I have so much to share, I don’t even know where to start. When I arrived in Tanzania and stepped foot on African ground, I felt surreal about the moment. Driving around in streets, it was crowded and swarmed with people selling anything and everything known to man. The cars had fumes so thick you could cut it and poverty so deep; its amazing what survivors people can be when forced to be. As I looked around, I acknowledged these peoples gratitude for the smallest things or actions of others. Giving a helping hand is not only greatly appreciated, its to be expected. Tanzanians rely heavily on the help of others. They are truly a community. Americans are very individualistic and for some reason do not cherish the benefit of community.We spent time in orphanages, did repairs on buildings, participated in a dental clinic and helped paint and build a playground where more than 300 local kids gathered. During all these events some things that stood out the most were the 5 year-olds holding and taking care of their baby siblings. These kids would run and jump in our arms. We were complete strangers to them, yet all they cared about was getting some sort of love.
On our job sites, if one of our American team members would eat some nuts or a protein bar, 30 kids rapidly surrounded that team member in hopes for a taste. Here in America we often say,”Im starving.” Really, are we starving? Do we know what starving is? Yes, there are many people in the U.S. whom are struggling for their life. BUT as a majority, we live in EXCESS. Strip malls everywhere, super marts, enormous grocery stores, big cars, big houses, big food plates (that we fill up!), big buffets. BIG, BIG, BIG! I saw one overweight man and only a handful of overweight women the entire time in Tanzania. This is not to dig on the U.S.; it is to create enlightenment for what we do have here. We need to begin to appreciate our ability to access just about anything we want, at any moments notice.
This brings me to our other work we were involved in… A local Tanzanian, Zachariah, has an organization called Friends of Paraplegia. He helps to restore independence and dignity to those whom are injured and in wheel chairs. Zachariah himself is a paraplegic. By dignity, he is referring to raising and funding money so that they may build a toilet for these people. He helps them to attain wheel chairs so that they may leave their house with out being carried. Darol and I met three people whom Zachariah is working with currently. We were only able to meet three because it took all day to see because of the distance to travel it we traveled just to see each person and the “road’ conditions.We all jumped into a rear wheel car to head into what seemed like the jungle where these few people were living. Zachariah wanted Darol and I to meet the people whom he knew of that were in greater need of help. The first man we met lived deep in the jungle. After getting stuck several times in some trenches, mud, etc… we finally arrived at his home. His name is GodBless. What a great name! Regardless of his living conditions, his name is fitting. He is blessed with love in his heart and gratitude to just be alive.The walls of his one-room home are made of mud. They do not have doors on their house; there is no toilet for them to use. He has 10 people in his family and they live on corn and bananas. GodBless, just like most men in Tanzania, are the ones whom provide for their family. After he fell out of a tree several years ago, he has been unable to walk and provide for his family. Now, if you can only imagine, as a man, how challenging it would be to now be a liability to your family and not able to provide! GodBless was very underweight. He sacrifices eating in order for his family to eat. The women bust their butt daily to survive.
The two major causes of death among those confined to a wheelchair are: pressure wounds due to not having proper cushions to sit on, and urinary track infections. This man had both and the worst pressure wound I have ever seen thus far. Darol, my fiance, and I were a great team. As the doctor, I did what I could with the little bit of supplies we had to clean the wound and properly bandage it. Darol supplied cushions and catheters to help GodBless clear the urinary track infection. Integrative Therapeutics, a provider of specialty dietary supplements, donated a whole bunch of high quality mutli-vitamins which gave me the opportunity to supply GodBless. They live without running water, or even any running water source for more than five miles.
As we left, my heart sank. It seemed so crazy that world-wide people are overweight, lazy and greedy, and here is a family full of love, whom are willing to support each other and do anything to survive. At home, I often see patients for weight loss. Many people in the U.S. want to lose weight, but dont want to take the effort of being disciplined with their eating and exercise. I hear every excuse in the book until it makes me completely nauseous. In contrast, GodBless is a man who is not complaining, not depressed, coming from love, who would do anything he could to help his family, if given the opportunity.
The next man we met was named Isaac. Several hours later and many miles away deep in the jungle, we arrived at his house. I had thought GodBless had it rough, but Isaac was much worse off! Here is a man who is kind as can be, smiling, and also full of love, yet confined to a chair and bed because he also injured himself falling out of a tree. We did normal protocol and checked out his wounds, his chair and any other compromising circumstances. Isaac now surpassed by far the worst pressure wound we had seen.
We spent our days with people who loved, served each other and had the utmost gratitude for the little they had.
Ultimately, if we are spiritually grounded, have love in our heart, are willing to forgive, accept circumstances and have gratitude, we will all enjoy great health. Unfortunately, Americans often lack many of these qualities and end up stuffing themselves with food, video games and big things to fill the void.