Louisa native and recent Lawrence Co. High school graduate Warren Price, 20, is a sophomore at Morehead State University. Recently he went on a medical mission trip that lasted almost three weeks and I was lucky enough to speak with Warren about his adventure out of the United States.
Warren volunteered on the trip and saw 403 adults, along with 130 children receive medical attention. He also looked on as 226 children learned how to brush their teeth. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa where usually about 10 people a year die from climbing the mountain.
He was kind enough to put the experience into his own words and chronicle the trip.
Warren’s account of the trip…
“…I was gone to Africa for just shy of 3 weeks Dec 27th to Jan 15th. I flew out of Dulles international in D.C. and had two layovers (Vienna and Addis Ababa) before I flew into the very small JRO (Kilimanjaro) airport. Interesting though was that a 777 Boeing airplane that would literally be like a bus and just make multiple stops and the people who needed to get off, got off and the rest stayed on until takeoff again for the next destination.
The medical clinic I volunteered with is called MED-LIFE, which is a non-profit organization that provides health care to places around the world that in most cases wouldn’t have it otherwise. “Our mission is to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty, empowering them to live healthier lives.”
I took a polaroid camera and would let kids keep pictures of themselves, most were so afraid I would take them from them, as soon as I got it to come out good, they would grab it and take off running as fast as they could.
Each day we would travel to a village, usually about 1-1:45 away from our hostel on the outskirt of Moshi, Tanzania. The main highway was in fine condition, but you wouldn’t stay on it for long. The back roads were just sand/dirt and extremely bumpy with big dips and rocks, the locals would joke around with us and always asked us how we liked our free “African Massage”.
The villages were very remote and usually brought so many people that the clinic wouldn’t have a free second from 9am to 5pm. We brought 2 local doctors with every clinic, that was paid for by Medlife. Me and the other volunteers were split into different groups every day. The groups were Pharmacy- where the doctor would give you the prescription and you would count the pills or the dose, and have a translator explain when and how to take what. Triage- Where you would weigh, measure
temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. Tooth brushing- Most clinics had a lot of children, and with the younger children you would brush their teeth for them or show them how to and then let them have their own toothbrush and toothpaste to take home, a lot of the kids, it would be their first time ever brushing their teeth. However, you would be amazed because a great deal of the younger kids, their teeth are not relatively in bad shape because they don’t ever eat sugary items like we do in the states. Also some clinics in other places have trouble with kids bartering their toothbrushes and toothpaste for things such as food. Last group was the group with the doctors, who spoke decent English. A patient would come in and the doctor would translate his/her symptoms and you would discuss with them what is the best treatment and what medications are best.
Most of the cases were common infections, mostly fungal. Most people in the villages, men, women, and children would all have their hair shaved to prevent lice. However, you could easily spot white fungal infections because of this. Respiratory issues were common.
A big reason for women dying early would be because they would cook inside of a hut or room that had very poor ventilation so the smoke would just hover inside of the kitchen, this daily for your whole life is extremely dangerous.
There were two main reasons people couldn’t receive health care in these villages – 1. they didn’t have the transportation to a clinic in town, or 2. they couldn’t afford it. A specific instance I remember was a 49-year-old man completely dislocated his femur from his hip socket when he was 45. So for 4 years he had been completely unable to use that leg because he couldn’t afford the surgery. Our doctor arranged an appointment for pre-op at a local hospital and med life covered the bill, which was only 500$ American dollars. To us that would be miniscule to what we would expect to pay, but to someone in any of those villages, 500$ was a huge amount just like if we were expected to pay in full one of our surgeries.
We had little notecards of common phrases to talk to patients and communicate with them what we needed from them.
Like I mentioned in the convo we had, a big problem also is that young babies and children do not have regular doctor appointments if any in their life. So simpler problems like heart murmurs that can be watched for and screened for in America are never caught or even thought of in the villages. Along with thousands of other things kids are screened for. This leads to many kids getting a lot sicker then they needed to, possibly dying, over something that in America is easily curable or treatable when caught early.
Here are the numbers of people treated:
403 — Adults received medical attention
130 — Children received medical attention
226 — Children learned how to brush their teeth
A big part of the MedLife is also follow up care. Those of the 533 patients that needed some sort of follow up care, it would be provided from MedLife.
As you can tell MedLife has a great deal of expenses. These are paid for 100% through donations. While I was there I learned a great deal of donations came from Universities around America. There are over 200 MedLife chapters in universities across America. When I heard this I decided to look more into it. I did my research and talked to several Medlife coordinators and decided when I first came back to start a Chapter at Morehead. We are hoping to be an official university sponsored chapter before the end of this month and have our first official meeting at the end of February or beginning of March. The chapter however is not only about fundraising, it also focuses on providing education about global healthcare across our campus and community, make awareness for common problems those healthcare systems have, provide community service of all types focusing on mainly Rowan County, provide lectures by local physicians, organize volunteering trips abroad for Morehead Students, and much more. If anyone felt the need to or wanted to donate money they can definitely donate through the chapter, we are adopting a specific project in Tanzania in march and will fundraise to help it specifically, most likely a new clinic in a village we have not been to yet, a home, bathroom etc.
Tanzania’s terrain changes drastically, one moment you will be in the desert and another moment there is green everywhere.
I figured out I was leaving for Tanzania in late October, so I explored the options of traveling and soon learned where I would be staying in Tanzania was at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
I actually just had to have surgery right around then so I had to do it on faith that I would be in good enough shape or even allowed to climb it. I asked my doctor and he thought by then I would most likely be able to go, I just mentioned volunteering in Africa, I didn’t mention climbing Kilimanjaro, and he said that I most likely should be able to. So I went ahead and paid my down payment on the trip.
There are several routes up Kilimanjaro, from beginners to life long professional climbers. I picked one about in the middle, Machame Route, which actually is also the most popular. I didn’t want one that was just relatively easy, and I also obviously couldn’t do one that took extreme mountain climbing skills, permits, licenses, etc.
I also had to choose the route based on my available dates. I technically had only a slot of 6 nights, Monday-Saturday, the tricky part though was I was my plane was leaving at 5pm Saturday and the airport was pretty far away, not including the hike down.
I had to schedule my plane that way so that I wouldn’t miss any classes.
I checked out of my hostel on Sunday and into a hotel near the person who was in charge of the organization I booked the trip through. Safari Heroes , a company I definitely wouldn’t recommend, the owner was a guy lost between different companies only worried about the next dime he could make and ripping off Americans. He was almost impossible to get ahold of, I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for someone in MedLife, and he even forgot the other people in my group at the airport.
We left to Machame gate at about 9am, we went to rent things needed, such as sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc. that I was not able to fit/carry with me on the plane.
We were a group of 4, between us we had 2 guides, a cook, and 4 porters. The porters would carry everything from food to tents to gear to absolutely anything that was needed for the trip. Literally the second you stepped into the national park, that was it with civilization, there was no where anyone could buy anything, and everyone had to have everything that was needed for the 6 nights. You made a stop at a gas station before you went up to buy anything that you needed that you forgot.
We arrived at the gate about 12:30pm, and had to wait until about 2 until we could start the hike because It was raining really hard and made it impossible for the park rangers to tell that we paid for the trip and our park fees, Wi-Fi in Africa was absolutely horrible no matter where you went.
The group consisted of me, two Swedes, one of which was an accomplished mountain climber and one of his childhood friends. There
was also an Australian who traveled by himself to check Kilimanjaro off of his bucket list. The Australian quit on the first day, so fast I never even got a picture with him and only had small conversation with him. We were coming off of a rock and he slipped and fell down on another rock and broke or sprained his ankle about 4-5 hours into the first hike and couldn’t keep going.
National language of Tanzania is Swahili but also English. However, very few people speak English, just those whom have contact with tourists. Most people only know Swahili and usually the language of their home village.
Everyday we woke up at about 6:30 and usually left at 8 for the hike and would climb/hike usually until it was getting darker. However, we had several breaks and stops during every hike because the motto of climbing Kilimanjaro is, POLE POLE , which means slow slow. It can be found on every shirt or picture. It’s so important because it is very important to go slow because as you go farther up in altitude the air becomes very thin and you can easily get Altitude sickness.
Success rates vary depending on route but most are from, 25% to 60% depending on number of days usually, the more days the more you can get acclimated to the height. Trips that last from 8-14 days have the best success rates at 14 days.
The second to the last day was the hardest in difficulty. We had to mountain climb straight up a cliff which was definitely the hardest and scariest part of the trek.
Climbing the mountain, you go through all 5 main ecological zones. Bushland- Rain Forest- Heath-Alpine Desert-Arctic
Mount Kilimanjaro is 5895 meters, just under 20,000 feet, the worlds tallest free standing mountain, tallest mountain in Africa, thus one of the 7 summits of the world.
On the second to last day, You make it the camp at the bottom of the summit at 7pm, you eat dinner real quick and sleep until 11:30 when you then start your summit in the pitch dark and freezing cold. Other than the first day and half the mountain was very cold, even though it was the middle of summer in Africa.
Every morning you could shake a layer of ice off of your tent. You make it to the summit at sunrise and stay to take pictures, on the very top every step feels like you just ran a marathon so literally every single person wants to head down as fast as possible. You literally have to pick a spot like 10 feet in front of you and make it your goal to reach there, then take a break and pick a new spot/goal.
You sleep in tents 2 people per tent, but I had my own since the Australian quit the first day. You eat rice mainly, popcorn for snacks, some sort of mystery meat on top of the rice, hot soup, drink ginger if you get sick, water, and some fruit. For breakfast usually scrambled eggs and hot dogs without the bun. However, at such an altitude one of the side effects is loss of appetite and nausea. I did not eat any the last 3 days except for the soup, drank lots of water, and had a few energy bars I had to force myself to eat.
The Swedes quit on the second to last day because of altitude sickness.
On the mountain I was fine for the first 3 days but the last days I got fevers every night, couldn’t eat, and froze in my sleeping bag.
When I reached the summit I was so tired, hungry, and scared I would miss my plane the next day I decided that I was going to forgo the last camp on the way down and walk all the way back.
I reached the camp we left from at 12:30pm and was forced to take an hour break, park rangers strictly enforced certain rules such as breaks after summiting and not hiking more than around 14 hours in one day. I then had to go through 3 more camps before I finally reached the gate where someone was to pick me up. I got there at around 2 am. So I had been hiking from 11:30 pm on Thursday night to 2 am Saturday morning and had done around 30 miles in that span.
I was forced to fill out a medical leave form in order for the park ranger to let me exceed my 14 hour hike limit, which all rangers thought carrying ak-47 made them look intimidating, and I had to get a “medic” to pick me up, not really a medic just a random person they hired. He wasn’t at the first gate in time so I just walked towards the very end of the park until I found him. Without me knowing I thought he was taking me to my hotel but he actually took me to the local hospital at 2 am because that’s what he said he had to do with everyone who filled the medical forms out. After
arguing for 20 minutes in the middle of no where screaming at each other, neither could speak the other’s language, I finally got it through to him that I just needed to go to hotel because I thought I might have some antibiotics there and handed him a 20$ bill and he finally quit arguing and took me. Once I got to the hotel I just then realized that every porter and the guide had climbed in the back of the safari truck and mobbed me in the lobby of my hotel for tips, once I tipped them, they stayed in the hotel until around 3-4 arguing how much each person got, and even called to my room for me to settle it, which I just went back upstairs and let the head guide decide.
Three days before I got there a man in his 30’s died from a heart attack near the top because developments of the thin air. The day I summited a young women most likely middle 20’s had to be helicopter out, I did not hear of the exact reason, but everyone is very serious anytime someone gets to that point. The guides are super quick about getting people down the mountain to lower elevation and in this case to the nearest helicopter pad.
Usually about 10 people a year die from climbing the mountain.
Once I got to the hotel I took a much needed shower and packed my bags for the airport after I got to sleep in and eat a breakfast which I finally got my appetite back for…”
(Editor’s Note: For those of you who don’t know Warren, he is the son of Louisa First Baptist pastor, Brother Chuck Price and his wife Emma. Warren was an outstanding football player for the LCHS Bulldogs. His dad has also put in considerable time in far-away places doing mission work as has his granddad, Dr. Charles Price, pastor of Cherryville Baptist Church.)