Reaching the airport in Dar I had mixed feelings. Firstly, I was relieved. Having never travelled or flown on my own before, just reaching Dar was an achievement for me. I was also very excited and nervous at the same time. I was lucky to have met a couple of other of girls in the airport that were also heading to Dar with Work the World so together we met a smiling Alpha and Mark who took us straight back to the house.
The house was better than I could have imagined. The pool was definitely a huge bonus! All the staff team was really friendly, helpful and was always there if I needed anything. The food was delicious and I thought Rehema did an amazing job to caterer for everyone; there was always something for everyone no matter what you liked. Being on my own, I was initially very nervous to meet my other housemates but we all went out for a meal to get to know each other on the first night, we got on really well and I have come home with some amazing friends.
I worked in the district government hospital in Dar es Salaam for 3 weeks. With it being a smaller hospital, I was given a lot of hands on experience that I feel I wouldn't have got if I had gone to the larger teaching hospital. The radiography department consisted of a busy ultrasound room and an even busier general room, though it was probably the only department within the hospital with air conditioning which was a bonus!
I spent most of my first week in the ultrasound department as this was where the radiologist that was my mentor spent the majority of his time. The equipment was fairly modern and similar to the UK, however having not spent a great deal of time in ultrasound as a student and having no hands-on experience, I expected to be taking an observational role. However, after a couple of days I found myself carrying out a number of scans under the supervision of the radiologist, which was extremely exciting. I found it really interesting to see what kinds of scans were common in Tanzania compared to that of the UK. Also of interest, what the staff actually looked for in these scans. The majority were pregnancy scans as well as a few abdomens and the odd cardiac scan. What was intriguing was that the antenatal scans were not the typical 12 and 20 weeks scans, but could be as late as 38 weeks!
The rest of the time I spent in the general room which is where my interest lies and was a bit of a blast from the past for me. The equipment was very basic and included a wall suspended tube and film radiography, which I had expected but had never worked with before. Working in the dark room and processing the films was all very new to me. It was an experience that I wouldn't have much chance of having in the UK and one that definitely makes you appreciate the efficiency of CR and DR equipment. The positioning of patients was similar to the UK; however with the patients paying for the x-rays it was crucial to get it right first time. Radiation protection was scarce. There was a lead equivalent screen for staff, however other patients were often left in the room without protection whilst x-rays were taken.
I was able to undertake a number of x-rays often unassisted. The language was a bit of a barrier as the majority of patients spoke little if any English, but I managed to learn some basic Swahili and found that learning commonly used words such as 'breathe in' and 'stop breathing' was very helpful. The rest consisted of sign language and just placing the patients into position but I found this worked fairly well and the supervising radiographer Neama was never far away if I was struggling.
As I expected there were some things that were upsetting to witness but I found that going home and talking to the other people at the house about what had happened was a big help. It was also really interesting to hear all of their stories and we spent a lot of time sharing our stories at the end of a busy day. It was also nice after finishing at the hospital to come home and chill by the pool. The weekly Swahili lessons were always fun and very useful and we always found plenty to do on evenings even if it was just chatting or playing games after dinner. Of course, there was the Thursday night BBQ's to look forward too were the partying always continued into the early hours!
In my third week I went on the village experience, where I went to live with Mr Juma who lived in the village with his family. The village itself was beautiful and Zanzibar was a stunning island. It was a privilege to live with Mr Juma for the week; his family was very friendly and always made me feel welcome. He had two beautiful children who always kept me entertained. The hospital was only very small but extremely friendly, with very welcoming staff. The Radiography department was only very small with only about 15 patients a day therefore I didn't spend much time there which was good as it allowed me to view other parts of the hospital. I spent a day in theatre which was really enjoyable and a day in outpatients. It was really interesting to see what kinds of illness and symptoms the patients presented with and what treatments they received. The rest of my time was spent in maternity, which was definitely one of the highlights of my week, not only was I allowed to watch, but also to participate in a number of deliveries. As a radiographer this gave me the chance to do something that I would never be allowed to do in England and was a fantastic opportunity that I will never forget!
The activities throughout the week were really fun, the highlight being attending a turtle sanctuary were I fed and held a range of turtles from 10 years old to 3 days old that had just been rescued from the beach. Alli, our local guide was just brilliant. I thought going on my own would be a bit daunting and lonely but he always ensured that I felt comfortable and was enjoying myself. To top off the week instead of going back to Dar on the Saturday I went to one of the local hotels - Kendwa Rocks - for a Full Moon party on the beach. I was joined by everyone from the Work the World house and we all had a night to remember. It was a fantastic way to end an amazing week!
We were never bored on a weekend as there were so many things to do to keep us entertained. We visited a secluded island called Bongoyo Island, travelled to one of the hotels beautiful beaches, spent a weekend in Zanzibar and of course chilled by the pool back at the house! There were lots of lovely restaurants to eat in nearby that were all pretty cheap and our Saturday nights were often spent in the local night club Maisha. Of course, a two day Safari at Mikumi National Park in an incredible experience not to be missed.
All in all it was an incredible month. I did some fantastic things both within and outside of the hospital. It is something that I feel will definitely help me in my future career as a radiographer. I made some amazing friends and had an experience I will always remember and cherish.