Is it possible that we are finally finding a normal routine here in Malawi? Jared and I have begun to see a pattern to patient volume: heavy on Mondays, light on Wednesdays (market day in Msundwe), and then heavy again on Friday mornings. The past three weeks have continued in this very busy pattern, especially with children under 5. One day we had to transport about 10 children to the hospital, mostly due to complications of Malaria. There were a couple days last week where Jared did not sit down to see clinic patients but was very busy stabilizing and treating the very sick children that needed to be transported to the nearest hospital. Since finishing our “orientation” at Kamuzu Central Hospital, we feel much more comfortable and confident in practicing medicine in our own clinic. This was one of my biggest concerns in switching from U.S. medicine to practicing tropical medicine. Trust me, there are still patients that come through the door that I stare at open mouthed because I have never seen anything like it before in my life and that is when I call over one of the clinical officers and get a 2nd opinion.
One of the coolest parts of the drive was driving along the Mozambique border. There is one town that actually has a Malawi Police Station and flag on one side of the road and Mozambique Police Station and flag on the other side. It was so weird because normally there is a lot of security around border crossings especially into Zambia. I guess it is not a big deal if you come to and from Mozambique though.
After living in Central Malawi and spending almost all of our time in Msundwe and in Lilongwe, I did not realize the other parts of Malawi look completely different. The mountains were especially amazing. Anyone who has lived in Colorado probably wouldn’t call them mountains, and they are no Mt. Kilimanjaro, but I was still in awe of their size and beauty.
It was really good to see Mwaiwathu Hospital, which is considered the best private hospital in the country. The facility was very clean, well organized, well staffed and had some advanced technology including the only neonatal ventilator in Malawi. Unfortunately, when we asked about availability of blood in case of an emergency complication and there was no guarantee that there would be any available immediately or how long it would take to obtain blood from the MBTS (Malawi Blood Transfusion Service). This was a deal breaker for us and we have decided to go back to the United States to have our baby.
Lots of people had an opinion on whether we should deliver here or in the United States and luckily no one really told us their opinion until after we made our decision. This left lots of friends and family members squirming for the last few months, but we really appreciate the time and space everyone gave us to make the choice as a couple and parents.
On the way back to Msundwe, we stayed overnight in Liwonde, Malawi and drove through the national park with a guide. This is probably the most tourist-like thing we have done since moving here, but it was really worth it. Liwonde itself is not much to look at, the town is pretty similar to lots of other Malawi Townships set away from the big cities, but it has the Liwonde National Park and it sits along the Shire River.
Last weekend Child Legacy held its 1st “Football Bonanza” in a village near the clinic. The entire thing was designed as a youth outreach event and centered around a football (soccer) game for the guys and a netball (not basketball) game for the ladies. The teens that participate in the Youth Friendly Services at the Child Legacy teamed off against Child Legacy clinic staff, agriculture and construction staff, housekeepers, gardeners, and maintenance staff.
When we first arrived, Jared and I were the only non-africans (this is not uncommon for as at any given time) and the ladies that clean the guest houses called me over to sit with them while they all waited to get changed and start warming up for their netball game. So I happily walked over and plopped down in the grass with them while Jared when over to talk with the guys on his football team. It was a simple gesture from these women, but it meant so much for me to be folded into their group. It even made it easier when all the little kids started shifting closer and staring straight at me even though I know I am not the first white woman they have seen.
The event opened in prayer and there was explanation of the Youth Friendly and other services Child Legacy offers. HIV testing and counseling was offered throughout the day and at halftime the guys were tied 0 – 0 and the Child Legacy ladies were loosing to the teen girls. The halftime entertainment included a motivational speech to the youth by a couple of clinic staff and a song with dance choreographed by the teens.
The intense netball game ended in a win for the teen girls and the football game went into overtime and then penalty kicks. Eventually the Child Legacy Team won during penalty kicks, but we all had to admit that the teens out ran and out played them the entire game. If the old men didn’t have so many subs, I think the game would have ended sooner. By the end of the day there had to be at least 400 people there and I hope we make this an annual event. It was an amazing day of outreach and building relationships with the people in the community.