It was a beautiful afternoon in June when Emma, her sister Kikka and I left Bagamoyo to pick up Seratiani, her mother and young daughter in their village in Mnindi. For years ASFE has been trying to find help for Seratiani who is suffering from a severe case of Elephantitis in her left leg. We have been turned down by three hospitals in Dar es Salaam and side tracked by her pregnancy and the birth of Ruth the day after Christmas 2013. This was to be our last chance. We were going to Muhimbili Hospital in Dar es Salaam but first, due to the long distance, we needed to get them to Bagamoyo.
The drive between Bagamoyo and Mnindi included 47 kilometers of rained-out dirt roads and a rutted tarmac road loaded with speeding massive trucks and buses that are always trying to pass each other. The dirt road was exceptionally bad due to the heavy rainy season; we had to maneuver past several trucks and buses travelling in the opposite direction on the narrow road, and in the final 5 kilometers we encountered a road construction crew who had dumped large amounts of dirt and rocks in our path and were preparing to smooth it out, but hadn’t yet.
Once we reached Mnindi, we still had to drive down a beaten path to the Masaai village. As the sun set we approached the village, parked and walked the remaining distance to Seratiani’s hut.
Seratiani and her mother were dressed in the traditional Masaai clothing while Ruth was dressed like a princess. She looked so cute and out of place. We spent a little time with the families, bartered for 8 chickens and finally loaded the car. She hadn’t thought about our return trip when Kikka asked to join Emma and me. She sat squished in the back seat with the Masaai women with the squawking chickens behind her. The dirt roads were too dangerous for us (6 women and 8 chickens) at night so we took a long round-about way and returned to Bagamoyo at midnight, exhausted but happy to be home.
By 5 am we were on the road again towards Dar es Salaam, minus Kikka and the chickens. We were hopeful that this was to be the day to find out if there was hope for Seratiani’s future. We had no appointment but had been told on a previous visit with a SES student to just show up. So that is what we did and it worked. After an hour Seratiani, Emma and I were placed in a exam room where a kind female doctor examined Seratiani and ran several blood tests on her. She was so brave having her first IV put in. Except for a UTI, all tests were negative, and we could then proceed with our questions. “Can we meet with a surgeon”, I asked. “Highly unlikely”, I was told because, the doctor said, “Most are in surgery”. But within an hour, we had two cheerful surgeons in the room with us. A few more phone calls were made and another surgeon arrived followed by a plastic surgeon. They consulted with Seratiani and us … we all agreed – it is possible.