Members of a Minnesota medical team to Tanzania will present the first monthly Cultural Thursday program of the new academic year at Central Lakes College Sept. 2.
Presenters Dr. Paul Milloy and RN Sharon Kramer participated in the medical mission to a remote area of East Africa last April. The 24-volunteer medical team included 16 from the Brainerd area.
Their pictures and story of their 20,000-mile trip will be shared in the free, 50-minute presentation in Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus starting at noon.
Although it was a challenging task, the medical team worked 12-hour days for seven days, treating 1,300 patients who otherwise would have likely gone without medical care if the team hadn't offered their talents and brought in their own medicine and equipment to the Iambi Lutheran Hospital, one of the poorest hospitals in Africa.
"This area serves a population of over 200,000 people," said Kramer. "The hospital was an operational hospital in the 1960's, but with gross neglect and the lack of support from the government it is now desperate for just about everything."
The patients they saw suffered from a wide variety of medical conditions ranging from malnutrition, malaria and typhoid to AIDS.
"We did the best we could," said Milloy. "We were surprised at the amount of illness there."
It is rare that a volunteer medical team starts from scratch and shows up in a remote village in a Third World country. The presence of the medical team became a village spectacle in itself. People came by foot from miles and miles away to seek treatment at the Iambi hospital.
The medical team served over 2,500 people, treated 1,300 patients and performed about 34 surgeries. The two dentists performed more than 170 dental procedures.
"Our group provided all of the food, supplies and medication that was necessary for us to be an operational medical team," Kramer said. Of the 24 members, 10 were veterans of medical missions while the remaining 14 were willing to take on the challenge.
The challenge of Third World diseases, the remoteness of the village, and the primitive conditions required everyone to be flexible. "Our compromises included the lack of electricity, running water, cooking with solar stoves, generators that worked only when they wanted to ... the list is endless," Kramer said.
"On our way back to the airport in Kilimanjaro we enjoyed an unforgettable safari," she said, describing a "superb experience to drive around a corner and see an elephant or giraffe staring at you."
The team plans to return to Iambi next year to continue to help the impoverished people there. Others are welcome to join them. They said it would be particularly helpful to have a plumber and an electrician along for the next trip to help make improvements at the primitive medical facility.
The program at CLC is sponsored by the Resource Center for Cultures and Languages of the Americas. Jan Kurtz (855-8183) coordinates the programs and invites others who have international travel stories to contact her for consideration as presenters.
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