Reflections on Zambia April 2022…by Shira Kazakewich, CRNA

Where do I start for one of these blogs? After over ten trips in five countries with various organizations, not one of these missions is the same. However, they carry one commonality by leaving me with paradoxical feelings of renewal and exhaustion.

This trip was no different. I was humbled by the invitation from Dr. Anne Argenta to participate in the April 2022 trip to Zambia. Immediately, I was put in touch with the lead anesthesiologist Dr. Michele Misher-Harris who I felt like I could talk for days with on every phone call. 

Fortunately, I was able to recruit a dear friend of 20 years who is the reason I became a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Sara Yarrow from St Jude’s Hospital. Combined, the two of us have 30 years of pediatric anesthesia experience. This trip to Beit Cure Hospital which specialized in pediatrics could not have been a better fit for us. 

We hit the ground running after our amazing tiny team of 15 were united in Lusaka. This team had an instant connection, becoming fast friends having a driven work ethic to accomplish all that was requested of us. 

By the end of “Screening Sunday” we completed 200 assessments to prepare for the surgical week ahead. Monday being the first day of surgery. Just when you would think we needed to acclimate to the environment, we completed 23 surgeries that day performing like we had been there for a few weeks.

Each day, early to rise, late to leave as the staff begged us to try to get every scheduled case done which we did. The sacrifice of the Zambian staff to stay late into the evening showed their commitment to the cause as much as the Surgicorps team.  

Every child has a story that came through these OR doors. From disfiguring injuries and congenital deformities to the face and extremities each patient was treated with care, compassion, and determination to lift their spirits, free them from ostracizing, and allow life changing mobility. 

At the completion of the mission we had changed the lives of 83 children. Our hard work was validated a thousand times over on Friday afternoon when we were able to “party” with our patients and their families. The singing and glorifying God sank deep into my soul that day along with testimonials of parents. My cheeks still hurt from smiling and singing with my new friends. 

With our Friday departure from Beit Cure Hospital I am once again filled with gratefulness and validation of hard work that truly pays off. Dr. Jack Demos says it perfectly “THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND OUR PATIENTS IS THAT THEY WERE BORN IN THE WRONG ZIP CODE.”

And a piece of my heart will be left in that zip code. 

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