Gitwe, Rwanda | March 15-21, 2015

A group of nine team members traveled on a long 24 hour journey to Rwanda, Africa. The group spent the next morning setting up the operating and recovery rooms while simultaneously triaging patients. By the early afternoon, the Kibagabaga Hospital was set up and the teams had screened numerous potential patients for the early part of the week.In total, we screened about 15 individuals in the morning. Two were unfortunately turned away, one for a pregnancy and one for high blood pressure, but they remain strong candidates for surgery next year. After a few hours working through the language barrier with the aid of interpreters and local patients with English understanding, we narrowed down a list of patients for the next few days.The afternoon’s agenda consisted of two surgeries. The first patient, a beautiful young 22 year old woman from Kigali, named Patricia, got the group off to a great start with a very successful surgery.

Surgery Day Two Sunday March 16, 2015

Day two started with a beautiful sunrise and a jog around Kigali for a couple members of the team. With the patients already screened the night before, the team got right into pre-op procedures upon entry into the hospital.

A group of residents followed the team around today, learning and actively participating in the surgeries. These people proved very valuable, especially in dealing with the language barrier between our group and the locals. The team was able to perform five surgeries, although delayed throughout the day by instrument sterilization.

Each patient carries their own unique backstory and personality. Nyiraregwa is the mother of eleven children and has worked on a farm her entire life. This was her first time going to the doctors. Her positive energy filled the hospital and she soon gathered and entertained a group of women around her in the pre-op room.

Surgery Day Three Sunday March 17, 2015

Day three proved to be very busy here for the team. With a schedule full of patients, we grabbed an early breakfast at 6 and went straight to the hospital to start work.More residents and local nurses came to observe and learn in the OR today.  A Swedish medical school student and a Swedish doctor, conducting research in Kigali for a few months, joined us to observe surgeries in the morning. In addition, the two residents from yesterday remained with us along with local two anesthesia techs, and a nursing student.

Dr. Paul with the two residents, Drs. Tuyishimire and Nkurunziza

As word spread about our procedures here, more potential patients journeyed to the hospital to be examined. Madaline and I continued to triage individuals, with the help of Dr. Nkurunziza. In total, another twenty potential surgical patients remain on the waiting list for the remainder of the week, with more expected to come in tomorrow. Madaline joked as we screened these patients, asking if we could stay three more weeks instead of just three more days. That’s one of the hardest parts of the trip, not being able to perform surgeries on all of the well-deserving people that come here. We’re just touching the surface on the people we can help here

Surgery Day Four and Five Sunday March 18-19, 2015

Finally settling in to a consistent sleep schedule, the team arrived at breakfast well rested and ready to go. The local media joined us today, interested in seeing our work here and the great results from yesterday’s surgeries. The news coverage brought in a flow of more people interested in receiving the medical treatment so many desperately need.

Dr. Jag being interviewed by the media on our work here.

A boy named Christian and his mother arrived today, the youngest boy we’ve seen by far at just four years-old.

After another long day of operating the team had conducted 19 surgeries thus far, and headed home to enjoy some native dancing and food.

A driver of wheat from Tanzania to Rwanda, David was one of the kindest and most professional patients we dealt with. After about an hour and a half in the operating room, he emerged with rest results. Hours later, after he woke up from the anesthesia and felt strong enough to return to his family, I stopped over to visit him one last time. With tears in his eyes, he grabbed my hand and muttered a humble ‘thank you.’ Little moments like those almost brought me to my knees at the work we were doing here. In just a short time, we were able to change the lives of so many deserving people and their families, and it was humbling to see how much it meant to them.

While the last few surgeries went on, Vianney and I continued to screen more and more patients. Another 20 people showed up on our last day of surgery, all unable to receive our help until next year. This was one of the hardest and heartbreaking things to do. It was hard to believe the full week had gone by and I would have to leave these amazing people and beautiful country.

Overall, the team blew me away with all of their work and selflessness throughout the trip. Each person gave up vacation time to travel across the world, working extremely hard in tough conditions to make a difference in other people’s lives. I’m humbled to be part of such an incredibly gifted and caring team. When asked about my favorite or most memorable part of the trip, I respond without question that it was the people. From the doctors and nurses on our team, to the staff at our hotel, to the patients and their families, I was in constant awe of how truly amazing these people are.