Zambia, here I come!

April 6th, 2015 by Taisei Suzuki

I am a 4th year medical student from A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM), the founder’s school of the Osteopathy.  I have an unique back ground – born in Japan, completed a high school and a university in Portland Oregon, got a master’s degree in International Public Health at the University of Sydney, Australia, worked about 8 years as a humanitarian aid worker in developing countries including Zimbabwe.  I came back to the US as an international student again with a student visa to go to a medical school.  My passion to serve in developing country continues, and I decided to do an international rotation as one of my elective rotations.


SA flightAfter spending 3 hours on the road to Kansas City airport, a few hours to waiting for my flight, 2.5 hours flight to Washington DC, 4 hours to connect, 17 hours (!!) flight to Johannesburg, South Africa (including 1 hour at Dakar airport to get some more people and fuel to the plane, 2 more hours at the airport, and then 2 hours flight later (total of 32.5 hours…), I finally arrived in Lusaka, Zambia!!  Though it was night and I could not see the scenery well due to the lack of (or no) street lights, the smell, the slight humidity, and comfortable temperature woke up my memories being in southern Africa.  Very excited to be back in this region, and I cannot wait to face some challenges in the next 4 weeks!!


My first day at the Macha Mission Hospital began with rather surprising case.  I arrived just before noon on Tue, and it was surgery day.  My attending-to-be was already scrubbed in, so I changed my cloths quickly and went into the OR.  There, I found a 4 year boy with an open wound in his right forearm, and all of his fingers were cyanotic, considered “dead”.  My attending explained to me that this poor boy broke his ulna and radius, but the care wasn’t enough that he developed compartment syndrome, but never recovered from the complication.  Now, he has a dead right hand.  My attending, who has been a “bush doctor” for more than 30 years, amputated the forearm…  It was something to observe.  Moreover, the boy underwent anesthesia with only ketamine and atropine.  No intubation, no pulse oxygen monitor because sensor was not working.  This is the “normal scene” of an established hospital in a very rural area of Zambia.  But, my attending saved his life – took care of the problem before it gets infected and becomes septic.  It was the opening scene of my “bush medicine”.