Posts for Country Zambia

Staff Profile: Judy Obison, Matron at CURE Zambia

Judy Obison and nursesSome of the most interesting stories to come out of CURE Zambia are those of our dedicated and diligent staff. Recently, I sat down with Judy Obison, CURE Zambia’s hard working matron. I took particular interest in Mrs. Obison’s story because my mother is also a nurse, so I have a soft spot for women who practice nursing.

Judy Obison didn’t always want to be a nurse. “Originally, I wanted to be an engineer, but I knew that I would have to support myself to pay for the tuition.” Judy originally attended a vocational school where she got her Licensed Practical Nursing diploma, but still had the intention of becoming an engineer even though she developed a liking for the nursing profession. Judy decided to go to the US to complete her education, but after conferring with some of her relatives, Judy thought it best to continue her education in nursing. “I knew that if I got my engineering degree, I probably wouldn’t end up working as an engineer,” she said, “what’s more, most of the people I had met who were LPNs had been educated in other fields, so I thought I might as well continue in nursing.” Judy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts.

Some years later, after having worked in the US for a number of years and having two children, Judy and her husband made the move back to Zambia. When she arrived in Zambia, she quickly got bored living as a housewife and wanted to get back to work. This is when her brother-in-law came to her and told her of a new hospital called CURE Zambia. “My brother-in-law said that I should send an application to this ‘new American hospital.’ I was excited to go and see what all the fuss was about!” Judy exclaimed. Judy rushed to the hospital and asked if she could get a tour of the facilities. She liked what she saw. “Everything was new and clean and all the equipment was up-to-date; I knew immediately that I wanted to work there.”

But things were not to go so smoothly. Judy ran into problems getting her nursing license from the General Nursing Council of Zambia. She noticed that it was difficult for foreign-educated Zambian nurses to get their licenses from the GNC. “This was incredibly frustrating because as a Zambian, I wanted to come back to my country and help improve the system, yet I was being deterred at every corner,” said Judy. In the end, it took Judy over a year to get her license from the GNC. After all that work she finally started work at CURE Zambia in January 2010.

Judy told me that she enjoys her work here at CURE Zambia and has also seen her employment with the hospital as an education. “When I was working in the US I mostly treated adults,” said Judy, “so pediatric care has been an eye opener.” Judy explained to me that dealing with the socio-economic issues surrounding patients and their families has been vastly different from the situations in the US. “We as CURE Zambia nursing staff have to educate parents on how to find resources for their sick children in the community, because not every village or town has a pharmacy or clinic,” explained Obison. Another challenge facing nurses in Zambia is the shortage of nurses. Some hospitals have 20 patients to 1 nurse! “I think nurses here need to be exposed to how other nurses practice,” said Judy, “this is why CURE Zambia has started the Nurse Exchange Program. It’s important that our nurses see that there are different and, sometimes, better ways to practice nursing.”

There are many things that Judy enjoys about working at CURE. “I love the care that we provide at CURE Zambia. We try our best to give hope to the patients and their parents. What I hate the most is that we are not able to help our patients as much as we like beyond the fence of CURE Zambia.”

After Judy spends what seems like endless hours managing the nursing staff at CURE Zambia, she likes to spend her spare time relaxing with her three young children and her husband, Jeffrey.

Finally, I asked Judy what she liked most about working at CURE Zambia, and she told me something that I found truly moving. “The vision that we have is really refreshing. We are giving the care to the needy and we are truly touching a lot of lives.”

BBC Africa to Feature CURE Zambia’s Institute of ENT & Audiology!

Editor’s note: Kimberly originally filed this report on February 17, 2011.

Phew!!!  Tomorrow will certainly be a busy, but exciting day at CURE Zambia.  Not only will the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation be featuring CURE Zambia’s successful mobile clinic program on television, but the hospital– and more specifically, the ENT & Audiology department– will be interviewed by BBC Africa!!  I can’t tell you how proud and thrilled I am to have our hospital spotlighted on a major, world-class broadcasting network!

BBC Africa will be profiling CURE Zambia’s mandatory hearing testing campaign, as we are the only hospital in the entire country pushing for the development of this policy.  BBC Africa will also be featuring our trusty ENT consultant surgeon, Dr. Uta Fröschl and our resident audiologist, Alfred Mwamba.  In addition, they will be interviewing two patients who will tell of their experience with CURE Zambia’s ENT & Audiology staff and how early hearing testing has impacted their daily lives.

The date of the BBC Africa broadcast has not yet been set, but once I get word, I’ll keep you posted.  So stay tuned…

Mobile Clinic in Chirundu

Last week I participated in yet another orthopedics mobile clinic with Dr. Lastroni, CURE Zambia’s consultant orthopedic surgeon and medical director. Mobile clinics can be very tiresome, but this one was especially fun. Chirundu is a small town in Zambia’s Southern Province—just across the border from Zimbabwe, on the north shores of the great Zambezi River. Needless to say, the locale was breathtaking!

After about a two hour journey of Dr. Lastroni regaling me with stories of his glory days as a Bergamo, Italy, rock legend, we finally arrived in Chirundu for a mobile clinic at Mtendere Mission Hospital. This hospital has an excellent team of Italian and Congolese doctors; however, most of their surgeons are general surgeons and are not able to perform complex or highly specialized surgeries. This is why Dr. Lastroni regularly conducts mobile clinics at this hospital.

Crocodile Bites

Among the patients we saw at the Mtendere Mission were a man and a woman who had been bitten by crocodiles while bathing in the Zambezi River. “This happens more than you would think,” said one of the doctors. Two of the most harrowing stories I heard were from a young woman named Esnat, who had a cancerous tumor surrounding the bone in her right thumb. Esnat had not been able to bend or use her thumb due to the massive tumor. Luckily, the cancer will not spread to the rest of her body. Unfortunately, her thumb had to be amputated in surgery the following morning.

Then there was Irene, a woman in her early twenties who suffers from epilepsy. One day while she was cooking she had a grand mal seizure and burned her feet and her lower calves. The skin on her legs and feet have contracted, and as a result she is not able to walk properly. Dr. Lastroni performed surgery on her legs and feet to try to ease the contracted skin. “Unfortunately, I don’t know how much more we can do,” said Dr. Lastroni, “the skin contraction is very bad.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a young mother without the use of my legs. Irene’s story put a lot into perspective…

After a long day and a half at the clinic and operating theatre, we shared an authentic Italian lunch with some of the Italian doctors working at Mtendere. Most of the conversation was in Italian, and, of course, I didn’t understand much, but I can tell you that the food was delicious.

All in all Dr. Lastroni saw over twenty patients in Chirundu and operated on 5.  ”I don’t know if all the cases we worked on were a success,” said Dr. Lastroni as we drove back to Lusaka,”but we definitely gave it our all.”

A day in pictures from CURE Zambia

CURE Zambia's newly renovated foyer

CURE Zambia's newly renovated foyer

Victor, CURE Zambia's Clubfoot Coordinator, and Judy, CURE Zambia's Matron

Victor, CURE Zambia's Clubfoot Coordinator, and Judy, CURE Zambia's Matron

Vuniwe & Dorcas perform physio on a young patient

Vuniwe & Dorcas perform physio on a young patient

CURE Zambia's lab team busy at work!

CURE Zambia's lab team busy at work!

Parents and ortho patients wait to be assessed by Dr. Moyo

Parents and ortho patients wait to be assessed by Dr. Moyo

Dr. Lastroni operates on a patient's broken ankle

Dr. Lastroni operates on a patient's broken ankle

Little Cynthia

Cynthia, with her mother BelindaAs I’m sure all of you know, CURE Zambia specializes in orthopedics. Hence, we come across a lot of children with clubbed feet. Today I met one of the cutest little girls in the entire world. Hername is Cynthia and she is one of the one in one thousand children born with clubbed feet in Zambia. She is also one of the many clubfoot success stories here at CURE Zambia.

When Cynthia was born at the University Teaching Hospital of Lusaka 8 months ago, her mother, Belinda was expecting a completely ‘normal ‘child. But when Cynthia finally came into this world, doctors saw that her tiny feet were clubbed. “I was devastated,” said Belinda. “I cried for many nights.”

Cynthia’s family was worried that their little girl would grow up lame — unable to walk and take care of herself.

A few days after Cynthia’s birth, Belinda was passing through Lusaka’s Civic Centre and came across a nurse that recommended she take her daughter to CURE Zambia for treatment. “The nurse told me that this was the only place that could cure my daughter in Zambia,” said Belinda. So, ten days after Cynthia was born, Belinda rushed her daughter CURE Zambia to see what they could do. Within days, Cynthia was scheduled for surgery with CURE Zambia orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cyril Moyo.

Cynthia with Kimberly BennettWhen you look at darling little Cynthia 7 months after her first surgery, you would never guess that this happy, laughing little girl was born with two clubbed feet. Her feet look perfectly normal! She will, of course need to wear braces at night for several months, but she will undoubtedly have completely normal feet by the time she starts nursery school. Cynthia’s successful progress is amazing, but this story is truly special because of her mother, Belinda. “Cynthia’s case is special to me because her mother is one of the few who consistently came back to the hospital to have her daughter checked up,” said Victor Chabala, Club Foot Worldwide coordinator for Zambia. “Many of the mothers don’t come back on time for castings and some don’t come back at all,” added Chabala.

Little Cynthia got a chance at a happy and active childhood due to the help of CURE Zambia and a proactive mother.


Jim Cohick Visits CURE Zambia!

Jim Cohick visits CURE ZambiaI just finished an awesome conversation with Jim Cohick, Senior Vice President of CURE International and Executive Director of the CURE Hydrocephalus program. Jim is completing a tour of different CURE facilities in Africa on behalf of the CURE Hydrocephalus program. After leading an inspiring devotion this morning — including a lovely song that he sang for CURE Zambia staff — he was about to head out of Zambia, on his way back to the US (via South Africa and then London), when I was able to talk to him about what brought him half way around the world.

Jim, who has been with CURE International since its inception, is looking at building and expanding the successful hydrocephalus model of CURE Uganda to other hospitals in the CURE network. “Ideally we would be happy to have at least 35 points of light across the network in the next 5 years,” said Cohick. “The Uganda model has been extremely successful. The hospital has trained many local surgeons across the country on the treatment of hydrocephalus patients.”

CURE Zambia and CURE Uganda perform over 800 hydrocephalus surgeries each year, combined. CURE Hydrocephalus has saved over 5,000 precious lives from the beginning of the initiative in Uganda, and hopes that CURE Zambia will be the next success story. CURE Hydrocephalus has aspirations to not only operate as a treatment facility, but also as a training facility for surgeons and other medical staff who come across hydrocephalus patients in their practices.

I went on to ask Jim what he thought of the CURE Zambia facility, and he lit up. “This is truly a wonderful hospital,” he exclaimed, “I remember when I was working for CURE International in the beginning and when CURE Zambia was just being contemplated! The people are so lovely!” We at CURE Zambia hope Jim has a safe trip home and that he comes to visit us once again!

Update: Kalimbwe Still Standing

Kalimbwe from Zambia
Does everyone remember young Kalimbwe?  If you don’t, here’s a little refresher.  Kalimbwe is a young boy from Zambia’s Western Province who was discovered at one of our orthopedic mobile clinics in 2010.  He had severely neglected club feet and was ostracized by members of his community in his village.  Well, thanks to Dr. Lastroni, CURE Zambia’s medical director and orthopedic surgeon, Kalimbwe’s club feet were successfully corrected!  When I last saw him  he was a little bit wobbly on his feet, but happy nonetheless.

Good news!  Kalimbwe and his mother passed through my office today just to say ‘hi’ and I must tell you, Kalimbwe looks great!  He’s all smiles and he’s walking with a lot more confidence.  Through his shy giggles, he explained to me that he enjoys playing football and basketball and that he is even able to help his mother in their little garden!  ”Kalimbwe is no longer laughed at by children in our village,” said his mother, Swana. “His legs are feeling and looking stronger everyday.”

Swana then told me something that I think everyone should say to themselves anytime they see a child in need: “CURE Zambia is one of the reasons why we should never give up on anyone.”  That is true indeed!

CURE Zambia’s First Neuro Clinic for 2011

Dr. Kachinga Sichizya, CURE Zambia consultant neurosurgeon

Since opening its doors in early 2007, CURE Zambia has had orthopedic and neuro clinics on a weekly basis.  This year was no exception.  Last Tuesday CURE Zambia medical staff assessed and reviewed nearly fifty patients from all over Zambia!

“This is by far the largest neuro clinic we’ve done since the hospital opened,” said Dr. Kachinga Sichizya, CURE Zambia’s consultant neurosurgeon, “we had a line up of patients all the way around the building!”

CURE Zambia neuro clinic examines and assesses patients with ailments ranging from hydrocephelus, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and problems having to do with the spine.  Dr. Sichizya has just returned from a month long training course in England with some of the finest spinal surgeons in the United Kingdom.  Dr. Sichizya is hoping that with this training, he and the rest of the medical staff at CURE Zambia can better care for children and private patients suffering from serious spinal injuries and illnesses.

“We want to expand our care and our expertise,” said Dr. Sichizya, “CURE Zambia is one of the top pediatric hospitals in Zambia and want to continue on that path.”

CURE Zambia – A Day In Pictures

As the person charged with telling the stories from CURE Zambia, I occasionally take out my camera and let the pictures do the talking.

Here’s a day from life in the hospital at CURE Zambia.

Staff Profile: Patson Sakala, Audiology Technician

So often when we do profiles of staff members at hospitals we focus on the doctors alone who are most credited with recovery of our patients.  While this is true, there are many, many other staff members that keep the CURE Zambia machine rolling on a day-to-day basis.  Patson Sakala is one such person.

Patson from CURE Zambia

When I first started working at CURE Zambia last September I had met and seen almost everyone who worked in the ENT clinic.  It wasn’t until a month or two later that I met Mr. Sakala working quietly, but diligently in his workshop within the clinic.  I wasn’t quite sure what he did, but I was curious.

As it turns out, Patson Sakala is what we call an audiology technician.  He is responsible for the upkeep and overall functioning of the complex electronics of the audiology equipment that the ENT consultant surgeon and audiologist use to screen and examine their patients.  So I quickly discovered that Patson, the shy and quiet young man working in the ENT & Audiology workshop, is very essential to the whole process.

Patson, who was born and raised in Lusaka, had originally wanted to study biochemistry in college when he graduated from high school, but had to quickly change his mind when he saw the exorbitant school fees for that particular discipline.  “I showed my parents the amount they were charging for that subject and they told me that I’d have to find something else to study,” said Sakala.  Since his childhood he had enjoyed playing with gadgets and electrical equipment, so he concluded that studying electrical engineering would be the next logical choice.  He graduated from Evelyn Hahn College (a local community college) with a diploma in electrical engineering in 2004.

After graduating from college, Patson decided to open up his own workshop where he would fix and repair things like televisions, radios and other electrical equipment.  One of his clients happened to be the recently hired audiologist to CURE Zambia, Alfred Mwamba.  After being pleased with Patson’s electrical work on some items of his that needed repair, he suggested that Patson work with him as an audiologist technician at the new ENT clinic.  “I’ve been working with CURE Zambia ever since,” said Patson.  Admittedly, Patson was somewhat worried about not knowing how to fix audiology equipment, but now he’s like an old pro!  “At first I thought that fixing this kind of equipment would be difficult,” said Patson, “but it’s actually quite easy!  Also, Alfred has even taught me how to properly screen a patients hearing.”

When I asked Patson to tell me what he does for fun outside of his role at CURE Zambia, he told me that he enjoys reading and gardening.  “I have a small garden at my home and I like to grow flowers.”

CURE Zambia is certainly fortunate to have Patson Sakala on its team!