By Carolyn Schafer, AHA/WAM Global Health Fellow in Malawi

During our past surgical trip, I was responsible for helping to organize the surgical patients, interview them and discharge them. During this process, I got to know some of them well, and was fortunate enough to see them before anesthesia and after surgery, when they were anxious, excited and then thankful for a successful operation. Knowing that our patients were coming from a very large catchment area, including some villages that are hard to reach, I was not sure if I would ever see some of them again.

 Riding on the back of a kabaza down a road some of our surgical patients walked to be treated by our surgical team.

Riding on the back of a kabaza down a road some of our surgical patients walked to be treated by our surgical team.

A few weeks after the surgical trip, I was with one of our community partners, a teacher at the Kabudula Secondary School, conducting home visits for students we will sponsor this coming school year through our partnership with World Altering Medicine. I met the teacher at the secondary school and we proceeded via kabaza (bicycle with a passenger seat on the back, my first time riding one!), to a remote village to meet a student and his family. The ride was about 20 minutes through the countryside on a dusty road.

Along the way, I was casually waving and greeting everyone we passed, and I saw one of the mothers of a young female patient we operated on during surgical week! She started laughing, waving and yelling to get my kabaza to stop. I recognized her instantly and hopped off to greet her. She gave me the biggest hug, high fives and a handshake and through laughter and mixture of English and my own broken Chichewa, I asked how her daughter was doing.   

 Coletta (right) our patient, and her mother (left).

Coletta (right) our patient, and her mother (left).

Her daughter is 14 years old and had a ganglion cyst on her wrist. She said she has healed fine and is pain free! Before her surgery, she was unable to complete her housework because the pain was too bad and had the cyst for 6 years.  Her and her mother walked to Kabudula Community Hospital along this dust road 3 different times to see our surgical team. I walked it back from the home visit, and it was not an easy journey, it took over an hour with no respite from sun or dusty wind.

I couldn’t believe that I saw one of our patients’ parents from surgical week, and the fact that she recognized me, embraced me the way she did and again thanked me for our services, was such a highlight of my time here. She was beaming.

(Written by Global Health Fellow, Carolyn)