As I am writing this portion of the post, we are sitting on the plane somewhere over the North Sea approximately 9 hours from Houston. The past week has been filled with mixed emotions – we feel great happiness at the thought of heading home after two months away, but at the same time, we feel sadness for leaving such a wonderful country (and the weather!) and all the wonderful people we’ve met. There is still so much left to be done at the hospital, but we know that it is a process that’ll take much, much longer than the time allotted to us here in the program.
As we had quite a bit of paperwork to complete before our end-of-program conference, we decided (sadly) to reduce the number of pieces of equipment on which we attempted repair during the last week. Although we certainly take more pleasure in repairing equipment, there are also important things to be learned through the process of speaking with people to complete the necessary paperwork.
Nevertheless, we were able to wrap up all of our outstanding repair requests from the previous week, as well as fulfill a couple extra requests that popped up at the end of the week. Early in the week, we received an examination light that we had previously repaired. The examination light, however, presented a whole new set of problems, the most notable being that the light would not turn on at all. The first problem that we discovered was that the metal bar that serves as neutral was completely broken. We secured it as best we could, however, the repair was not as simple as this. Even with neutral continuous throughout the device, the light would still not illuminate. Dustin then dug deeper into the other side of the connector and realized the live wire had become detached deep inside of the plastic piece. Fortunately, he was able to solder it back together, and we applied epoxy to keep the wire from shorting against neutral. After this, the repair was complete, and we were able to return a working examination light again to the floor.
A couple of weeks ago, we took an incubator from the room in the Pediatrics Department that houses broken and spare equipment (recall we worked on the two phototherapy lights from this room). As there were a number of repaired incubators sitting unused, we delayed this repair while we worked on more pressing matters. However, as we were trying to wrap up all of our loose ends at the hospital, we decided to take a look during our last week. By bypassing the switch and turning on the piece of equipment, we determined that the problem was solely the switch, which was always in the “on” position; even so, the incubator did not turn on. We took the switch apart, and we observed evidence of melting/fire. We used epoxy to hold the pin in the proper position and a soldering iron to melt the plastic to correct the position of the metal piece that makes the connection between the switch and the remaining circuitry.
After putting the switch back together, we were able to turn the incubator on and off. After completing tests to check that the alarms were functional and whether the incubator could hold at the set temperature, we determined the device was repaired.
Our final repair of the summer was a set of two negatoscopes (light boxes used to view x-rays) in the Pediatrics Department. The negatoscope on the right was plugged into an outlet in the hall, while the one on the left was hard-wired through the wall.
The first was a fairly easy fix; the power outlet into which the negatoscope was plugged was not actually supplying any power. We asked one of the BMETs who also happens to be an electrician to rewire the outlet to bring power from elsewhere. After repairing the outlet, the negatoscope turned on.
The second negatoscope had far more problems, as it was indeed receiving power. In the end, we replaced all of the starters and bulbs; at this point, however, it only turned on intermittently, indicating a problem with the switch. After replacing the switch, the unit turned on every time… now the doctors have two working negatoscopes right outside of their offices (they had previously been taking x-rays to another building across the large hospital for viewing)!
On our last morning at CHUK, we attended the weekly BMET staff meeting and brought breakfast to say thank you for all the BMETs had done to help us throughout the month. The BMETs surprised us with a card and gifts; they are truly some of the nicest folks we’ve ever met. Then, we walked through our favorite departments to say goodbye to and take pictures with our new friends.
On Saturday, all of the students reunited for the end-of-program conference in Kigali. Each of the groups presented a summary of the second month at their hospital as well as information about their experiences in their towns. It was nice to be able to compare our experience at a large hospital with those of the students at the smaller, more rural hospitals – the challenges are certainly different. Here are pictures of the students in the conference room and our bungalow-style hotel room.
On Sunday afternoon, we boarded our flight at Kigali International Airport for the start of our long journey home.
After almost 8 hours, we landed in Doha and made our way (after several hours getting through the airport) to the hotel. When we finally made it to the hotel, it was 2 am, and the staff encouraged us to grab dinner (it was free; thanks Qatar Airways!), to which I immediately responded… “it’s 2 am! I don’t want to eat dinner.” He responded with, “No, go check it out and then come back, and I’ll have your rooms ready.” We finally agreed, and boy are we glad we did! The buffet was enormous with foods of every variety, and they had a whole section dedicated to probably 30 different types of desserts (for those of you who don’t know, I absolutely love dessert… it is the best part of any meal!). So, we each grabbed a plate and a sampling of the desserts, and that’s what we ate for dinner in the middle of the night (hey, how many chances do you get to eat free desserts in Doha at 2 am?).
We were told that our shuttle would leave from the hotel at 6 am for our 9 am flight, so I set my alarms for 5 am so we could shower and be ready to go. They also indicated that we’d receive a 5:30 am wake-up call. Around 5:25, I woke Dustin up so he could shower; however, I soon made the realization that I had not changed my phone from Kigali time to Doha time, so it was, in fact, 6:25 am. After a few tense moments worrying that we’d miss our flight, we got a 6:30 am wake-up call from the front desk, indicating that our shuttle would leave at 7 am. It turns out that the reception had been an hour off earlier that morning, so we were right on time!
About 16 hours later, we happily landed in Houston, TX. After getting through immigration, baggage, and customs, we picked up our rental car (a VW Jetta!) and started on the final leg of our journey home, stopping at Buc-ee’s to pick up some much needed coffee and snacks. There’s nothing like coming home after a long time away! One downside to being away for so long are the massive weeds that greet you…
We’ve been home for almost a week now, and we’re finally getting back into a rhythm. Mom and Dad brought Jetta (our beloved dog) back home to us this weekend, and we are certainly glad to see them all. We’ve been eating at all of our favorite restaurants, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time walking around my favorite supermarket (HEB, for you Texans). We missed a lot of things, like: our friends and family, our dog, shower curtains, cold cereal, cold sandwiches, driving, vacuum cleaners, decently fast internet, continuous water and electricity, getting free ice water at restaurants, etc. I know it sounds cliché, but we never realized quite how lucky we were until we took this trip. That being said, we do believe that Rwanda is an amazing place to visit, with plenty to do, see, and learn. We would highly recommend a visit for anyone who finds him/herself with the opportunity. We had an amazing experience and learned so much about ourselves and what we can do to continue to help. We will never forget this trip and the new friends we made. Thank you all again for all of your kind words and support – it meant the world to us to have you following our journey.