Being long-in-the tooth, past my sell-by date, wrestling with backache and prostate symptoms, I had decided not to go to Cameroon again.
Notwithstanding stout resolve, I went again on July 2nd 2013, with our two BTMAT Scholars, Rebecca and Abigail. Along with nurse Vera (who had been house guest of Alan and myself) we all four travelled on the same flight. The ladies were my ‘carers’ as I was for the 15th time, a wheelchair passenger. We carried in our baggage many essential drugs for the child cancer projects, and other gifts for that work.
My own one week in Cameroon was first; to introduce Abigail and Rebecca to our colleagues at Banso Baptist Hospital, where they were to be based for the two week duration of their research project for our Trust. Second; I was at BBH to chair a meeting about Breastmilk banking. My visit to Seattle earlier this year, as the Cameroonian delegate at an international Breastmilk bank conference, had thrown up several issues which I felt ought to be addressed in relation to our own banks in Cameroon. The prestigious Group aimed at getting all banks everywhere (500 globally) to be doing the same things – within the confines and restrictions of their own situation.
Nineteen staff members, from 4 hospitals – where BTMAT had installed Breastmilk banks – were present on July 6th at BBH. Those attending included the Administrator of BBH, the Chief Medical Officer of BBH, midwives, Pasteurisers, microbiologists, and the Chief of Laboratory Services for the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board. Pasteurisers also came from our other two Baptist hospitals, and from the Regional Hospital Bamenda. We reviewed what had been achieved in the past 10 years, and conferred about what might yet be possible. Questions arose; consensus achieved; progress made.
We have given donated pasteurised breastmilk to around 4,000 fragile newborn babies in the past 10 years. About 1,800 litres of donated milk have been collected and processed. The recipient babies have had the best start to a precarious life; not one has had any illness attributable to the donated milk. We can make our process even better by post-pasteurisation testing and by more rigorous record keeping. This we will do; everyone at the meeting was enthusiastic to start the new improved programme.
A Pub near home likes to display proverbs. Here is one I spotted recently:
‘Some people want it to happen,
Some people wish it would happen,
Some people make it happen’.
BTMAT is in the third category, both for treating child cancer, and for care of the newborn by breastmilk banking.