Although this does not relate directly to Karimu’s work in Tanzania, Children’s Hospital Oakland’s innovative research into stem cell harvesting adds to my excitement about the possibility of working with some of its doctors. I hadn’t known until told so by Barbara Beery, Children’s Hospital’s Director of Planned Giving, that medical researchers probably have no need for politically sensitive embryonic stem cells. (I admit that I should follow news of this kind more closely.) During my July 20 hospital tour with Jeff Chow of Collaborate for Africa, Barbara pointed us toward a ScienceDaily article from June 23 of last year which began as follows:
“A groundbreaking study conducted by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is the first to reveal a new avenue for harvesting stem cells from a woman’s placenta, or more specifically the discarded placentas of healthy newborns. The study also finds there are far more stem cells in placentas than in umbilical cord blood, and they can be safely extracted for transplantation.” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623091119.htm)
So I hope that people like myself from the small nonprofits in Jeff’s Collaborate for Africa network have the chance to meet other doctors from Children’s Hospital’s besides Desiree LaBeaud, whose work I discussed in my July 25 post.
My other aside brings East Africa into focus, if not Tanzania. Recently I’ve twice bumped into Sabore Ole Oyie, a Masai elder—never mind that he looks to be in his twenties—visiting California for education and to find money to build a well for his village in the Ewaso Nyiro region of Kenya where, according to his online fundraising page, “women and girls. . . have to walk 6-8 miles one-way to collect water from the river.” The page (which one can easily find at http://www.blueplanetnetwork.org/sabore) goes on to note that the “same water. . . is used for washing clothes and bathing. . . [and is] where the domestic animals drink and the wild animals imbibe. . . [and] is full of contaminates and creates many health issues for both humans and animals.”
Plainly a worthy cause, but I have an even better reason to donate: at our second meeting Sabore gave me the pleasure of seeing somebody tower over my son Peter, who takes slightly too much pride in having a couple of inches on me. Thank you, Sabore.
Now, my farewell, since Marianne and I and twenty-seven other volunteers will leave tomorrow for Tanzania, to return on August 18. We will embrace rarely-seen friends, continue renovating and expanding two rural schools, help the three doctors and one soon-to-be medical student traveling with us provide some basic health education, deliver more than six hundred mosquito nets, demonstrate the Stovetec rocket stove for the villagers, and, at least in my own case, apply frequent thick coats of mosquito repellent, day and night. To an extent compatible only with short stays in Africa, I suspect, I go very heavy on repellent containing twenty-three percent DEET—nothing stronger, against which the tropical-disease specialist who advises us gives stern warnings. I use a lot of repellent because my claustrophobia makes me nervous about bed nets. On the three days of safari at the end of our trip, Marianne and I can share a big bed whose capacious net will give me no problems. But in Bacho, where we do our work, we just have single beds and I don’t want anything to do with that net which encloses my bed like a tomb.
Unless I think of a few words to add within the next day, you will not hear from me for about three weeks since I’ll have no Internet access. Please wish us luck!—Don Stoll