Hope Prevails

Family is important in Tanzania. It is important the world over. For 35 year old Tasiana, starting a family was beginning to seem like an impossibility. After multiple doctors and hospitals, and 4 unsuccessful pregnancies, two of which were stillbirths at term, she was beginning to think she would never be a mother. Pregnant with her 5th child, she was desperate to get some answers. That’s when she found Dr. Walii Msuya and FAME Medical. After taking a complete history and reviewing her records during that initial consult, Dr. Msuya made a commitment to Tasiana – he would do his level best to determine what was causing her inability to deliver a healthy baby. Reaching out to volunteer US-based OB/GYN consultants and his colleagues at home, studying on-line journals, and using his own clinical skills in the days and weeks to follow, he came up with a working diagnosis—Antiphospholipid Syndrome or APS. APS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body recognizes certain normal components of the blood and/or cell membrane components as foreign substances and produces antibodies against them. In pregnancy, this is a very high-risk situation for both mother and unborn baby, with mother’s body essentially attacking the placenta which damages the blood supply to the baby and usually causes death to the unborn child. Needless to say, the management is exceedingly delicate, requiring closely controlled anticoagulation for the mother during pregnancy.

Anxious to get high quality prenatal care, Tasiana began FAME’s prenatal program in March, while Dr. Msuya and our maternal health nurses followed her closely. Following treatment protocols for this condition, she was admitted to the labor ward at 38 weeks for close observation and fetal monitoring, with a scheduled C-section to follow a few days later. Both Tasiana and her unborn baby remained stable, so she was taken to the Operating Room on August 23rd where she delivered a strong 7 pound baby boy. And after just a few short days in the hospital, Tasiana was able to take her healthy newborn home — her hope renewed, her dream finally a reality.

A culture of patient-centered care and life-long learning is what we try to cultivate at FAME Medical. Dr Msuya exemplifies both. A doctor who treated this woman like a member of his own family, a doctor who committed himself to finding some answers that would make a difference in a family’s life, and a doctor courageous enough to step up to the plate despite the challenges, knowing that Tasiana was out of options. Thank you , Dr. Msuya. We are proud to have you on the FAME team!

It’s who we are. It’s why we’re here.

Nurse Siana Nkya and Safi Mbwambo in the OR

Nurse Siana Nkya and Safi Mbwambo in the OR

By Volunteer Nurse Practitioner Brad Snyder

It’s being a chameleon, becoming whoever the person you’re with needs you to be. It’s waking up everyday knowing that undoubtedly you will change a life and in return have yours changed. It’s pushing yourself to new limits, frequently on the edge of comfort as you try your best to fix and heal the person in front of you. It’s brainstorming at the bedside with a team of gifted clinicians trying to figure out the cause of a man’s internal bleeding as his blood counts continue to drop. It’s checking on a 1 day old then suddenly grabbing the oxygen and performing a resuscitation when he changes without any warning. It’s coming together in a moment’s notice and becoming one skilled unit, fighting the battle to keep a little life alive. It’s winning the battle.

It’s watching a doctor’s skill as he diagnoses cardiac anomalies with an echo or saves a woman from bleeding out during a complicated C-section. It’s opening books and crunching numbers as you try to solve a medical mystery alongside other uncertain fighters pulling deep on dusty knowledge and experience. It’s coming to a solution while vulnerably admitting that you’re not 100% certain of this plan, but it’s the best we can do with what we have. It’s feeling the slight relief of a definitive partnership amidst ambiguity and uncertainty. It’s seeing a nurse take peanut butter and a spoon into the room of a patient with severe burns and watching her patiently give one spoon at a time. It’s looking into her  determined eyes as she says, “I know I can’t fix the burns but this is what I can do, so I’m doing it.” It’s feeling a rush of compassion flow through your body.

It’s a nurse’s poignant assessment as she picks up danger signs in pregnancy and prevents a catastrophe. It’s giving a woman a chance to be a mother, one of life’s greatest gifts. It’s a counselor gently comforting a suicidal woman buried deep in a cloud of depression with the fear of no way out. It’s giving her a glimpse of light and the possibility that this doesn’t have to last forever. It’s walking into a room as a midwife with experience twice as long as you’ve been alive turns the breech baby of a woman in active labor. It’s hearing the cry of a healthy baby and taking a collective sigh of relief. It’s feeling grateful to have such skilled, passionate people on your team.

It’s hearing the gentle humming of a mother who just lost her 6-year old to a battle against sickle cell disease. It’s walking outside with a father as he holds back tears surrounded by family and friends and giving him a safe space to feel whatever he needs to feel. It’s being a quiet presence as he sobs in your arms in a moment of utter grief and disbelief. It’s realizing that pain like this can only be felt by others who have experienced such a profound loss.

It’s staying up through the night diligently monitoring two premature babies as they struggle to survive in an incubator instead of the safety of their mother’s womb. It’s reading neonatology articles, emailing colleagues and adapting guidelines to what we can do here. It’s watching mothers give their babies life-saving breast milk to keep their tiny bodies growing. It’s praying that it all works out. It’s going home and preparing to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow. It’s holding onto hope. It’s who we are. It’s why we’re here.

Oh, how things have changed

If you build it, they will come
Dr. Mark and Dr. Monica with one of the triplets

Dr. Mark and Dr. Monica with one of the triplets

Although that quote was most famously related to a baseball field in “Field of Dreams”, it applies to the Obstetric unit at FAME Medical as well. We first came to volunteer at FAME in December 2014, just a few months after the opening of the new unit. During our 2 week visit, we assisted in 2 deliveries and 2 hysterectomies. We also saw patients with the FAME doctors in the outpatient clinic. Although we didn’t have as many operative teaching opportunities as we had hoped, we both were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the doctors and staff and their genuine desire to gain as much clinical information as we could provide. We planned to be back for another visit as soon as we could arrange it.

In the same way that this blog was going to be sent to Susan within 2 weeks (it’s now been 6!), our next opportunity had to be delayed until we could schedule it in December 2016. Oh, how things have changed!

Whereas we had only 2 deliveries in 2 weeks in 2014, there are now more than 40 per month. The reputation of the staff and facility have spread so quickly that new facilities are being built for maternal and child health, and plans are being developed for a maternity wing that would include space for antepartum admissions as well as postpartum care. In this two week visit, we assisted the FAME doctors with several Cesarean deliveries, including for the mother who had the first Cesarean delivery at FAME returning for her repeat Cesarean. Another was for a mother with spontaneous triplets diagnosed only three weeks before she presented to FAME at 32 weeks with leaking fluid. (One week later, all three babies were gaining weight and were able to go home, thanks to a donor who funded formula to supplement her breast milk primary feedings.) We had the opportunity to participate in several other surgeries as well, tubal ligations, cervical cerclage, myomectomies: we began to wonder what we had wished for in 2014!

The donations that allow FAME to continue to expand have also funded an infant warmer, without which many babies might not have survived. The most astounding example is the infant born at least 12 weeks early (may have been more like 15 weeks early, as gestational age is sometimes difficult to document in Tanzania) who weighed <500 grams (1 lb 1.5 oz) at birth. We were blessed to be there the day the little one surpassed the 1 kg milestone! That is a miracle anywhere in the world, even more so in rural Tanzania. There isn’t a way to describe the joy in the mother’s smile as the nurse showed her the baby’s weight on the scale.

Which brings us to the best part of our visit – the staff! We knew the doctors we had met two years before had been enthusiastic to learn, but we didn’t have the opportunity to work then with the nursing staff as much. The staff in the “Operating Theater” wanted to review proper scrub procedures, the maternity staff sought information on post-partum hemorrhage, the staff in the outpatient clinic asked about cervical cancer screening, the doctors questioned surgical techniques…. We have never met a group of people so dedicated to the work they have chosen and so intent on improving their own abilities so that the care they provide is the best it can be. The new doctors and nurses added to the staff are just as enthusiastic as the “veterans” from our first visit.

It is truly humbling to help take care of more exceptionally high risk patients in 2 weeks than we would see in months, if not years, in the U.S. Two women presented with eclamptic seizures and several more with severe hypertension in pregnancy, one with a severe shoulder dystocia at delivery, another with post-partum bleeding, a case of infection after a miscarriage…. And the doctors at FAME take it in stride. Cases like these can intimidate anyone, even when the best facilities in the world are available. Watching the staff at FAME provide excellent care in creative ways, using the available equipment, is amazing.

We can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish by the time we return next! Best wishes to the entire FAME family in 2017, with profound thanks to all of the friends and donors who have helped make FAME possible.

Dr. Monica Norwick
Dr. Mark LaRose
Waconia MN, USA

A Father, A Daughter and Gratitude

Beatrice, her father and FAME's Social Worker Angel Obeid

Beatrice, her father and FAME's Social Worker Angel Obeid

In Africa, it may take a village to raise a child, but I am increasingly convinced it takes a global village to keep one alive. From the Tanzanian staff, to the volunteers, to the neighboring facilities, to the circle of consultants around the world, and the ever-expanding network of donors and supporters, the work of FAME really is a global collaboration…. the contributions of so many around the world focused on a small facility in rural Africa bringing health, hope and love to so many people in need of all of these.
— Volunteer Dr. Joyce Cuff
Dr Gabriel Kissima and volunteer cardiologist Dr Reed Shnider performing a heart echo on Beatrice

Dr Gabriel Kissima and volunteer cardiologist Dr Reed Shnider performing a heart echo on Beatrice

No story better illustrates the power of a “global village” to keep a child alive than the story of Beatrice. Having already been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, she first came to FAME on Sept. 1, 2008, at age five. After confirming a leaky heart valve on a cardiac echo, the FAME team began providing her with the long-term care she needed to buy time, continue in school, and live a reasonably normal life. Finally, in 2016 she was bumped up on the government waiting list and scheduled for surgery at the new heart institute in Dar es Salaam, 488 miles away.

Beatrice and her father came by FAME earlier this year to say THANK YOU to FAME and those who support our work. Their words were translated from Kiswahili to English by Angel, the FAME social worker…

My name is Alfred Dafi, and this is my daughter Beatrice. We are here today because we wanted to thank you and FAME Medical very much for taking care of us. Beatrice was diagnosed at seven months with a heart problem. We went through a lot trying to figure out a solution, and visited many hospitals in the region to find a treatment for her, unfortunately, nobody was able to help us.

In 2008, I heard about a new hospital called FAME in Karatu where there was a doctor named Doctor Frank. We decided to come to FAME and consult Doctor Frank. He received us, listened to us and gave us some different tests. They confirmed Beatrice’s diagnosis, and told us that she should keep attending the clinic regularly.

Doctor Frank told me that he would do his best to help Beatrice with support from other expatriates and foreign doctors. In 2016, we received a call from Muhimbili hospital telling us there will be a heart surgeon specialist coming to Tanzania to operate on people with the same diagnosis as Beatrice.

I really thank God because we started the process with a huge assistance from FAME Medical and on the 26th of April 2016 Beatrice underwent a very successful surgery.
I have no way to thank almighty Jesus, Doctor Frank, sponsors, and everybody who participated in making this happen. May God bless you abundantly. Thanks again.
— Alfred Dafi, Beatrice's father
Beatrice in 2008

Beatrice in 2008

My name is Beatrice and I would love to say thank you very much to Doctor Frank and his team for making this happen. It was not an easy journey for my family and myself. I have nothing to pay back, but God Himself will. Today, I am healthy and back at school. I wish to keep on growing healthy and get a good education so that later I can help those who are undergoing the same problem I had before. Thank you very much Doctor Frank for bringing FAME Medical in Karatu. and for helping me get the surgery I needed at Muhimbili Hospital. God bless you all.
— Beatrice
Beatrice after her successful surgery

Beatrice after her successful surgery


We at FAME would like to thank all our international donors and the Rotary Club of Arusha, for financing Beatrice’s long-term care and finally her surgery in Dar es Salaam. We would like to thank our own Dr. Gabriel for providing such conscientious medical care for Beatrice and for helping her father navigate the complex system that would ultimately get her the surgery she needed in her home country. And we would like to thank the many volunteers, especially Dr. Reed Shnider and Marjorie Boor, for keeping a close eye on her condition over the years, providing expert advice from near and far and never ever giving up.  

Your Giving Makes a Difference - Allen's Story

Six-year-old Allen before surgery

Six-year-old Allen before surgery

By Co-Founder, Susan Gustafson

At some point in the next year or two, Allen will be strong enough for a life changing surgery. He will wake up groggy in bed, free of his G-tube, with his mom nearby. He will take a few weeks to heal. An then he will sit down to the first proper meal of his life...
— Volunteer, Angel Hertslet

Some of you may remember this excerpt from the FAME Blog. If not, you can read the FIRST part of the story here. Six-year-old Allen came to FAME suffering from severe malnutrition and pneumonia. The malnutrition was the result of a congenital problem, a stricture in his esophagus, that prevented him from swallowing food. Well, life took a dramatic turn for Allen 18 days ago today. He and his Mother traveled to Switzerland with volunteer pediatrician, Dr. Verena Moreno on November 5th, and on November 11th he had the surgery he’s been waiting for his whole life: A resection of the narrowed part of his esophagus and an end-to-end anastomosis reconnecting his esophagus to the stomach. Of course, this journey did not materialize overnight.

The complex surgery Allen needed is not yet performed in Tanzania. We had to find a surgeon and a hospital willing to do the surgery AND we had to keep Allen alive long enough to make it happen. For 10 long months, Dr. Verena and the FAME team have been caring for Allan, treating him when he got sick, providing the nutritional supplements he needed to build strength, and teaching his mother how to mix the F-100 nutritional formula and give it to him thru his feeding tube on a daily basis. Mind you, Allen and his mother have no running water in the poor, rural village where they live. Nothing is easy to keep clean, let alone a feeding tube inserted in the stomach.  While only a short-term solution, it was a successful one – one in which Allen’s mother played a central role. She made absolutely sure he received the nutritional formula thru his feeding tube on schedule. She was religious about keeping it clean, and she arranged to bring him in to FAME whenever she had a concern or felt something was amiss. Slowly, Allen began to gain the weight and strength necessary to stay alive while waiting for a miracle.  And the miracle finally came.  Dr. Verena received word that a surgeon and hospital in her home town of Bern were willing to donate their time, expertise and facility to perform the surgery that would save Allen’s life.

The lastest update from Dr. Verena on November 19th was very encouraging, “Allen is recovering well. He is still in the hospital because he has some drainages, nasogastric tube and IV ailmentation. On Monday they will do an X-ray (Barium meal) to see if the anastomosis they did is functioning well. Afterward the drains and the NGT can be removed and I think mid-week he will leave the hospital. The convalescence will be at my home.” 

Allen is only one of many, many children cared for by the FAME team. Fortunately, the vast majority can be treated right here at FAME Medical.  We have been able to maintain and grow our “in-house” programs and services thanks to the generosity and ongoing commitment of our supporters and friends.  Thank you for helping us care for the most vulnerable among us – in a place where the usual safety nets simply do not exist. You are their heroes and ours.

A Shuka, A Goat and Two Chickens

Martina presents Dr. Duane with a Shuka

Martina presents Dr. Duane with a Shuka

By Nancy Allard

Thanksgiving came a little early this year at FAME. One of our former patients paid us a visit. Some of you may remember Martina, a patient who came to FAME in 2014 with second and third degree burns over 35% of her body, some already infected. She ended up spending the next 342 days in FAME’s inpatient ward fighting for her life and being cared for by our team. Well, Martina got word that visiting surgeon, Dr. Duane Koenig, had returned to FAME Medical for another volunteer stint and she wanted to personally thank him for the central role he played in saving her life. You see, Dr. Duane is the one who brought skin grafting to FAME Medical, donating the equipment and training his Tanzanian colleagues in the procedure.  He personally performed hours and hours of grafting on Martina and was very often at her side during the multiple dressing changes and debridements that followed.  And in his face she saw someone completely and absolutely unwilling to give up on her. By the time Martina was finally discharged, Dr. Duane had already returned home to Nebraska. Having graciously thanked the others involved in her care, she still had not been able to “properly” thank the man whose face gave her hope thru her darkest moments, until two weeks ago when she and her husband received word of his return.

Martina and her husband gift Dr. Duane with two chickens

Martina and her husband gift Dr. Duane with two chickens

How to thank someone who saved your life?  How about a shuka, a goat and two chickens -- that was Martina’s gift to her friend Dr. Duane. And his response, “Thank you. I would have gone to hell and back for you. I don’t need anything. My reward is to see you beautiful and smiling.” It was an extraordinary moment, one filled with joy, smiles and laughter - a magical moment between a patient and a doctor who share a special bond for life. 

Happy Thanksgiving to our generous supporters and partners, who continue to pave the way for powerful moments like these between patients and doctors at FAME Medical.  We are forever grateful to be sharing this journey WITH you.


Helping Those With Chronic Disease At FAME Medical

Dr. Joyce and Rizwani at work in the lab 

Dr. Joyce and Rizwani at work in the lab 

by Volunteer, Dr. Joyce Cuff

We continue to see a wide variety of patients at FAME Medical. Not only are there lots more patients coming to FAME, they now range from the very healthy and just checking category, to the comatose and at death's door group. I rejoice in the increasing number of patients being monitored for chronic or life-style diseases. For the most part, these are otherwise healthy people whose clotting time is being monitored to prevent stroke or other cardio-vascular complications, whose blood sugar needs to be and can be controlled, whose lipids are being monitored and controlled, or whose thyroid levels are monitored periodically to keep them functioning well. These are conditions that, even 5-10 years ago would remain unmonitored and possibly even undetected, as many are asymptomatic until you're in real trouble. Being controlled and being monitored before an incident occurs increases the likelihood that they will not become clinical or critical. Of course, with so many more patients in dire straights when they arrive, we are unable to save them all. That is a harsh reality that cannot be changed. But the miracles continue to abound and astound.

Building Surgical Capacity at FAME Medical


Dr. Frank and Dr. Loie in outpatient clinic

Dr. Frank and Dr. Loie in outpatient clinic

In clinic one day, a woman presented with signs of appendicitis.  Dr. Msuya and Dr. Lisso recommended appendectomy, and we proceeded to the “operating theater”.  She was skillfully put under general anesthesia by one of FAME’s two nurse anesthesists. As we were halfway through the procedure, I could have closed my eyes and felt like I was in any operating room anywhere in the world, as it is an environment so consistent to those of us who spend much of our lives in them.  The familiarity of being in gown and glove. The sterile field. The friendly chatter.  The sound of the cautery machine. Sometimes the music or the jokes. But always the sense of teamwork and the intense focus when the procedure calls for it.

This really rang true when toward the end of the procedure, I felt a little something moving on my shoulder.  It was Siana, the scrub nurse, doing what all of us do when our nose itches and we can’t scratch it with our sterile gloves:  we rub our nose on the shoulder of the person next to us.  I laughed out loud because that same gesture occurs zillions of times per day in operating rooms around the globe.

FAME’s two operating rooms are beautiful.  Nice lights. Natural light through windows. Pristine clean. Cabinets housing supplies of all kinds.  What is remarkable is that it is revolutionary in the region.

You see, in places like East Africa, and other low or middle income countries, death rates are high for common, easily treatable conditions like appendicitis, hernia, obstructed labor, bowel obstruction, and burns, for lack of surgical capability. Last year, the global health attention was riveted on the report of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, which reported that 5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care when needed.  In addition, the absence of a safe blood supply is a crucial problem globally in treating surgical conditions.

FAME, by virtue of offering primary surgical services, reliable anesthesia services, and a safe blood supply through its own collection, offers residents of the Karatu region what many in the world do not have. 

Our patient did well and went home in a day.  While at FAME I participated in procedures such as C-section, hernia, tonsillectomy, burn management, breast abscess, and appendectomy. Using teaching tools from UCSF that included videos, knot tying boards, suture practice materials, we had fun working on surgical skills. FAME, you all are awesome! 

The Long Road to Health

By Angel Hertslet

Six-year old Allan came to FAME a few weeks ago with a serious medical issue: he could not swallow food.

Most of us count eating food as one of the great joys in life, and how easy it is to take it for granted. Although Allan greeted the medical team with smiles and laughter, his situation was grave: he weighed only 22 pounds (10 kilos), the weight of a healthy one-year old. To complicate things, his small malnourished body was suffering from chest rattling pneumonia.

FAME Medical treated Allan for his pneumonia and started him on nutritional support. After a few days of charming the doctors and nurses, he was stable enough to return home. Yet Allan’s esophagus was still constricted and only a complex surgery could address this congenital problem. FAME Medical began the search for someone who could operate on Allan, sending emails to the extended family of FAME supporters.

Luckily, a few people were well positioned to help him. The first was a doctor in Arusha who had seen Allan before and knew of his need for esophageal surgery. A specialized pediatric surgeon from Finland came to volunteer at her hospital, so she called FAME and invited Allan to return for surgery. The second was an anonymous donor, well aware of his situation, who committed to helping him get the best care possible. It would be remiss not to mention Brad, the nurse practitioner at FAME, and Angel, the social worker, both of whom took on the responsibility of traveling with Allan and his mother to Arusha to support and advocate for the family. I also traveled to Arusha, and serendipitously, had the same blood type (and arguably the same attitude) as Allan: B positive. His mother Mary and I both donated in case he needed a transfusion during the procedure due to complications.

In some cases, an esophagus can be dilated with a balloon or by other means (my grandmother recently had such a surgery), but after laparoscopically exploring Allan’s esophagus, it was clear it could be addressed only through removal of the strictureand resectioning the esophagus to the stomach. The FAME team reviewed possible outcomes with the specialist and guided the decision that it was too dangerous to perform the partial esophagectomy on his compromised body. He needed to build strength to endure the removal of the portion of his esophagus. Operating in his malnourished state could have lead to the worst outcome of all.

As a means to an end, the surgeon inserted a feeding tube, or G-tube, into his stomach, allowing for nutrients to bypass his uncooperative esophagus and enter his stomach directly. I spent some time with Allan and Mary post-surgery and felt such compassion for them. He was clearly in a lot of pain and his mother was doing all she could to soothe him. This feeding tube, while clearly an essential step to improving his nutrition, I knew would be a big adjustment for both of them.

A few days later, Brad and I joined up with the team at Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV) to check up on Allan. Another conspiring actor, RVCV, in addition to contracting FAME to provide medical care to the orphanage and community thru a mobile medical service, also provides daily health support, follow-up and education to the community, where Allan and Mary live.
The RVCV nurse, social worker, and nutritionist worked alongside Brad and I to educate Mary about how to feed Allan through the G-tube. You can imagine the joy on all our faces when with our help, Mary mixed together the ingredients to make F-100, a therapeutic milk designed to treat severe malnutrition, and fed it to Allan through the G-tube. “Nice job!” Allan exclaimed in Swahili, and offered his mom a high five.

The right to a healthy life may be universal, but the road to getting there certainly isn’t. Allan isn’t healthy yet, but his future is looking much brighter. He has a short-term solution that is allowing him to properly gain weight and build strength for the first time in six years. He has RVCV within walking distance, and FAME Medical a short drive away. Most of all, he has his dedicated mother who so demonstrably loves him.  She is doing everything in her power to nurture Allan to health.

At some point in the next year or two, Allan will be strong enough for a life changing surgery. He will wake up groggy in bed, free of his G-tube, with his mom nearby. He will take a few weeks to heal. And then, he will sit down to the first proper meal of his life. May the tears of joy – and not of hunger – flow that day.

An Extraordinary Day

by Volunteer Nurse Practitioner Barb Dehn

Nurse Evelyn, Volunteer Nurse Barb and newborn

Nurse Evelyn, Volunteer Nurse Barb and newborn

On my 2nd day, here at FAME, I saw something, extraordinary. I was privileged to be at the right place at the right time and witnessed a jaw dropping display of talent and knowledge in a most unexpected place. Pauline Diaz, the volunteer coordinator was giving me a tour and suggested that we bring the new donated baby hats from the US and the brand new Tanita baby scale to the maternity ward. Sure! Why not?

Here in Africa, many people come to see the Big 5 animals on safari. Yes, I know there are birders out there and plenty of people who love the cheetahs, warthogs, jackals, hyenas, antelopes, giraffes and zebras. Thousands of dollars are spent, and thousands of miles traveled to catch a glimpse, or perhaps get close enough to see the elephant, cape buffalo, lion, rhino, leopard, all of whom belong to the exclusive group of the Big 5.

However on that 2nd day at FAME, within seconds of arriving in the maternity ward and setting up the new baby scale, what I saw was Nurse Evelyn, a 62 year-old experienced midwife, who delivered a baby, kept traction on the cord, and then resuscitated the new infant.

She then moved calmly back and forth between mother and baby to deliver the placenta, examine it carefully, give the mother the medications that prevent hemorrhage, check on baby and then administer glucose via the umbilical cord. Her assistant nurse, Moinan, helped throughout, while they both very graciously invited me to watch, learn and help out.

There’s no rest for the weary here at FAME, and truth be told, it’s energizing to be here. As soon as the new mom and baby were stable and settled, it was time to go check on the other moms and babies, because the Maternity ward here was full with 7 new mothers and their babies, plus a room where 2 growing premies and their moms are staying.

This safe delivery is also a direct result of a very generous donation from Every Mother Counts (http://www.everymothercounts.org/pages/ourwork-grants/#Tanzania) and Christy Turlington Burns’ vision that together, we can make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere.

Thanks to Every Mother Counts, many of the moms here in the maternity ward, received regular prenatal care, ultrasounds, vitamins and malaria prevention from Mama Joyce, who oversees the RCH (Reproductive maternal, Child Health) program here. We call here Mama Nurse Doctor Joyce because like Evelyn, she wears many hats and does whatever it takes to educate, dispel myths and reassure pregnant women who previously would have opted to deliver in a hut on a dirt floor without any clean blankets or even a clean clamp for the umbilical cord.

Nurse Moinan, Volunteer Nurse Barb and newborn

Nurse Moinan, Volunteer Nurse Barb and newborn

Before I can really consider how many lives are saved here, it’s time to tuck the newborn baby’s head into a brand new baby hat to keep him warm and join Nurse Evelyn and Nurse Moinan in the ward to check on the other moms, babies and premies.

I walked behind Evelyn and kept looking at her back, convinced that there would be a small sign of her superhero cape. I asked her where it was and whether she preferred red or blue, she even let me peek under her scrubs to show me that it was just an ordinary day for her and she didn’t have any special super powers. She just laughed and laughed and then started charting, but I’m not convinced.

I didn’t see any of the Big 5 that day, but I did see a hero in action, one that had what she needed to provide the kind of care that most of us in the other parts of the world take for granted. Here at FAME, the level of care is exceptional, and it’s all provided by a dedicated team of Tanzanian nurses and doctors.

I’m learning so much here and am so grateful to all of the staff who have very patiently taken me under their wings and invisible capes.