Our PINCC team from the US arrived in Douala yesterday. More than half of the team boarded the plane for home or a well-deserved vacation in Paris! while Carol, Monica and myself hugged and waved them goodbye, our feet still on Cameroonian soil.
It has been an exciting, exhausting adventure, full of learning, surprises, pot-holes, ice-cream, Monkey fruit, car & moto horns, and many cervices!!
The week in Yaounde at the Bethesda Hospital ended well. The group of trainees we worked with were ready and excited to continue to use their new skills- correctly identifying the GSC (squamocolumnar junction in French) and by the end of the week were more confidently deciding whether an exam was "adequate" or "inadequate" and "positive" or "negative". One gynecologist, Fidelia, exceeded expectations and was certified in VIA on the first visit!
In Yaounde we screened 189 patients (according to Shelby's and Reid's fine statistics), did 42 Pap smears, 5 biopsies, 2 LEEPs and 4 cryos. As we went around in a circle during our closing ceremony, sharing what we learned, there were tears and laughter. Monica learned even with language barriers we can still communicate (although all French speakers out there, get excited about Cameroon!) and I learned (which served me well in Kumba) that it is often necessary & incredibly helpful to get down on one's knees to do a proper speculum exam & adequately visualize a cervix!
From Yaounde to Douala in Dr.Nkeh's van we traveled (our driver is a car doctor and has even written a manual on car maintenance for other drivers in Cameroon) so we always felt very safe in his vehicle. Although safe, we also felt cramped and hot as we made our way to the humid and rainy climate in Kumba, 2-3 hours north of Douala.
On our journey, we passed rows and rows of banana, palm and rubber trees. We went through many toll booths which consisted of a man standing in the middle of the street collecting coins from the passing vehicles. Our adventure began as we attempted to find a place to stay in Kumba. After Dr.Nkeh's car got stuck in the mud, requiring all of our female strength to push it out, we arrived at a hotel and finally were able to stretch our legs.
In Kumba we were welcomed by Stella, a nurse in Cameroon, who originally motivated PINCC's trip to Cameroon. Stella is a passionate, dedicated nurse who opened her own medical clinic- We Care- in the Kosala neighborhood of Kumba. I leaned from both Stella & Carol that Stella found PINCC on the Internet, and continued to write to Kay many, many times until Kay was finally able to make the trip to Cameroon, one year ago. Stella's dedication & commitment to her patients brought PINCC to the We Care clinic to continue to teach Stella and other nurses, nursing assistants and lab technicians (who routinely do many vaginal exams) VIA and cryotherapy. Although Stella's clinic has minimal resources, Stella is a fighter and she will continue to bring many resources to her clinic to better serve her patients.
Although we were only in Kumba for less than 3 full days we screened 137 patients, did 49 Paps, 1 biopsy, 1 LEEP and 6 cryos.
I know I, and I think it is safe to say the other PINCC volunteers from the US will leave Cameroon touched by many amazing individuals we had the opportunity to meet.
We will also be leaving with dresses, skirts, pants and shorts handmade by an incredibly skilled Cameroonian seamstress, with fabric we purchased in Yaounde! The very-fashionable seamstress, Mercy, took our measurements one day and the next day an after-work fashion show took place as we modeled our new attire, which brought delight to all!
It was exciting for me to be a part of PINCC's first trip to Cameroon- according to Carol, Cameroon was a success. After spending the last couple weeks with Carol, not only do I attempt to emulate her and channel her patience and calm in times of chaos, but I trust her word 100%.
Tomorrow, Monica will head back to the US and Carol and I plan to fly to Kenya. We hope for safe travels, good luck and we look forward to many more "wow" moments along the way!!