Friday, March 5, 2010

I promised to come back...

I promised to come back to St. Theresa Hospital every year for a month. This year it ended up being only nine months since we left. The trip here was too long, as usual: flight from Tampa to Wash. D.C.; easy connection then to the South African flight to Johannesburg. That is an 18 hour flight, with about 1 to 1½ hours on the ground in Dakar in the middle of the night. I never can sleep much on the airplane, so only had about two hours sleep in the 18 hours. I had reserved a place at a B&B in JoBurg; they were there at the airport to pick me up as soon as I had my bags. The place is only about a 5 minute drive from the airport. I was very happy to get a hot shower and get into bed. Of course, I woke at 3:00 and could not get back to sleep, so just read for a few hours. Then had breakfast and they drove me back to the airport in plenty of time for the flight to Harare. I was met there by three of the Dominican Sisters – they were glad to see me and I was glad to see them. I stayed in Harare Sunday night, and then ran around Harare Monday morning with Sr. Andrea, including meeting with a man about drilling a new borehole for the hospital. I also paid for the rest of the year for the internet satellite connection -- $1,400!

We arrived back “home” (really not my home any more, but still sort of feels like it) at 4:00 PM. The tar roads are fairly bad, but the dirt road is really terrible. There had been heavy rains last Saturday which was not good for the road, but good for some of the crops, and for water in our dam. Then again, there was over 3 inches of rain yesterday, so we have plenty of standing water
just now.

Since getting back I have not had any patient contact, but will start
that tomorrow. I have been busy with administrative “stuff” – especially trying to get the computers to work properly. There was problem with the internet satellite connection, and I was trying to get that sorted out. First with my laptop, then with the hospital laptop. There is a program which “Forces” the modem to lock onto the satellite, but it was not working. Then I connected the hospital laptop directly to the modem rather than trying to connect through the wireless. No luck with that either. So I was putting that laptop away and forgot I had the cord connected, and pulled the modem off the shelf directly onto MY laptop – and it made the screen go blank, and nothing that I do resolves that issue. Obviously will have to have someone look at it when I get back. I am glad that I brought my old laptop and not the new Apple MacBook.

The hospital computers are always having problems with viruses, and most of the anti-virus
programs are outdated, so last night I uninstalled the one on the hospital laptop, and purchased a new one that is good for “more than three computers” and for three years. The satellite connections were working alright, and so I downloaded that – it took about two hours at the slow speeds with the satellite connection that we have. After completing everything I then got a message: “An Unauthorized Change was made to Windows” and the computer stopped functioning. The modem was not working at that time, so I had to wait until this morning to get reconnected and try to find out “on line” what the problem was. It seems like the antivirus program has caused a problem and might need to be uninstalled. I have sent an email off the anti-virus company and see what they think I should do. I hope it is going to work out alright.

While at the hospital earlier this morning, the woman in the statistics office called me in to help with that computer. They have a battery to help with short-term power when the main-line electricity goes off, so that the computer does not just go blank because of loss of power. The battery is obviously at the end of its function, because it ceases to function even IF the main-line electricity is on. I have short-circuited the entire system by connecting the computer directly into the wall plug, which means it will go off whenever the electricity does, but at least they can use it when it is on. I wonder how they would handle the problem IF I was not here?

There also was a man here yesterday to try to sort out the solar lighting problems in the Nursing School and Dormitories. That system is quite new, but one entire section was not working, and it is apparently because the batteries are totally dead. The batteries are supposed to last at least three years, and these have been about18 months. We had big problems with the man who installed them, and he has even threatened St. Theresa with a law suit IF anything derogatory is said about him, so I won’t! Seems like a very odd “Business Plan” to me, and not likely to lead to huge success.

Still, all in all, I have to say that things are really running quite smoothly since I left. I am glad to see that. Dr. Maunga has stepped up and become very responsible and helpful in all respects, and apparently a good mentor for the younger doctor. The hospital is very quiet at this time. Only about 45 to 50 patients, which is such a huge difference from 7 to 8 years ago, when we were averaging between 100 and 120 patients, and occasionally as high as 145 – most with HIV related diseases. I am certain it is because of the good AIDS treatment program that we have running. The people no longer are coming back and coming back, ill with one opportunistic infection after another, until they finally die of AIDS. We have about 1400 patients who are returning every one to two months for the medicines, and are very faithful about coming for their appointments and for taking their pills.