Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ultrasound Week: February 27 - March 2, 2012

During the week of February 27 through March 2, 2012, the Seventh-day Adventist Health Centre in Buea hosted free screening ultrasounds. Drs. Caldwell and Franke met when they went to medical school at Loma Linda University in California. Dr. Caldwell is an Emergency Medicine specialist with additional training in ultrasound imaging. She agreed to come to Africa and help expand the services of the health centre by assisting and teaching Dr. Franke in the more advanced ultrasound techniques.

During the course of week, the doctors at the health centre offered screening ultrasounds to qualified patients. The doctors were able to practice their scanning techniques in multiple areas of sonography. With the improved technology in ultrasound, the imaging possibilities have expanded considerably. Whereas doctors used to wait hours or days for x-ray and CT scan reports, now the ultrasound can reliably show certain urgent medical conditions such as bleeding into the abdomen from a lacerated spleen or stones in the gallbladder or even blockages in the urinary system from kidney stones. Ultrasounds are ideally suited for resource poor settings like Africa because they do not involve multiple complicated parts and additional developing paper like an x-ray machine.

In total, the health centre screened 150 patients in just 5 short days. Many different areas of the body were examined. Examples include the heart for signs of rheumatic heart disease that still afflicts thousands of people in developing countries; eyes for retinal detachment or cataracts; bone joints for signs of spurs indicating arthritis. Of course, the abdomen and pelvis were the most common areas of interest. Many women have problems with menstrual irregularities or chronic pelvic infections. Many more people have stomach pains. Ultrasound allowed examination of many of the essential structures in the abdomen like the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, aorta, appendix, and more. Even a few lungs were scanned for signs of a pleural effusion (water in the lungs).

The week was a huge success. Both Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Franke learned how to do new scans with the ultrasound. Many people who were too poor to afford an ultrasound in the general hospital or private clinics were able to receive a scan. For most, it was reassuring to learn that their internal organs were ok. For a few, they learned they needed further treatment and work up. Many pregnant women were overjoyed to be able to see their unborn child for the first time. One young woman came from her prenatal visit at a neighboring hospital and had been told her baby was most likely dead. The nurse examining her was unable to detect a fetal heartbeat. When we did her ultrasound, we were happy to report a living, healthy baby inside!

Praise the Lord for giving us this opportunity to reach out to the community of Buea. We especially thank our support staff and volunteers who helped in the registration, crowd control, organization, and communication with the large numbers of people. It was not an easy job to keep order among so many. THANK YOU!