Surgicorps’ Zambia team of 20 volunteers has returned after another successful mission. This year’s team performed surgery on 60 patients and screened well over 100 patients, the majority of these patients presenting with burns and hand deformities. Many of these patients traveled for hours for the opportunity to be seen by the Surgicorps team. It was a very full week in Zambia with the medical teams completing 40% more surgeries than the previous year.
Screening Day was hectic. It was a hint of things to come and made extra special by a visit from a teenage girl who had surgery on her webbed toes last year. She stopped by to show us her healed foot, complete with nail polish and wearing flip flops, a simple indulgence not possible before her Surgicorps operation. She was so pleased with the results that she wanted to thank the surgeons.
Many of the patients needed surgery for burns and hand deformities. Following surgery our hand therapist provided much needed splinting and was able to create many types of splints, custom fitted for each patient. A follow up visit in the ward the next day helped to ensure a proper fit and parents were given written instructions—at times on the splint itself!!– on how to wear the splint. Thanks to the skill and creative use of materials, these patients have a much better chance of healing successfully. Before leaving Zambia the excess materials were donated for the use by the therapist at CURE hospital.
While the medical professionals worked in the hospital, Surgicorps volunteer and retired collegiate coach, Joe DeGregorio, held the second Surgicorps Basketball Clinic nearby at the Zambia Olympic Development Center. He worked with over 100 boys and girls ages 12 to 18. They were an eager group, working hard for at least 2 hours a day, and developing numerous basketball skills under “Coach’s” tutelage. Since visiting last year, Joe has become a local celebrity. He was interviewed by the Lusaka television station and appeared in the newspaper there. Once again, Surgicorps donors supplied basketballs, clothes, and shoes. Many of the children had no sneakers to wear, and showed up to clinic in paper thin worn out shoes or even thin ballet slippers! Joe returned home to Pittsburgh with a commitment to securing donated shoes for everyone that participated in the clinic.
The multi-generational make-up of Surgicorps’ teams is one of the things that make the experience so special. Volunteers in Zambia ranged in age from 27 to 87. It was especially inspiring to see veteran Surgicorps’ surgeon, Dr. Mel Spira (87), work alongside his granddaughter and 4th year medical student, Alex Rose (29).
< We fell in love with the patients and staff at the hospital. The Zambian people were so gracious. It was a privilege to meet and care for them. Patty Cernicky, Zambia Team Member/Surgicorps Volunteer