University Campus Suffolk 2012

Radiography, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

I spent 3 weeks out in Dar Es Salaam, 2 weeks were spent in the Radiotherapy Department at a specialist Cancer Institute and my final week was spent in the village of Kidodi working in their healthcare centre. It was an unforgettable and eye opening experience.

Why Work the World?

I heard about Work the World through a student in the year above me who had been on his diagnostic radiography elective with them. I looked through the website and gave them a lot of calls before I made my decision to book with them. The staff were always very friendly and helpful and seemed to know what they were talking about, especially with regard to work permits and entry visas – which was good, because I had no idea about any of that! 

Despite the fact that I booked my trip almost a year in advance, staff were in regular contact and always on the end of a phone if I had any questions. About three months before my departure is when I started to be in more regular contact with Susie, who sorted everything! It was great being able to be told exactly what you needed to do, and getting the help you needed to do it! Trying to organise something like this alone would have been a nightmare. Work the World have all the connections and a great team in-country to be able to tailor the experience to each individual.  If I had forgotten to submit something, a gentle reminder in the form of a phone call or email would come my way to nudge me along! As I was planning my trip alongside studying for exams, it was brilliant to be able to just tell someone what I wanted and in effect just leave them to sort it out for me! 

Another great advantage of taking the trip through Work the World was staying in the Dar House and all the amazing experiences that come from that! The house was incredible, like a home from home. It’s in a great location, 2 minutes from a shop and cash machine as well as being near the beach and a bar! There’s an internet caf√© next door to the shop too if you feel you need it! I got to meet a whole range of medical professionals from all over the world and I made some brilliant friends who I have stayed in contact with since returning to the UK.

The programme managers Alpha and Mark were always available to help with anything from placement queries to translations and booking excursions to teaching African dancing! They also pick you up from the airport and take you on orientation to the beautiful Coco Beach, show you around the hospital and then even take you out for lunch! Nehma the housekeeper is adorable and the security guard Edito is hilarious. Neville the tortoise is also a very important house member. He hides a lot, but Edito can usually help you find him! Don’t expect to lose any weight in Africa either, as Rehema’s cooking is out of this world! BBQ and Q bar on a Thursday night was a fantastic night and a great way to get to socialise with all the housemates. Although, a word of warning: Newcomers are expected to prove their worth by completing the Konyagi Challenge before anyone ventures out! The experience wouldn’t have been the same without the people and the atmosphere that the house provided. 

Placement

My placement was something that I find hard to sum up in a sentence. The whole experience was just insane. Incredible, but insane. As I was the only student placed at this particular hospital I had to travel on the crazy dala dala buses (a must-do) alone. I was accompanied the first few days so that I didn’t get lost, and by following Alpha’s advice I had no problems with travelling in the days that followed. The hospital itself was realtively basic and the Radiotherapy Department had two cobalt machines that each treated around 80 patients a day. From that you’d think I was rushed off my feet, however “African time” meant everyone was laid back and slow paced. As a result of this they worked from 8am until 11pm most evenings to ensure that every patient got treated every day. There was no localisation or planning involved in the treatment pathway, as they simply just don’t have the equipment or technology. The head of the department informed me that they did have a simulator, but it was broken and no one knew how to fix it. It had been like it for 6 months and they were waiting until they could afford for someone from India to fly over and fix it for them. Verification marks on the skin surface were just plasters, stuck on to the patient on their first day of treatment by a doctor, and usually peeled off by the second day, so from there it was just guesswork. Patients were treated without immobilisation and there was no skin care or side effect advice.

I saw a whole range of disease, mostly advanced tumours, that I wouldn’t often see in the UK, for example paediatric kidney tumours and germ cell tumours. The most common malignancy was Carcinoma of the Cervix, and disease that we’d think of as common such as prostate cancer was unheard of, mainly because the average life expectancy in Tanzania doesn’t allow patients to live long enough to develop it. I thought I knew what to expect from the placement, and had prepared myself appropriately – but I was wrong. I’m not sure there is any way to prepare yourself! I couldn’t learn any new techniques to bring back with me, but I did benefit from seeing their techniques as it helped me to have a greater understanding of the underpinning theories behind our work.

Kidodi Village Experience

I had an amazing time living with the Hamisi family in the village of Kidodi. It is a real African experience! The healthcare centre was much poorer than the hospitals in Dar and it really gave me an insight into people trying to help others when they have next to nothing. Every evening there are activities to take part in like visiting a traditional healer and seeing some African Dancing! We even went to the pub one night! 

Other Experiences!

There are so many to name, it would take far too long! There is a black notebook at the house with hints and tips of how to get the most out of your stay – definitely worth a read! Amongst my highlights was going on Safari at Mikumi National Park and camping in the middle of nowhere! It’s a bit of a drive but it was so worth it. I also took a weekend trip to Zanzibar where I visited the famous Prison Island, home of the giant tortoises! There are so many things to do, you could be there the whole summer and not be bored (in fact I know people who were)!!

Would I recommend a trip to Dar es Salaam?

YES! Without a doubt. I had the most fantastic time and made some brilliant friends. Work the World made the experience not only easy to organise, but one that I won’t be forgetting in any hurry! If you want a mix of an eventful hospital placement in a developing country, a learning experience and an amazing African Adventure than a placement in Dar won’t disappoint you! I wanted to go back the moment I left! 

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