My First Test

On Friday, we had our first hospital visit; Mt. Meru Hospital in Arusha. Going in, we had no idea what to expect. After a week and a half of language and technical lessons, this was going to be our first test in Tanzania.

Taking a bus in the morning from TCDC, we arrived around 8:30 in the morning, to a small hospital campus. All one story buildings, many of them disconnected, it wasn’t nearly as impoverished as I had expected. One of the head administrators was waiting for us, and greeted us with a pile of broken equipment.

I first started on an Oxygen Concentration Machine, used to increase the oxygen concentration of normal air to nearly 95% volume. We turned it on to hear very little output air, but the intake fan was working. So, good power supply. We opened it up, turned it on, and found that the air was getting plugged behind a closed filter. According to Larry, its an extremely common problem, but we still had to clean it. I was able to pry the filter off the stand, but the soft piece of foam had turned in to black rock of dirt, dust, and bacteria.

After cleaning a couple of those filters, I left Roshan and Nabil to finish the rest as I was reassigned to work on taking two torn up and broken wheelchairs and turning it into one working wheelchair. Our finished project 20 minutes later was a Frankenstein of a machine which sported 3 different types of wheels, two different brakes, and a lawn chair as the main seat. Yet, it worked, and I know it was an important addition to the hospital’s inventory.

After that, I helped out with finishing off some oxygen concentrators (again), and then started off on repairing a bedside blood pressure monitor. First, the machine wouldn’t start working, so the first thing to do was make sure all the plugs and cords into the machine were working (they were), and then open it up and see what I could do. Yea, that was the mindset. With only one electronics course and a week of training under my belt, Larry truthfully described this as good guesstimation and creative McGuyver thinking.

Michelle and I spent the better part of the day trying to figure out which screw we hadn’t taken out and trying to pull the power supply out so we could test it. After a good hour or so, we got it out, tested it, and really couldn’t figure anything out. We put it back together, turned it on one last time, and…IT WORKED! Or rather, it turned on. We have the display turning on, and the machine is able to activate the blood pressure cuff, but testing it on myself, it maintained a 170 mmHg presure on my arm, and kept it there. No reduction in pressure. 1 minute later, my fingers were turning blue from the lack of oxygen, so now our issue is figuring out why the machine is trying to amputate my arm.

All in all, the day was a success for our entire group. We repaired 4 oxygen concentrators, 2 wheelchairs, a bench, a ventilator, an anesthesia machine, suction pump, blood pressure cuffs, and a teapot. Not bad.

Caught dinner that night in Arusha at this nice Indian restaurant, Big Bites. Came back, danced at the party held at TCDC, and called it a night.

Saturday and Sunday were real chill, finally got the chance to take things slow and easy after a really intense first week and a half. Caught up on my e-mails, some of my DUMUNC work, read a bit of the Three Musketeers (really good book!).

Other than spending all day Saturday watching the World Cup, the other highlight was grabbing lunch with Roshan, Christine, and Larry. We went off to this sketchy roadside restaurant, ordered in Kiswahili, and ate a really (cheap) good lunch. Aside from getting a fried fish (literally, nothing had been removed. I swear they just took the fish, dumped it in oil, then put it on my plate), we heard a ton of stories from Larry’s youth, about his adventures as a TV Repairman, as well as his numerous times hitchhiking across the US. If I were to ever describe the quintessential American to someone overseas, I would give them Larry.

But now its time to start week 3 here in TZ. Hope everyone at home is having an enjoyable summer/winter (depending on which side of the equator you are on!)


1 Comment

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One response to “My First Test

  1. Sandeep Paruchuri

    Sounds like you’re doing some good work in TZ…although I gotta say I am VERY curious as to what your franken-wheelchair looks like haha. I’m impressed you’ve been able to McGuyver together all these different (seemingly complex) hospital electronics so easily. Now the big question is- how can you get the hospital employees/technicians to be able to do it themselves going forward?

    Give a man a fish, he’s fed for a day. Teach him to fish…

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