Bioengineers in Tanzania

Clemson Bioengineering Creative Inquiry January 2012: Second Trip to Tanzania


Clemson University:
Delphine Dean, Assistant Professor
Kaitlyn Harfmann, Senior undergraduate
Kevin Keith, Senior undergraduate
Margo Toney, Senior undergraduate
Laura Wiles, Senior undergraduate

Medical University of South Carolina
Joyce Nicholas, Associate Professor
Sarah Logan, Graduate Student

Flying to Tanzania!
Delphine Dean

Our trip turned out to be very easy; all our flights came in 20 min to 1 hour early! We had no problems with our connections. We flew out of Greenville (which was cheaper than Charlotte or Atlanta!) to Washington, DC. From there, we flew to Zurich.

In Zurich, we enjoyed the airport during our nice (almost three-hour) layover and breakfast. Then, we all got on a flight to Dar Es Salaam via a stop-over in Nairobi. We left South Carolina at 2pm on January 3rd and finally got to Tanzania at 9pm Jan. 4th. Everyone checked into the Hotel Nikko and had a good sleep. The next day, we got sim cards for our phones, saw a little bit of the city, and tried to get over the jet-lag. Joyce and Sarah arrived from Charleston and everyone got to know each other a bit before we set off for Haydom, Tanzania.

Margo Toney

Walking around the Haydom Hospital campus—It’s beautiful!

Haydom, the primary destination of our trip, is a village in northwest Tanzania with one of the most developed hospitals in the country. We arrived after a two-hour flight with the goals of presenting and promoting the temperature-controlled infant blanket to the maternity ward, collecting the woven neck collars for testing; repairing any immediate equipment problems the hospital had, and meeting with technicians and medical personnel to identify and understand additional needs that could become potential projects for our Creative Inquiry group.  Staffed by Tanzanian, Norwegian, and American workers, physicians, nurses, and volunteers, the Haydom Lutheran Hospital serves numerous villages over a vast surrounding region with its surgical, outpatient, maternity, rehabilitative, and disease-treatment (e.g., tuberculosis) services.

Haydom Hospital

Because we arrived on a Friday, the start of the weekend, we realized that Monday would be the only day we could meet with hospital staff members. During the four days we spent at Haydom Hospital, we stayed in a guest house and ate in a dining hall provided for guests and volunteers within the hospital compound. Over the weekend, we worked a few hours attempting to repair damage to the infant blanket that was probably caused by travel. In addition, we explored the community surrounding the hospital walls and shared stories among our own group over dinners that usually consisted of rice, beef, sometimes potatoes and greens, and fresh bananas and mangoes. In the community, we visited the “baby room,” an orphanage for babies whose mothers had died and whose fathers could not take care of them during their first year. This visit was definitely a highlight of the trip: The babies seemed very happy and serene, and their caregivers, all women, eagerly welcomed us to hold the babies and play with them. On Sunday afternoon, we were personally invited to the restaurant and home of Mama Maria, a woman in the village of Haydom. There, we ate Chipsi Mayai, one of the typical Tanzanian meals (essentially French fries in scrambled eggs—very tasty!). Mama Maria cooked in her skillet over a wood-burning concrete stove. She happily invited us to see her baby granddaughter. This seemed to be a theme—the Tanzanians loved watching us play with babies.

Haydom Hospital Staff On Monday morning, we visited the daily service for all the staff members and nursing students. That morning we also toured the hospital with Alex, the hospital’s electrician; talked to various medical and laboratory personnel; and documented the condition of medical and laboratory devices and machinery. After we visited the physical rehabilitation room, the radiology room, the operating room, the laboratories, and even the laundry facilities, one fundamental problem stood out as the source of most of the malfunctioning donated equipment: A power supply that spikes and dips, frying the much of the equipment, such as the CT scanner, laundry machines, and X-ray machines. Fixing this problem would be a large undertaking for our Creative Inquiry, but not necessarily impossible. Other problems were the lack of specific replacement parts to fit a particular company’s equipment (e.g., parts of scopes go unused because they do not fit parts from different manufacturers. Finally, we visited the maternity ward and observed the incubator room for premature infants. Because the hospital does not have individual incubators, the temperature of this tiny room is kept at approximately 40 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the risk of spreading infection increases, as does the discomfort of the neonatal nurse. There is a dire need for a temperature-controlled infant heating blanket that can be designed on a circuit board using simple, available materials. Happily, our blanket design is a perfect fit for the average size premature infant at Haydom.

This trip to Haydom enhanced our insight into the resources available to Tanzanian medical centers and the needs of medical personnel and patients that our designs are intended to fill.

International Cardiovascular Diseases Conference
Laura Wiles

On Wednesday and Thursday, January 11th and 12th, we attended the International Cardiovascular Diseases Conference in Dar es Salaam. On Thursday, Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, officially opened the conference and gave a short speech. All of us were excited to hear the president speak, and his evident concern about the status of his country’s health care was impressive. During the morning, there was a performance of cultural music and dance by the Ngoma group. We spent most of the  day listening to talks about the status of cardiovascular disease in several East African countries. On Friday, we listened to several talks by American cardiologists about the prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, and management of different cardiovascular diseases and coronary imaging techniques. We learned a lot over the course of the two days, both by listening to the various presentations and by talking to the speakers at lunch and dinner.

Dar es Salaam and Meeting the President of Tanzania
Kevin Keith

Since returning to Dar es Salaam, we have had quite a busy schedule—quite a different experience from the peaceful, restful, and tranquil time we had out in the rural village of Haydom. I really miss the babies we were able to play with at the Lutheran Hospital in Haydom. I was so upset when they told me I couldn’t take one home! But, I have been able to distract myself with all of the busyness of the past two days. Yesterday, we spent the whole day at the cardiovascular conference, where we were honored to be graced by the presence of the Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete. And then today, we learned that we were all invited to the Presidential Palace, where the President would host us for dinner.

Dinner at the President’s House was a unique experience for me. We arrived at the palace around 7 pm and passed through security. Once inside, we were served light Hors d'oeuvres and drinks as we waited for the start of dinner, to be announced by the president himself. During this wait, we rubbed elbows with some of the top healthcare officials in of East Africa. Once the President arrived, we all got to talk with him and his strikingly beautiful wife before dinner began. He was very jovial and cheerful, much different than the standard serious and stern impression Western diplomats give. He made a short speech, and then dinner was served shortly after 8 pm. After the meal we each got to shake the President’s hand once more as we left, thanking him for his hospitality. It was a truly remarkable experience, one that I will not soon forget.

Children in Tanzania Zanzibar!
Kaitlyn Harfmann

After ten long days of travel and work, we were ready for a little break, so we went to nearby Zanzibar, also known as “The Spice Island.”  We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, grabbed some fresh seafood for lunch from the beachfront restaurant, and headed out to our first adventure. We took a short fifteen-minute ride into the jungle and arrived in the heart of the Red Colobos Monkey habitat. These adorable little creatures were not afraid of us, and they often ran into us as they played with each other. When we finally finished enjoying the monkey business, we moved on to a boardwalk tour through a mangrove forest and a very informative stroll through the rainforest. We spent the rest of the day at the hotel enjoying the sights and relaxing with reading.

The next day we toured the old port city of Stone Town, where we enjoyed shopping and soaking up the local culture. Directly after this we visited a spice plantation where we experienced twenty different spices in their natural state!  During this visit we also ate a traditional “spice lunch” made with locally grown spices. Sadly, after this magical retreat to the exotic island of Zanzibar, we had to say goodbye; and we boarded our first of five flights home to Clemson.

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