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A Day in a Congo Hospital

in Blog, Congo, Healthcare
Thoughts from a medical worker in Congo.

What does it look like to bring God’s love to life as an American doctor in Africa? This is what it looks like for me.

7:30 a.m. 

I arrive at the hospital in time for morning devotionals with the entire hospital staff.

8 a.m. 

With four Shalom University medical students at my side, we start our rounds in the Intensive Care Unit.

In bed 1, an elderly man arrived overnight with difficulty breathing, cough, and weight loss. We can’t hear any breath sounds on his entire right chest. The likely cause is tuberculosis, but for now he’ll need a chest tube placed to drain fluid. The surgeon says he’ll need to ask around for the right tube, as there are none currently at the hospital.

In bed 2, a newly diagnosed diabetic young man is lying unresponsive. Although there is no way to confirm it, I suspect that his glucose was elevated too high for so long that he suffered brain damage, and now he will not wake up. We have a difficult conversation with his family explaining that his prognosis is very poor. We pray together for his healing and for the family’s comfort.

A few beds down, a middle-aged man arrived after vomiting blood and noticing his belly had increasingly swollen over several months. We confirm that he has liver cirrhosis, so we start oral medications to treat the swelling and order a blood transfusion.

8:30 a.m.

We finish rounds in the ICU and move to the men’s ward. We do our best to treat the young man with sickle cell disease whose body isn’t responding to antibiotics, the epileptic man who is now acting confused and disoriented, the elderly pastor with high blood pressure, and several others with malaria and typhoid fever.

9 a.m.

In the women’s ward we meet a teenage girl who was infected with HIV as a child and stopped treatment several months ago. Now she can’t swallow because of severe pain. I suspect she has a fungal infection in her esophagus, but the necessary medication is not available. I write a prescription for the family to get it elsewhere, but for today, she must get all her fluids through an IV since she is unable to eat or drink.

Two beds down is an elderly woman whose recent stroke left her paralyzed on her left side. I explain to her and her daughter the importance of changing positions in bed every few hours and sitting in a chair as often as possible to avoid bedsores and blood clots. The road ahead for her will be difficult, as handicap-accessible homes, streets, and transportation don’t exist.

9:30 a.m.

In the private rooms, we see patients with diabetes, hypertension, malaria, typhoid fever, and gastritis. These diseases seem to be the most common diseases here in Congo.

10 a.m.

After rounds, the students practice medical histories, physicals, and ultrasound consultations. The students appreciate the chance to diagnose a woman who has a heart murmur with mitral valve regurgitation, which was likely caused by complications from untreated strep throat infections. Now we can treat her to prevent further damage to the valve and to her heart.

11 a.m.

The students’ time at the hospital ends with a one-hour educational seminar. Today’s topic: how to resuscitate newborns. I watch and give tips while the students quiz each other with mock scenarios and practice with baby dolls and Ambu bags. 

12 p.m. 

Students pile into the car for a ride back to the university, where they have afternoon courses. I’ll spend my afternoon creating lesson plans and grading written medical histories.

Many days, the work here is hard. It’s hard to see patients suffering from the lack of resources, a chaotic hospital environment, and sub-par treatment options. But I’m reminded that something new and exciting is happening here.

These students are the first-ever fourth-year medical students in Congo to have real clinical experience, as opposed to learning solely in a classroom. The more time they spend in the hospital, the more eager they are to learn and interact with patients — and they still have three years of rotations left to fine-tune their skills!

We hope and pray that this real-life experience will train quality physicians to serve the needy population here. Thank you for investing in the future of our students. Someday, your investment will also impact thousands of Congolese patients who will be under their care.

Crossworld worker Mindy and her family live and make disciples in Congo.

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