Snakebites and sad goodbyes

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Dermatology. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

A final morning chapel followed our joyful late night escapades last night, with a combination of Amazing Grace and We Are Marching to get a bit of the African clapping vibe working. The photo below is from earlier in the week, but since its the last day today, it seems appropriate to share it…



Clare Fuller showed us lots of very interesting graphs. Dermatology complaints are known to under present, be poorly treated and lead to people avoiding healthcare for other important issues.

In some studies, more than 60% of Dermatological prescriptions were inappropriate in a Developing world setting.

Also, distance effects health seeking behaviour in Dermatology more than other conditions: if there is a clinic within 1km, people attend with their fever, their pain, their rashes. If the clinic is 10km away, they will only go with their fever or pain, according to one study.

Apparently 10-20% of children with scabies will still have haematuria 10 years later! That’s terrifying, and only something that’s recently coming to light.

Skin lightening products

Using topical steroids for skin lightening leads to low birth weight and vaginal bleeding in pregnancy.

Generally dangerous

Cutaneous bacterial infections

Very common in the tropics, can be difficult to identify which one in particular.

Treating cutaneous bacterial infections

  1. Wash skin – clean water, disinfectants
  2. Remove crusts, debris, necrotic tissue
  3. Topical anti-inflammatory/anti-biotics, honey, etc.
  4. Oral antibiotics


Acqeous cream should not be left on the skin – can inhibit barrier function.

Otherwise the greasier the better.


Approach will vary depending what snakes you have in your area.

I saw a snake on my balcony, and was concerned, so asked a colleague what to do.

Their response, “Have you tried the exposure test?

“What is that?“, she replied.

Let it bite you, and see what happens

Fond goodbyes

I was feeling desperately sad by the end of the day, but it was time to say goodbye to everyone. I got bullied into starting a Developing Health 2014 facebook group, so feel free to join if you came along – it’d be great to stay in touch.

Thanks to everyone who came along, everyone who donated their time to teach, and the course organisers: I’ll be processing everything I’ve learnt for months…

The Ladies are Dying

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Women’s Health. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

why are  women dying?Maternal death

Afghanistan – “One of the worst places in the world in which to be pregnant”

Has a Maternal Mortality Rate of 6,500 per 100,000. Which is the highest ever recorded, anywhere in the world.

Reducing those MMR stats is simple: we know the answers…

  1. Improve access
  2. Ensure skilled staff at deliveries
  3. Increase Utilization
  4. Education and Family Planning

Female Genital Mutilation

Studies have shown that it is not really a religious tradition but a cultural one. It is barbaric – and the pictures and case studies just confirmed that. I’m pretty proud of our country that they have made it illegal for UK nationals or residents to perform FGM anywhere in the world. Maximum sentence 14 years!

There were some interesting discussions about this though: if you deliver a baby, and the mother gets a tear, relating to her FGM, you breach the law if you repair it to how it was previously, rather than trying to reverse the FGM – regardless of the patient’s choice!

Women, depression and domestic violence

There is a big correlation between depression and suicide in women in the developing world – in the UK, men are about 3 times more likely to be successful in suicide. In Bangladesh, there is no statistic distinction between the two.

Being poor, worrying about family, about health, about money, about social insecurity, domestic violence: all these things are stressful.

In some studies, 20-36% of women in Asia suffer from post-natal depression.

Group work

We had a range of group workshops, where we talked through loads of case studies. Very informative, very useful. Just like yesterday, where I ended up teaching a group how to perform a spinal anaesthetic, today I realised that I actually have something to contribute, based on my professional experience. Last time, I knew very little about gynaecology, but this year I had 4 months on experience, and was able to participate actively in the discussion.

The Cutting Edge…

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Surgery. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

I started my morning devotion with starting to read through John 1. I was completely unsurprised to find that the word enlightened came up immediately, just like Ian’s talk from the first night, and bringing me back to that Ephesians 1 passage again:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
John 1:9


Following that, Hilary Edgcombe taught us about many cool intelligent things in the world of Anaesthetics.

“Is Ketamine a wonderful drug with terrible side effects, or a terrible drug with some useful side effects?”

She talked about Ketamine: It is not a fail-safe airway option… Give it over 5 minutes to reduce chances of impacting airway.

We touched on the terrible under-resourcing of many Majority world settings, from an anaesthetics perspective. The video below shows a bit of that – I shared it last time as well, but its still interesting.

On the Developing Health USB stick, there is an amazing link to a free online Developing Anaesthetia textbook for use in resource poor settings. It’s pretty brilliant…

A quality history and decent examination are important before anaesthetics. Just like Ian has been saying all week, a probing history, a thorough examination, appropriate investigations and careful synthesis is the fundamental base of clinical medicine.

She also recommended – which is a good resource for information about coping in resource poor areas.


surgical questionsColin Binks and Mike Puttick took us through the next session on Surgery for the Non-Surgeon.

Two big questions: Can I do it? Should I do it?

Seeing red

If you see haemorrhage, pack it, pack it, pack it, pray, pack it, etc.

If the liver won’t stop bleeding, give the portal vein a squeeze.

Seeing green

Likely small bowel or gallbladder perforation. Wash and go approach.

  1. Clean it out.
  2. Close it up.
Necrotic Bowel – its black, so you excise it

Seeing black

This means there is necrosis.

  1. Excise the dead stuff.

The Acute Abdomen

An interesting talk, with lots of stuff that was way over my head: I think I am not competent to start popping in bowel anastamosis yet. The message was repeated from yesterday that:

“The solution to pollution is dilution.”

Lots of irrigation with saline in your friend in surgery.

With both talks, it was really useful looking at case studies, saying “What can you do, what should you do?”. It was recommended again that we buy the Primary Surgery book, which helps with knowing how to do things, if we decide doing them is the right option.

Anaesthetics tutor

We had some group work in the afternoon: in one of the sessions, the anaesthetist was teaching how to do a spinal anaesthetic. Given that I had more experience in this area than anyone else, I ran one of the stations. Whilst I may not have been particularly good, it was quite uplifting for me – namely that work I’ve done in previous years to learn clinical skills has led to me having skills that my 2012 self did not.

That’s a professional development reflection for my e-portfolio right there…

One cool tip the tutor gave us for finding the spine, especially if someone is laying on their side:

A patient can always find the middle of their back, so if you are struggling to find it, let them point to it for you.

Late night fellowship

Fellowship has been a great component of our time together on the course. Late this evening, me, Marli, Mike, Jakob, Justus and Linda all sat in my room, and shared Coke, alcohol free beer, prayer, bible verses, songs (inconsiderate after midnight?) and stories of how each of us came to know Jesus.

It was very uplifting, if a little tiring (we went to sleep after 1am). We ended by reading Philippians together:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Joining bones (and mission partnerships)

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Orthopaedics. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

New Relational Partnership…?

We started this morning with a meeting with the missions agency that phoned me last week. Katherine, Joen and Neriah all came out to Oak Hill college with me, ready for the meeting. We met with a lovely chap with an accent that can best be described as “miscellaneous”, since he has lived in about 5 countries for significant periods of his life. His wife was also there.

Just that little fact made me feel more comfortable: if you meet with a corporate CEO, or similar, there would never be such an immediate focus on relationship, on meeting our family as we meet theirs.

UBurn Contracture Healednderstanding the concept that he is not alone in working – as a married couple, all our work, to some extent, is done in partnership.

Anyway, it was a thought provoking meeting, that may lead to a long term partnership: more on that as it develops…


Due to our meeting, and my general tiredness, I missed most of the morning, by the earnest, funny and heartfelt Chris Lavy (I sat with him at lunch, he was awesome). I did catch two recommended websites for finding recommended physio techniques and general reference material: Summit Medical Adult Health and

However, I managed to attend most of the afternoon sessions with tutorials and workshops on fitting people for casts, putting legs in traction, and how to splint burns.

I think the biggest take home message for me was that burns need appropriate splinting, for at least 6 months to prevent developing significantly disabling contractures (see right).

Ideally you want a burn to heal within 2 weeks, as that makes risk of contractures much less likely.Burn Contracture Healed

The Hidden Introvert

The Mission Agency asked us to identify our Myers-Briggs types: Broadly, Katherine is an INFJ, and I am ENTP. Which is nice, as the conventional wisdom is that having 1 field the same (possibly) makes for stronger relationships. It’s interesting to read through – not a massively evidenced based approach, but an interesting window to use to inspect your own mentality.

Unsurprisingly, I am classified as an Extrovert. But, I have a hidden Introverted side that I never knew existed…

This week has been socially intense, making instant, deep, wonderful friendships with people from all over the world, but with fairly similar visions and life views to me. I’ve had a fantastic time, but it has been hard work. For the first time… ever… I had to go and spend an hour in my room on my own this afternoon!

I was excited about this: Vicky Lavy pointed out that the fact that after an hour I was back out, talking to everyone, means that I’m unlikely to be at risk of reverting to total extroversion…

Africa and Zulu

The evening talk was a chat with Peter Saunders. His story was slightly haunting for me: around 20 years ago, he felt called to work in Africa for a year, went to work in Kenya for a year with his wife, a 1 year old and a 3 year old. They felt convinced they would end up in Africa long term: but never lived there again…

My last activity before bed was my first Zulu lesson with my SA friend Linda. I discovered my first concepts of Zulu prefixes, and learnt to say Kubu Hlungu Ikhanda (My head hurts).

I am not fluent yet.

Baby, baby (and other paediatrics)

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Paediatrics. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

After all the fun of last night, it is no surprise that there was lively worship this morning. After two hours last night, and half an hour this morning, my fingers are tired of strumming!

Greeting from BotswanaNeonates in the Developing World

There were some big messages, and scary statistics.

No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old
Isaiah 65:20

If you include stillborn babies, then 75% of deaths in under 5s are in neonates.

50% of neonatal deaths are in the first 24 hours. 75% are in the first week.


Nutrition is responsible for 30-50% of child deaths, and also leads to low birth weights due to maternal mortality.

Urgent referral for kids:

  1. Inability to drink or breastfeed
  2. Vomiting everything
  3. Convulsions
  4. Lethargy or unconsciousness

32% of children in developing countries have stunted growth due to malnutrition

Stuff to read, when I stop being useless…

  • On our CMF USB stick, there is a highly recommended Pocket Book of Hospital Care for Children, which I shall read, when I sort myself out.
  • Unicef State of Child Health.
  • Lancet Global Health Series can be read free online.


HIV, Mission and Song

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is HIV & AIDS. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

This morning started with a brief spot in chapel, with a preach that focussed on Matthew 13:44-46, more about treasure, all fitting in with the message of being aware of our glorious inheritance (from Ephesians).

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46

A wider vision to cure HIV

DifaemGisela Schneider asked us some difficult questions…

Why are we here? Why are we doing Medical Mission? What is our role, what is our ministry as Medical missionaries? There has been a sea change in how we, as the church, do mission work over the last few decades:

No longer pioneers, but partners.

HIV is not a medical problem: its a social one that needs churches, politicans, traditional healers and schools working together. Obviously, when things happen like the health minister for South Africa announcing on national TV that beetroot was a cure for HIV, that holistic solution is not being helped!

My friend Marli recommended that I try to attend the SA HIV Society 2014 Conference, where I could learn about how this problem is being addressed in the country…

Gisela shared with us the declaration made at the Difaem international health conference she just got back from; they made the declaration, then spent a few days trying to work out how to address it. You can read it here: A_call_to_health_and_healing_-_Declaration_Tuebingen_III 2014

Talking to a Missions Agency

During the morning today, I received an interesting call, from one of the organisations I emailed last night. I was blatant, honest and fairly excited – hopefully giving a realistic impression of what I’m like usually.

Frankly, the conversation was encouraging: we were on the same page spiritually. Some excellent new Christianese jargon about people being “Sent” church or “Local” church, but ultimately a passion to see the Kingdom come, to see lives changed, a world impacted, and walking alongside others authentically. We agreed to meet on Monday morning, with my wife and his, to see if we may be a fit for each other.

Even that little detail – us meeting his wife – just confirmed the focus on relational work these guys are into. I’m not sure where Christian Gender Equality is currently up to, but I believe that husband and wife are a unit, and so with something as personal as working together on mission, its pretty important we are all “agreed”, to quote Amos 3:3.

2 hours of African singing

I’ve been vaguely leading worship at the conference morning devotionals, but some of the African delegates wanted to make it, well, frankly, less white, so we had a little worship practice in the evening.

It lasted 2 hours, it was tremendously fun, and it kept nearly stopping, then starting again. You can see a clip of it below…

Bugs, and passions that won’t let go

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Tropical Medicine. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

Two things made today different. Firstly, for the next two days, my mum has joined the course. It has been lovely: so nice to spend time with her; we are both doctors, and having a shared purpose and heart is a joy. We are in three families together; biological, professional and spiritual, and that makes me very happy.

Secondly, I got in from a stag do at 3:30am, and was not able to pay attention tremendously well today…

Tropical Medicine

One person shared about the fact that in some areas of endemic shistosomiasis infection, it is widely accepted that boys have a menarche. In other words, the parasitic infection causes blood in the urine, and it is so common, that it is thought that boys have a period, just like girls, in their wee. On many levels, it is amazing that something so wrong can be accepted as the normal.

We had some small group sessions where we talked about how to deal with hospital workers getting TB. There was a great idea bout offering hospital staff free healthcare (obviously more relevant in countries without free universal coverage), and of automatically offering an XR and sputum analysis for anyone who has had a cough for more than 3 weeks.

I’ve definitely been getting excited about the potential for community health development in Tonga, when we get out there, and some of these ideas are a big challenge.

Mortality and Malaria

The Malaria lecture ended with a shocking reminder: 1,000,000-3,000,000 deaths/year >90% among African children.

140,000 people died when we dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities in 1945. There is a memorial to these people in London. However, its important to remember that in 1945 in Africa, around 3,000,000 children probably died from Malaria. And in 1946 in Africa, 3,000,000 children died from Malaria. And in 1947… 1948…

Why do we not hear about this more? Because malaria is predominantly a condition affecting young african children living in absolute poverty.

Malaria LifecycleMalaria Lifecycle

  • 1 mosquito bite
  • 15 sporozoites
  • Each Sporoziote matures in the liver and releases 40,000 Merozoites.
  • The Merozoites join a red cell and become a Trophozoite.
  • These mature, and become Schizonts and release more Merozoites – 16 per cell.
  • Finally, at some point, Gametocytes are formed from Trophozoites.
  • They are then picked up by a mosquito drinking your blood.

Absence of fever DOES NOT rule out Malaria!

Interpreting a blood film.

Three things to know:

  1. Infecting species
  2. Density of infection – no limit to % – people have been known to survive 70%.
  3. Stage (trophozoites vs schizonts) – if there are lots of schizonts, its a sign that within the next 24 hours the density of the infection is about to massively increase.

You can bring about a 60% reduction in all cause mortality in under 5s by sleeping under a bed net.

Which is so much more effective than the value of statins, or extra antihypertensive agents. But we don’t hear about it.

Missions Fair

IrresistableRevolutionBeing surrounded by people on medical mission, I’ve noticed that almost everyone is going out with an agency or some sort of organisation supporting them. It’s important to have a church that sends you out, but sometimes they do not have the breadth of cross cultural experience that can be helpful in international mission .

Me and Katherine talked about it, and agreed we wanted to see if there was an organisation that would be interested in providing that support.

So I went to the missions fair, where there were 20ish organisations that provide training, support, finances, programmes to join, short term trips to fulfill. And I said

“Hi, we kinda want some sort of support, but don’t really know what… Can you provide that? Oh yeh, and we fly out to South Africa for a year in like 6 weeks…”

To say that people visibly recoiled wasn’t altogether inaccurate. Ultimately of the 20+ agencies, nobody really felt they could help us. Probably pretty wisely.

I spent the evening in crazily deep conversation with Jon (the collie dog owner from yesterday) and discovered that he and his wife are joining a fairly radical group of “New Monastics“, a concept I’ve previously come across through reading various books by Shane Claibourne (see right). In fact, its a passion both me and Katherine have both shared so passionately that we spent our first two years of married life living in community

So, long story short, I spent my last hour before sleep chucking emails at missional community based organisations, along the lines of Urban Neighbours of Hope, The Simple Way, InnerChange, Word Made Flesh. I couldn’t sleep until I read Ephesians 1 again either! Our email is below, a quick, honest missive to see if God has anyone for us…

Hey there,

My name is Chris Lowry. My wife and I, and our 1 year old and our 3 year old
are going to Africa for a year in AUgust.

We aren’t going with a missionary organisation (yet) but we do feel God wants
us to go. I’m a doctor, so we will be working in a hospital out there in
Tonga, in Mpumalanga (SA) and we have a wage coming in.

Err, would you provide (non financial) support to people like us?