A team of Beaumont urologists flew to Zambia last month on their seventh annual medical mission trip to provide specialty surgical care to African patients. Kenneth Peters, M.D., and Larry Sirls, M.D., headed the Beaumont team, which included surgical residents and nursing staff. Read Part One of this blog series.
by Larry Sirls, M.D., Beaumont urologist
During our trip, we evaluated approximately 50 patients and did surgery on 30. The unique thing about going to Africa is not knowing what kind of problems we will see. This year we did fewer surgeries, but the cases were more complex as patients traveled from distant areas of Zambia. We were faced with many interesting cases and were able to repair many of these complex issues and markedly improved their quality of life.
We brought more than $10,000 in donated supplies allowing us to do bipolar transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) in approximately 15 men who otherwise had to live with a chronic catheter (one was 99 years old!). We were the only place in the entire country who could provide this procedure. It was great seeing their joy when we were able to remove their catheter. Some of the prostates were so enlarged we needed to do open surgery to remove the gland. These were very challenging, but all went well.
The residents on the trip had an incredible experience evaluating and operating on these patients. Our main frustration is that we were not able to get our medical supplies (500 pounds) from customs in Lusaka. It was a paperwork nightmare that will eventually get sorted out and the desperately needed supplies will arrive at the hospital to enhance the care of the patients.
We look forward to returning next year and will continue to fund raise to allow for these trips and supplies to continue.
Here are some things I learned from our latest trip:
- Zambia has a fascinating history, originally called Northern Rhodesia, it was essentially a mining company administered by England. Named after (i.e., owned by) Cecil Rhodes, of Rhodes Scholar fame, Rhodesia was a source of minerals and we are told northern Zambia has the largest deposit of copper in the world.
- Turns out the most dangerous mosquito in the world is here. These mosquitos are much more effective at transmitting malaria than those in India and Central America because in those other areas, mosquitos prefer cows three to one over humans.
- Another major problem is that working age adults have been devastated by AIDS. In severely affected areas, you see the elderly taking care of the young as the 20, 30, 40-year-olds are dead. This is their work force!