Palliative Care in Northern Tanzania

Patricia Bartlett shared some beautiful photos with us from the ongoing Tanzania trip, accompanied by a moving story. We thought we’d share it with you as a reminder of what we’re working for in northern Tanzania.

“Here are some pictures taken in a remote part of Marangu as you head up towards the Kilimanjaro Marangu gate. The drive was treacherous–about 10 kilometers off the paved road through small poorly maintained roads. The patient was a 53 year old woman diagnosed with advanced rectal carcinoma who presented quite late. The earlier history of her disease was not easy to get but we believe that she had been sent to Ocean Road, but do not know what treatment she was given. Her husband is a Lutheran Pastor who has several small churches that he is responsible for. Thus, he is not often at home. Her children are grown, but the youngest son lives nearby and seems very skilled in his care of his mother and proud that he has been able to keep her relatively clean.

“She was very thin and in a lot of pain. She had been able to get morphine from KCMC (Marangu Hospital is not too far away; however, they no longer are able to get morphine) but she was out of morphine at the point of our visit. Her husband and son described that her colostomy bag had to be changed sometimes 8 times/day so they had to wash and wash the few bags that they had. I had been able to find colostomy bags in one pharmacy in Moshi. (Even KCMC was out of Colestomy bags) I was able to purchase 4 bags and the other materials for the bags. A local nurse and Palliative Care Director Anna Massawe had brought other equipment including a large bottle of liquid Morphine. The bags had to be cut to fit.

“What was most impressive to me was that this family, despite their poverty, had prepared lunch for us; the house was clean; the son had learned how to change his mother’s bag and cleaned her quite well; and even the patient, despite her pain, knew at least how the bags were supposed to work, even if she was not strong enough to change the bag on her own, not able to walk at all, and not with the strength to keep herself turned to prevent bed sores (she had two).

“What was sad was the lack of properly fitting supplies, morphine and other pain medicine, supplies for the bed sores, and other moral support. While the husband was supportive, he is frequently away visiting parishioners and attending church duties.”