I woke up at 4 am and tossed and turned for an hour before giving up on sleep altogether. Since I went to sleep at midnight, that didn’t amount to much rest, but what can you do? I read a book for an hour and a half before getting up and going down to breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel is pretty nice; there’s a buffet with fruit, yogurt, cereal, juices, and pastries and they make eggs, bacon and sausage to order.
At 8 am John and I met our study coordinator, Salome (pronounced with two syllables, like Shalome), and the three of us crammed into the cab of her truck (quite uncomfortable since it’s a manual) and drove down the road to MRCZ (Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe) where we had to submit some revised forms for approval. I’ll write more about dealing with these people later.
Next we were off to Wilkin’s Hospital where there is a TB clinic every Wednesday morning.
For the next 4 hours we sat with the doctors and saw the patients that came in with TB. Wilkin’s is a referral clinic so most of the people who come in have been treated for TB before. We saw 12 patients before lunch and enrolled our first patient in our study!
Oh, and did I mention that it was 95 degrees that day and there’s no air conditioning? And of course we were wearing our N95 respirators all morning so we didn’t breathe in any contaminated air. It was less than ideal and my face was pretty sweaty by the time we finished. Most of the patients were doing well on treatment (all TB and HIV drugs are free, being subsidized by WHO and many foreign governments) but one woman recently became pregnant even though one of the first line TB drugs is potentially teratogenic. And another woman just found out that her TB is resistant to all first line drugs. It was heart breaking and a bit scary at the same time.
After the clinic was over we went to the BRTI (Biomedical Research and Training Institute) where we have an office and John introduced me to many of the staff. I met about 15 people, which is not even everyone, and I’m still trying to get all of the names straight. We had some meetings with some of the people and I arranged to look at an apartment the following day.
John had a meeting at 4 pm regarding a BSL3 that is being built at one of the hospitals so I joined him for that. We got very poor directions from someone and although we were only 15 minutes late getting to the hospital where the meeting was, it took us 30 min, 3 phone calls, and asking half a dozen people where the old WHO offices were. Oh, and John’s cell phone only has spotty reception so we had a hard time actually getting a hold of anyone. We finally found the room (which was nowhere near the WHO offices) just at the meeting was coming to a close. Oops.
There was a dinner that evening with some other UCSF and UZ (University of Zimbabwe) staff and faculty that we were invited to and we got a ride from one of the profs at the meeting. However, when we got to the restaurant where we thought the dinner was, there was no one there and the restaurant was not open yet! Then Ross, another UCSF person, checked his e-mail and discovered that the dinner at the restaurant was on Thursday night at 7 and not Wednesday night at 6! But there was a dinner on Wednesday night at a professor’s house and we managed to get an address from someone. We hired a taxi to take us there but the driver had no idea of the way. He stopped and asked for directions half a dozen times but no one on the street knew where the street was either. Finally, we got a hold of someone at the dinner and got directions to the site. As it turns out we were not even late for dinner. We just took a roundabout way to get there.
It was great to have a home cooked meal and meet some of the other people I’ll be working with while I’m here. I even got a lead on another place to stay.
But it was a long day after not sleeping much and being out all day with the heat so I was really glad to come back at 11 pm and get some sleep.