A Friend Indeed: Local Medic Brings Hope To Zambia

Posted by on Nov 02, 2010 | Leave a Comment

ScreenHunter_24 Nov. 02 09.54

Despite the competing lure of a sunny Labour weekend evening on the beach or around the barbie, St Augustine’s Church in Calliope Road was full on Sunday to hear Dr David Friend talk about his medical work in Africa.

Dr Friend, a former Belmont local, has worked abroad for many years and is now based at the Mukinge Mission Hospital in north-western Zambia, near the border of DR Congo. The hospital is next to a leprosy village, and also has a school nearby.

Beneath his gentle and reserved demeanour, Dr Friend is clearly a man of deep inner strength who works in some of the most distressing situations we, in our well-provided for Western lives, could ever imagine. While there is no major war in Zambia, the illnesses and wounds treated by Dr Friend are those of poverty, lack of education, insufficient basic hygiene provision and inadequate resources. He sees many AIDS orphans, terrible burns on children who are essentially unsupervised whilst their mothers work in the fields, and bites from children putting their hands into rat holes looking for something for dinner.

We saw a slide show of many of his medical cases which, whilst perhaps rather alarming for the squeamish and faint-hearted amongst us, was extremely enlightening as to the reality of day to day life in this part of the world.

One of the main parts of Dr Friend’s work is in the leprosy village, and it is clear that whilst this disease is slowly dying out, it has very severe consequences for those who still suffer. What I didn’t know was that the injuries to lepers’ hands and feet are usually caused by accidents occurring after the extremities become numb, rather than the disease itself eating the body. So one of the important parts of this work is to ensure that patients learn to manoeuvre themselves in a manner least likely to cause unintentional injury.

We saw some ingenious adaptations of the Kiwi jandal to fit hands which were still functional but needed protection.

Despite the harrowing nature of many of these cases, Dr Friend emphasized the cheerful and accepting character of many of his patients. Music plays a big part in the lives of many Zambians, and the nursing trainees were seen not only tending to their charges but also singing to them, in choruses of great beauty and passion.  The pleasure and comfort many of the patients get from the music was very clear, whether they be in the hospital, the leprosy village, or in the prison where Dr Friend also works and ministers.

As regular readers will know, Speculady has a particular interest in Africa, and we are currently running a sponsored slim to raise money to fund a Gambian law student.  Listening to Dr Friend reinforced to me the need for all of us to be aware of the world around us and of how little others have compared to us in our beautiful and affluent town.

We are truly lucky people, and one way we can really show our appreciation and gratitude for all that we have is to share with those who have less than us. This can be in our own country, where poverty does still exist, or further away, in Africa, Asia or anywhere else in the world. Hearing a man of such humility and faith was inspiring and I am grateful for the experience.

If you would like to contribute to the fund call Dr Friend on 445-3554 or email thefriendstrust@gmail.com for more information or to make a donation to The Friends’ Medical Care Trust or donate to ANZ Devonport account no 01 0137 0073585 00

To join the Devonport Speculator’s sponsored slim contact us on admin@speculator.co.nz

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