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Imaging equipment from Westfields Hospital & Clinic helping diagnose patients a continent away

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An x-ray machine from Westfields Hospital & Clinic has taken an 8,500-mile journey to Africa to help patients in a mountain health center.

Doctors at the St. Luke’s Health Center in Bwambo, Tanzania, previously had no radiology equipment to diagnose patients arriving at the facility for care. The Imaging Department at Westfields Hospital & Clinic was looking to dispose of a portable x-ray machine for which it had no further need.

Mark Druffner, MD, shakes hands with Fr. Dr. Beda, physician at the St. Luke’s Health Center in Bwambo, Tanzania.

Thanks to St. Paul Radiology radiologist Michael Grogan, MD, and Hudson Physicians family medicine doctor Mark Druffner, MD, the Imaging Department learned of the need one-third of the way around the world, at the mountain-top health center in Tanzania.

“It was time for our department to purchase a portable x-ray machine with newer technology,” said Shannon O’Keefe, Director of Imaging at Westfields Hospital & Clinic. “Typically, the old machine would have been taken away and destroyed, but in discussions with Drs. Druffner and Grogan, we identified that although it no longer fit our needs, it could certainly fit the needs of this hospital in Tanzania. Through the sale of another old piece of imaging equipment, we were able to raise a sum to offset some of the cost of shipping the portable x-ray to Tanzania.”

A shipping company came to Westfields and constructed a special container to protect the x-ray machine on its long, ocean-bound journey. Then, it departed Wisconsin for Maryland. From there, it was shipped by boat on an eight-week voyage to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 8,520 miles from New Richmond, Wisconsin.

But that wasn’t its final destination. Next came a torturous trip, up into the 7,000 foot mountains in which St. Luke’s Health Center is located. Finally, upon arrival at St. Luke’s in Bwambo, the shipping container had to be gently pushed out of the truck onto a waiting pile of sand as there were no forklifts to be found in Bwambo to take it off the vehicle.

Dr. Druffner has brought his medical knowledge to the St. Luke’s Health Center in annual medical missions trips with his family through Partners 4 Hope Tanzania since 2009.

With no existing x-ray equipment and no radiology technicians at the Tanzanian hospital, no one there knew how to set up or operate an x-ray machine, and so after being shipped from Westfields, it sat for several weeks until Hudson Physicians’ Dr. Druffner flew out for this year’s visit.

Dr. Druffner had prepared for this trip like no other. Before leaving, he learned how to take x-rays so that he could teach Tanzanian staff. He also underwent training to reassemble and connect the x-ray’s computer, taking numerous photos and drawing schematic diagrams so it would all make sense once he was far away from the technical resources that are commonplace in U.S. hospitals.

“This is the first time they’ve ever had an x-ray,” said Dr. Druffner. “It’s now running well and is used every day. Trauma is one of the main things we see there. There are a lot of cheap motorcycles there and lots of motorcycle accidents, so there are a lot of femur fractures and head injuries. The x-ray also gets used for suspected cases of pneumonia or pulmonary tuberculosis.”

Months after the process started, O’Keefe received the first photo of the donated Westfields equipment, up and running in the St. Luke’s Health Center.

“I got pretty emotional to see that,” she said.

To find out more about the Partners 4 Hope Tanzania medical mission in Bwambo, Tanzania, visit partners4hopetanzania.org/.

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • 40,000 people served by St. Luke’s Health Center
  • 720 babies per year delivered at St. Luke’s
  • 220 V electrical voltage used in Tanzania
  • 50 outpatients per day at St. Luke’s
  • 20 inpatients per day
  • 5 weeks each year that Mark Druffner, MD, spends seeing patients and training staff at St. Luke’s
  • 1 x-ray machine from Westfields now making a difference

Photos: Left: Westfields Imaging team with the x-ray machine before it was shipped. Right: Dr. Beda, physician at the St. Luke’s Health Center in Bwambo, Tanzania, puts the Westfields x-ray machine to use.