Friday, September 01, 2017

Lions and Sentinel Nodes! Oh My!

Eid Mubarak!

It seems surreal that two weeks have passed so quickly. As today is the holiday of Eid Al-Adha, the hospital has very little activity, and I'm taking the day to pack, catch up on correspondence, and perhaps pay one last visit to Slipway for lunch.

This was on Page 16 of the local English-language newspaper a few days ago. A coincidence with my arrival in country? I wonder...

I haven't posted since heading out to Ngorongoro Crater, so let me briefly fill you in on that incredible experience. I'll place some photos here, but they can all be found at THIS LINK for your leisurely perusal. 

I left Dar in the afternoon, flying to Arusha, the gateway to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. There is a larger airport in the area, Mount Killamanjaro field, built by Israelis I'm told, which was further away from the action. So I hopped on Coastal Air's afternoon flight to ARK:

You know you ain't on Delta when the pre-flight briefing from the pilot consists of: "Put on your seatbelts! By the way, if we don't get to Arusha before dark we'll have to to to Killamanjaro instead." 

We did make it, with only a little chop as we flew past Mount Killamjaro itself:

At least I think it was Kilimanjaro, as the pilot made no announcements. I had my phone going the whole time, since no one said we couldn't, and I was sending pics home from the air. Without GoGo Inflight.

Once safely on the ground, I was retrieved by Ernest, my guide for the weekend. Thanks to my friend Stacey, who has travelled extensively in these parts, I was connected to Ernest via his brother Allan, who was Stacey's guide here.

Let me stop and say right here that if I have the good fortune to return to Tanzania, I will be calling upon Ernest (and Allan.) He is the BEST, and I recommend him highly. If you are headed this way, let me give you his contact information. 

I spent Friday night in Karatu, as I arrived too late in the day to enter the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area itself. But Allan owns a place there, the Oldeani Safari Lodge, and it was very pleasant:

And the next day...Safari! I won't post every last little detail or photo...look at the Album if you like. The partial list of animals encountered includes lions, baboons, ostriches, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, fox, one elephant, hippos, Thompson's gazelles, zebras, hyenas, warthogs, and a fair number of humans in Land Cruisers.

I have to laugh when I think of the folks in the States who paid $100,000 for the GX570, the Lexus version of the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser. Little do they realize that their soccer-mom grocery-and-rug-rat transporter carries the heritage, the DNA, of these tanks of the savannah. I do have to tell you that the ride can only be described as punishing, which is not totally the fault of the vehicle itself. In this area, the roads are really little more that a giant collection of potholes, with some rather treacherous switchbacks. Many was the time I was convinced we were either going off the road and down an embankment or into an oncoming Cruiser. But that didn't happen, obviously. On trips like this, you have to put your fears aside, and trust your life to your driver or pilot, whatever the case may be. And that trust is most always justified.

Suffice it to say, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope to experience more than once!

After a long day with the animals, we went to the Serena Ngorongoro Hotel, where each room overlooks the Crater. Here is sunrise over the far rim, as seen from my balcony:

And alas, all good things must come to an end, so Sunday morning, Ernest drove me the three hours back to Arusha. Unlike the trip out, we were only stopped once by police at a roadblock. The junior officer checked Ernest's license, then the senior fellow wandered over, pointed to the front of the Land Cruiser, and remarked that Ernest had no winch. But fortunately, the gentleman owns a company that sells such things and perhaps Ernest might be interested. My guide had no need, but he gave out a relative's number who might be in the market. Such is life here, it seems.

The trip back was on a much larger Precision Airlines turboprop, with colors and flight attendant uniforms apparently stolen from 1970's Braniff. But for a small regional line, the trip was just fine, and they did make the passengers turn off their cell-phones.

This was a four-day week due to the holiday of Eid, but we still managed to get a lot done. Here Raghu is performing a MAG3 scan on a baby with renal problems. I convinced the urologist to try MAG3 instead of the more traditional DMSA, as the latter provides a much higher radiation dose to the kidneys.

I was shown a very unusual case of a neglected child:

I texted the images to my pediatric radiologist colleague back home, and we think this is a case of scurvey. We read about this entity in training, but pretty much never see it live.

Here I am with Dr. Tausi, the only Nuclear Medicine physician in Tanzania! Well, after I go home she'll again be the only one!

Dr. J., the Head of Radiology and for three more years, Chief of Staff of the hospital itself, took me to a wonderful BBQ dinner at Skewerz.

This is the Radiology reading room, although the department will be moving and expanding when the new wing is finished.

A DEXA is coming, but in the meantime, bone mineral density assessment is performed with CT.

Speaking of CT, this is Zara, the head CT technologist, making the Aga Khan Hospital's Philips 128-slice CT work to its maximum potential. 

On my second-to-last-night, Raghu and I had dinner at Akemi, the only revolving restaurant in Tanzania, 21 floors above street level. It may well be the most expensive restaurant in Dar, but the view is worth it. I won't tell you what the taxi driver on the trip back to my hotel offered to find for me if I would be so kind as to allow him to transport me to a club later on...

I think the highlight of the week, and in some ways the highlight of my entire visit, was the chance to oversee the very first Sentinel Node procedure done in Tanzania:

The tiny dot on the image shows migration of tracer to the "sentinel" node, the first node in the drainage pathway from a tumor site. By directing the surgeons to this node, using imaging and an inter-operative probe, it can be excised before any other nodes. If Pathology determines that this node has no disease, further dissection is unnecessary. I was present at the operation itself, and the surgeon handled the probe as if he had been using it his entire career. He even apologized to me for "taking so long" to find the node! (In my 36 years in the medical field, no surgeon has ever apologized to me in this manner!)

To me, this procedure illustrates the incredible potential and promise of Rad-Aid: An old Jewish radiologist from the Deep South of the United States has the opportunity to go to Africa and help its citizens, and here, the sentinel node patient and her husband were Muslim followers of the Aga Khan. They were very gracious, and demurred when I thanked them for consenting to be the first to have this done in country. In fact, the husband gave me what I consider the greatest complement I have ever received in my career: "G-d has sent you here to help her." I cannot vouch for that, of course, but certainly Rad-Aid, and those with Hyman-Ghesani Scholarship get much credit.

The other notable events of the week included another lecture to the staff on Tuesday, this one about PET/CT, and a meeting with the CEO and COO on Wednesday. I hopefully got the staff excited about PET/CT, a modality which has tremendous potential to help the victims of many cancers, and of other diseases as well. I am informed that the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi may be getting a PET facility, including a cyclotron, in the near future, and the presence of the cyclotron so close to Dar es Salaam will allow the possibility of placing a scanner here as well. This would be an incredible development, placing the Aga Khan Hospital System at the forefront of Oncology in this region.

I have discussed some of my ideas with the folks here, and present them only as my opinions, for whatever they might be worth. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts and observations:
  • I would like to set up some sort of semi-formal reading pipeline back to the US, perhaps including my group and others as suitable. The new Agfa PACS (it is what it is) will simplify the mechanics of such a conduit, but more bandwidth/faster Internet connections will be needed to make this practical. I realize this is a costly suggestion, but hopefully it can be made worthwhile.
  • While Dr. Tousi has great expertise and is doing a very good job with the Nuclear Medicine studies, as business improves, she will need help, and eventually AKH might want to have their own NM Consultant. In the meantime, PACS will enable Dr. Tausi to at least provide quick preliminary reports from her hospital, as she is "on loan" from the Ocean Road Cancer Centre down the street.
  • Similarly, Raghu is doing an incredible job as a "one-man-band" running the department all on his own. As business ramps up, he will need help for daily activities, and he will need a back-up so he can go on vacation with his family. I was very impressed with his professionalism, expertise, ability, and devotion to the department. 
  • For the more distant future, when the Radiology residency program is up and running, I would like to see cross-training the residents in Nuclear Medicine. This has been done since the ancient days when I was a resident in the U.S., but elsewhere NM remains its own separate field. Having been trained in both camps, I say with some regret that NM is at a disadvantage as a discrete entity with the advent of SPECT/CT, PET/CT, and ultimately PET/MR. Cross-sectional imaging has become the core of Nuclear Medicine AND Radiology, and the combination of the two for training seems to make sense. 
  • The promotion of Nuclear Medicine studies with the staff needs to continue. Dr. Tausi, Raghu, and I met with Marketing, and they have some thoughts on how to proceed. From my standpoint, I would suggest quickly getting an email, or even a physical letter, sent to every physician on staff. It doesn't have to list everything we can do in NM, but simply reiterate that the capability is there, and confirm that there are many things we can do to help the patients.
  • There was apparently some question raised by an earlier visitor about CT doses. This is not my area of expertise, but to the best of my ability to evaluate, the only problem is the use of multiple sequences. A CT of the abdomen might consist of a pre-contrast, arterial phase, venous phase, and several delays. In many if not most cases, not all of these are necessary. I have provided the protocols we use at home to Zara, the CT technologist, who is quite conscientious about this situation and will be able to contribute to the solution. While volumes are still relatively low (which will certainly change when the new department is ready), there is the possibility of tailoring each individual examination. There will follow a comfort level with fewer sequences in many circumstances.
  • Having seen what happened in Ghana, where the hospital had PACS but no RIS, I am happy to see that AKHS has chosen a combined RIS/PACS package. I understand the plan is to migrate the Clear Canvas and the Nuclear Medicine examinations to the new system. It is imperative that names, Medical Record Numbers, and birthdays are entered in a consistent manner to match the patient to all of his/her examinations and records. I'm assuming Agfa will have a migration tool to facilitate this process. It can be VERY tedious, but well worth it. I know from speaking with the head of IT that the Patient ID is central to the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital System, and he has a tremendous understanding of this critical concept.
​I came to Tanzania knowing no one, but I leave many friends behind upon my return home. I have been treated with warmth, courtesy, and the utmost kindness​ by everyone I have met here.

I hope to bring Mrs. Dalai here to see this incredible place for herself, and I would be honored to visit Aga Khan Hospital again in the future if I can be of any assistance. In the meantime, I'm expecting to hear from everyone via email or WhatsApp!

Until we meet again!

Asante Sana!!!!

1 comment :

stacey said...

Not Kili in the pic. Thanks for the props!!