Langley Rotarians help babies in Zimbabwe

A one-day fundraiser by Langley Rotarians has sent $57,000 worth of medical equipment to an underfunded hospital in Zimbabwe.

Dr. Paul Thistle is a Canadian obstetrician who has spent almost two decades in Zimbabwe, a poor country in southern Africa.

In the last few months, Thistle has begun using the equipment shipped over thanks to a fundraising effort held at Langley’s Gateway of Hope shelter in 2012. Thistle spoke there about his work over the years and the need for better equipment to save lives.

In a letter this month to the Rotarians of Langley, Thistle talked about how the equipment has helped specific patients.

“We admitted a four-week-old baby boy, born at a local rural health clinic in the Mount Darwin district of rural Zimbabwe,” Thistle wrote.

“He presented with fever, vomiting and jaundice, and was diagnosed as having neonatal sepsis. Too weak to breastfeed, he is receiving breast milk by cup, intravenous antibiotics, phototherapy, and oxygen via the new oxygen concentrator donated by the Langley Rotary Maternal Child Health project.”

Another patient, a mother of four with HIV, was admitted with abdominal pain and swelling. An ultrasound diagnosed an internal abscess and intestinal blockage. The X-ray film used in diagnosis were paid for by the Rotary fundraisers.

The woman underwent a successful surgery.

“She is now recovering on intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and oxygen via an oxygen concentrator, the latter another donation of the Langley Rotary Maternal Child Health project,” Thistle wrote.

The rural Mount Darwin district has thousands of people living with HIV, most of them taking anti-retroviral medications to keep the disease in check. They are supported by a network of hospital staff, counsellors, and village health workers. “We hope that she and her family will be added to this list soon,” Thistle said.

The money for the equipment and support of Thistle’s work came from four local Rotary clubs as well as private individuals who came to the 2012 fundraiser, said Dr. Brendan Martin, a local physician and one of the Rotary event’s organizers.

He visited Thistle in Africa in 2010 and worked with him there. “I was really struck by the paucity of supplies that they had,” he said.

The new equipment paid for by Rotary’s fund was sent to Zimbabwe starting in September last year, and most of it has now been installed, Martin said.

Equipment that is taken for granted in Canada simply isn’t available in many hospitals and clinics, Martin said.

After a long career mostly with the Salvation Army, Thistle left that service last year and switched to working at a new, remote clinic about 200 kilometres from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has been a troubled country for more than a decade, suffering through hyperinflation and violent, manipulated elections.

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