is that the Parent Support Group will use the money to enable “new” parents and their child to travel to the hospital (as I have already explained).

I await the comments of our church treasurer in Kettering, an accountant who knows a thing or two about pig rearing finances!

Dr Paul Wharin

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