Leaving Kalene…

Our last week at Kalene has come round all too quickly.  We have very mixed feelings about leaving: on one hand we feel ready for a rest – we’re feeling pretty exhausted – but on the other hand we feel very sad to leave our Kalene friends and colleagues.  Kalene has really started to feel like home these last few months.

The new theatre block is nearing completion much to everyone’s excitement.  Paul Hannay and his team have been working hard to finish all the internal fittings.  The new block has three theatres and all of them need a working anaesthetic machine so last week Phil and visiting medical engineer, John Poidevin, set to work getting anaesthetic machines out of storage and into working order.  After much manual-reading, circuit-board twiddling, Anglo-Canadian amalgamation and a few tubes of glue all three machines were up and running!  In the course of the fixing ex-cornet player Phil discovered he could play a tune on the oxygen piping – a great party trick if he ever gets a bit bored in theatre!

Maternity recently received it’s tiniest premature baby ever, born nearby the hospital and brought in a few hours after delivery: we think she was probably around 28 weeks gestation when she was born.  When Mary arrived she weighed just 920g and this dropped to 740g as she adjusted to feeding.  She’s now making great progress and is putting on weight ‘chovu chovu’ (slowly slowly) and now weighs 970g – nearly as much as a bag of sugar!

We thought you might like an update on little Sparkle who’s Mum died shortly after she was born around three weeks ago.  The family returned after the burial and felt that they couldn’t look after her properly so she has gone to live at nearby Hillwood Children’s Home with her 4 year old sister, Maureen.  Anita, who helps run the children’s home, has volunteered raise her as her own.  Her name has been changed to Sarah as Lunda people find ‘Sparkle’ very difficult to say!  We saw her when we visited Hillwood a few days ago to say goodbye to the children: she is settling in well and getting bigger by the day!

Last week we received a tragic case of a patient who had 30% burns: he had been admitted to a nearby hospital and needed extensive skin grafting however the hospital had no skin graft knife blades.  This is a huge problem in Zambia as skin graft knife blades cannot be bought anywhere in the country.  Four weeks later he was finally referred to Kalene but by this time he was very ill.  Fortunately we have a small supply of graft blades, interestingly made at Swann-Morton in Sheffield, so he has finally been able to get the skin grafts he so desperately needs.  He’s had three procedures so far and is starting to look a lot better.

For the first half of our time at Kalene I was looking after a lady called Esther who was pregnant.  Esther had one of the biggest uterine fibroids I’ve ever seen (growth in the muscle of the womb) and it gradually got bigger throughout her pregnancy until it was like a rugby ball sticking out of the right side of her abdomen.  I was very concerned that she would go into premature labour but she eventually delivered a little boy at full term although she had a postpartum haemorrhage after delivery which is common with fibroids.  She came back last week for a myomectomy to remove the fibroid so that she doesn’t have the same problems in her next pregnancy.  Here are the before and after photos – she’s very pleased with her new flat stomach!  Apologies to the squeamish!

On the our last Saturday we had a joint celebration for a Birthday, an anniversary and our departure.  Hospital staff and friends from the mission and further afield gathered together for a warthog roast, sourced from nearby Nchila Park.  Many conflicting opinions were offered about the timing and manner of the roasting; starting roasting the night before, getting up at the crack of dawn, injecting the hog with fruit juice, stuffing it with pineapples etc!  Unfortunately Googling ‘spit-roast a warthog’ doesn’t yield that much information.  The warthog was delicious and we had a great time together.  Here’s a photo of us at the hog roast with Heather and Hayley, two medical students who have just arrived for their medical electives from the UK.  We’ve really enjoyed spending time with them and know they will be very useful to Kalene over the next few weeks.

By popular request, here’s some more of our favourite Zambian brands!

We’ve had a busy last week with anaesthetic machine fixing, guideline writing, goodbyes and lots of surgery to fit in before Phil’s departure including one twelve-hour thyroid operation!  Things were so busy that we didn’t start packing until 10pm the night before leaving!  We’re writing this on the road travelling overland back to Lusaka: this is a three day trip covering 1000km, although the roads gradually improve as you get further away from Kalene.  We’re stopping for a couple of nights at Lifesprings Farm on the Copperbelt, which is linked with our church in Sheffield, then we fly back to the UK via South Africa where we’re hoping for some ‘processing time.’  There’s so much to reflect on about our time at Kalene; questions to ponder and thoughts about the future, so we’re really looking forward to some thinking time before we re-enter our normal lives.

I think there’ll be one more blog post before we get home with some final reflections about our year at Kalene.  Thanks so much for reading,

Love Tess & Phil xx

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One Response to Leaving Kalene…

  1. Becky reilly says:

    Hi Phil and Tess, I just wanted to let you know Ive really enjoyed reading your blog ( I’ve spent many sleepless nights with feeding my baby reading your posts). It sounds like you had an amazing adventure, learnt so much and given a great deal to the community. Hope you have a good rest x

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