Friday, 5 October 2012

Unexpected hospital visit

While on Holiday in Tanzania Little Man woke up early one morning with a coughing spell.  When I went to check on him I noticed he was burning up with a fever.  While I had pack lots of first aid supplies in my bag I never thought to pack a thermometer!  I woke my husband up to find the children's aspirin I had pack in our bags.   I rushed to dampen some towels with cold water to lay on my son.    It took quite a while to calm my son down and get him back to sleep, in the mean time I worried about the fever that was obviously high.  My husband will attest that I can manage most childhood illnesses with ease but the kids having high fever puts me over the edge with worry.  Not having a thermometer to properly gauge the seriousness of the fever was, for me, quite worrying.  Just to touch my son's skin told me it was high, very, very high!  On a side note my children do NOT get sick often and when they do it is usually serious.

My husband has traveled to Africa many times and quickly assured me that this could not be malaria, which was my first thought, as we had not passed the incubation period.  While I soothed my son and tried to bring down his fever with cold clothes,  my husband stepped outside our room with his cell phone and computer to look up symptoms and try to get an idea what we were dealing with.  Later this morning we were to leave the Ngorangoro Crater and drive further away into the Serengeti.  Not something either of us wanted to do with an ill child. 

My husband had gone to the Hotel's front desk to see if there was a doctor in the area and was told there was a clinic not far away where the hotel always sends their sick Western  guests.  They would call and see if the doctor was in and get us seen as soon as possible.  After breakfast we found out we had an appt for 9:00, we just had to wait for our driver to arrive.  Today of all days our driver  arrived late to pick us up.  We had no way of contacting him to see where he was or request that he come ASAP!    When our guide and driver arrived we were 30 minutes late for our appt.  I was barely keeping it together by the time he arrived. My son's fever did not appear to be getting any better.  Also, quite honestly, I worried about what kind of medical care my son was about to receive.  What kind of medical clinic were we taking him too and would it be the quality of care that I wanted for my son and above all would it be safe!!!!

I am ashamed to admit that while I loved everything we had seen on our Holiday in Tanzania I couldn't help but notice (and be saddened by) the poverty, the lack of clean water, the pollution in the streets and the living conditions that the people of Tanzania endured.  This was not what I was used too and in my arrogance I thought that my son would only receive the best medical care back in the Western world.  I was ready to quit my family's holiday and get on the first flight back to modern civilization!  Later, my husband admitted that he too had similar thoughts, while he wouldn't have minded if he was the one sick, he knew he would never forgive himself if anything should happen to our son.  Suddenly for both of us the wisdom of coming to Africa was being questioned as we worried about our son.

Fortunately all of our fears were for naught and we discovered an amazing facility working towards offering the Tanzanians the best of modern medicine.  FAME Africa medical clinic was about 10 miles away from the hotel but on the secondary roads we had to travel on took us over 30 minutes to get too.  When we arrived we noticed that the entrance was quite busy with lots of visitors lining up waiting to be seen.  At first I was worried that we would have to stand in this long line before waiting for treatment as we were already 30 minutes late.   I was told by our driver that the doctor was waiting for us.  We went into the clinic and I was pleased (and surprised) to see how clean the facility was.  My husband was impressed also; out of the many places he's been to in Africa, this was probably the nicest medical facility he'd seen in "the bush".

We only waited a few minutes before the doctor came out and ushered us into the examining room.  Taking Little Man's temperature we found out it was 103.7 degrees.  Little Man had some blood drawn to determine how bad his infection was to see if he needed IV fluids or not.  Fortunately we had caught the infection in time and he avoided the need of IV fluids.  We were given antibiotics and Dr. Artress was kind enough to put my mind at ease telling me that if Little Man was his son he would continue on with the holiday as he would be feeling better in a couple of days.  While there the Doctor noticed my husband was also coughing and also gave him antibiotics as a precaution.

While there we got to see the facility and spoke to Dr. Artress and his wife about his clinic and how it came about.   Dr. Artress came to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and nearly died.  Thankfully he had some amazing guides who were able to help him get medical care immediately.  He then decided to give up his practice in the states and return to Tanzania to give back to the community that had helped him.

The outpatient medical clinic opened in 2008 and currently serves the Karatu area.  In 2006 a mobile treatment unit was opened with the Doctor going further into the bush to treat those in need.  This service is still provided today

The facility is spotless and just recently they have completed their surgical unit where they will be able to perform surgeries and help with pregnancy complications

They have a working lab as Little Man had his blood drawn here.

Dr. Artress outside his clinic.

Both my Husband and I were so impressed with this facility and the work that is being done for the people of this region.  In addition to paying for the medical services we received we made a donation to the running of this clinic, as the clinic funds itself through the income it receives providing medical care to Western tourists and through donations.  We have also vowed that we will continue to support this clinic in the years to come.  It isn't often you can see first hand what your money is doing for those in need.  Having been to this area and seen the needs of the community it is a amazing to see the work being done by this Doctor Artress and his wife, Susan.  I would encourage you to look at his web site and if you can, consider helping this facility,  I can personally vouch for it:)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Well, that gives a whole different meaning to the phrase "field trip", but it certainly sounds educational! I am glad you were able to continue your trip and that your little man was okay.

  3. Wow, how scary! But, I'm so glad all turned out well and your family learned alot along the way. That's wonderful you found such a great doctor and facility, an unexpected and welcomed surprise for sure!

  4. That must have been so scary. Needing medical care while on vacation is something that has always left me with an uneasy feeling. Now that Jemma has Leukemia it is an even bigger consideration. We can't go anywhere for the next 2 years, but when we do start traveling I think we will know where the medical facilities are ahead of time.

    I'm glad he is alright.

    1. What you and your family are going thru is much tougher and I did think of you while going thru this and when I wrote it all down. For me this scary moment only lasted a couple of hours while you are still dealing with your daughter's crisis.

  5. Wow, this was a scary adventure; that I wouldn't want. I am so happy that they had a good medical facility. I would be in a panic if my son was running a high fever in the areas you have been in. I am grateful that he could receive good care.
    Blessings and prayers for you all!

  6. I am glad that everything worked out so well! Reading the first part of your post was totally making me freak out though! I would have been a hysterical basket-case.

  7. So glad your son is ok! Scary stuff!

  8. Oh my goodness! We remember our holidays for being wonderful . . . or awful. I think this one hits both ends of the scale. I'm so glad you found such wonderful care. I'm with you. I can handle a lot of things. But not a sick child. Thank you for sharing this!