On Not Re-Inventing the Wheel

After only 3 years here in Burundi, we’re a relatively new team, and thus we’re so thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to learn from those who have gone before us. Last week we hosted our first sickle cell clinic at Kibuye Hope Hospital. This would not have been possible without the work of Travis Johnson and other Serge colleagues in Bundibugyo, Uganda who developed a sickle cell program there several years ago and shared their protocols with us. Like we see here in Burundi, Travis (a family practice doc) noted high rates of kids in their community with sickle cell disease complications and mortality as well as misconceptions as to the cause of the illness. He then created a detailed plan to support these families through education, medical treatment and prevention, and to introduce them to the hope of the gospel. They met monthly together so they could encourage one another in facing this difficult lifelong disease and receive medications to prevent complications. 

I’ve been diagnosing and treating lots of patients with sickle cell disease over the last couple years, but I had never had them come to the peds clinic all on the same day. Last week was a bit chaotic but was a good start to our sickle cell clinic at Kibuye. 

The med students helped me complete a special chart for each patient which includes what complications they've faced, relevant family history, and a protocol to help rural health centers know what to do if the patients come in with a fever or another acute problem. 

Like I said, it was a little chaotic and we drew quite a crowd of interested onlookers when we brought out toys and activities for the kids. Of note the sweet little guy on the mom's back above is the last remaining child in the family. He's three years old and loves to greet me on the road or in the hospital with an enthusiastic laugh and handshake. His father has also died, so pray for strength and hope for his mother and for health with fewer complications for Samweli. 

Jess and Susan and the kids came up to help entertain the patients during clinic

Thanks to our teacher Miss S for translating the Prodigal Son into Kirundi so we could share that story with the kids. 

After the Bible story, a med student and I taught the parents about sickle cell while the kids played and did a craft. It was much calmer playing inside the conference room rather than out in the courtyard! 

The parents asked good questions at the end and seemed to be encouraged through the opportunity to learn more about their children's illness, to receive medications (penicillin and folic acid) to help prevent complications, and to know they weren't alone in facing this lifelong challenge. Thanks Travis, Derek, and others for doing the initial planning for this program and for sharing your hard work with us to the benefit of our Burundian patients! 

MissionsAlyssa Pfister