After several years of building the new Orthopedic SurgeryCenter at Machame Lutheran Hospital, collecting specialized equipment across Alegent and beyond, shipping it across the ocean and up the mountain, getting everything in place, innumerable meeting and attempts at meetings to move the necessary processes forward with our partners, and despite the fact there are still things to do before we really are open for business, and after at least 5 date changes…. the official dedication of the Ortho Center occurred Aug 7, 2007. Our guest of honor being the President of Tanzania: Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
I must say I hadn’t much enthusiasm, what with the date changes and especially since we still have yet to utilize the new facility and equipment. Ken Lawonn, Sr Vice President at Alegent who is my boss had come over for the ceremony. And we were both scheduled to depart for the US on Aug 5. When the president’s date (hence the ceremony’s date) changed (yet again) this time to the 7th we said we would just have to miss it But the folks here told us how important our presence was…So we reluctantly delayed our departure….
In true Tanzania fashion, all the decorations and planning came together right at the last moment. The enthusiasm was palpable and building as we got updates of the president’s progress. Thousands of people lined the roads waving plant fronds of respect and celebration, with hundreds in our hospital compound to catch a glimpse of the president and first lady. When the motorcade arrived (they use Toyota Landcruisers in Africa) the excitement crescendoed, the noise of the african tongue trills (vigelegele) deafening, plus the brass band and more. The President almost leapt out to greet and shake hands with the key leaders which included Ken and I. Then there was the signing of the guest book (a real Tanzania tradition…we are now proud to to show the signatures of each and every president of Tanzania in Machame Hospitals guest book.)
Following a brief explanation of the purpose and history of the center, the president, using surgical scissors presented on an instrument tray by a pretty nurse in uniform, cut the ribbon and a flood of people entered the new orthopedic surgical center. The president, first lady and other officials (equivalent of our governor and mayor) were shown the facility, equipment and their uses by several of the Drs.
The president stopped to greet two patients who had had broken femurs fixed at Machame (albeit not in the new surgery- though I don’t think anyone mentioned this.) Then it was across the street to a podium decorated with the green blue and black of the Tanzanian flag for a speech from the president saying how impressed he was with this modern facility and the importance of the cooperation between church and government and more. Then, more handshakes with those involved with special recognition for Alegent and it’s support.
Finally, the president and entourage waded through the crowd and departed amidst much cheering…after which everyone continued to buzz about what a great and regular guy he seemed to be, how lovely and gracious Mrs Kikwete was, and how important this was for the people of Machame.
Right after this Ken Lawonn and I departed for the airport. For the first time ever I was heading for home not discouraged and in despair, but rather upbeat, with enthusiasm and confidence that, even though there will be more challenge ahead, we will finally bring this dream to fruition. As Ken said, it was a good thing we stayed for the ceremony as it turned out to be very worthwhile in building the momentum to get this thing done.
The true celebration will be in order each and every time a patient gets care in this facility…but in the meantime, this was not bad!!
Mungu awe nasi / God be with us.