How Donations Were Used…

I’m sure those of you who contributed to this cause are wondering exactly what kind of an impact you made, and those yet to donate want to see what they can do.  As of today, $2,600 USD have been raised by the people listed here.

First of all I’d like to once again thank everyone who made a contribution, whether it was $3.00, or whether it was $300, because everything counts, especially in Cameroon.  For reference, $3.00 will buy a breakfast, lunch, and an accompanying drink, with a little to spare.  Over 50 people made a contribution – college students, teachers, friends, and people I don’t even know – pretty amazing.  Donations came in all forms as well, via internet, in the mail, hand delivered cheques, and inebriated cash donations at a bar.  So I thank you!  Let me first give you the context of how much value your donations had.

Dr. Bwelle and me: just two regular dudes

Dr. Georges Bwelle, the surgeon who leads the whole organization, is a GI surgeon at the Central Hospital in Yaounde, Cameroon, the capital and second largest city.  Yaounde has 1.43 million inhabitants, more than two Bostons, and would rank as the 7th most populous city in the U.S.  The point is that there are a lot of sick people, and that any person who works in a big city, specifically a doctor will make a substantial amount in the U.S.  It seems reasonable I suppose, there’s a lot of schooling involved, a lot of responsibility, long hours, but doctors don’t really do it for the money, especially not in Cameroon.  Doctors in Cameroon are viewed as civic servants and they are paid that way.  The average surgeon in Dr. Bwelle seniority level makes approximately $500 a month, that’s $6000 a year.  Let’s think about that for a second.

Let’s assume Dr. Bwelle works 40 hours a week, which he doesn’t, he works more, but for the sake of calculations, let’s say he does. There are 52 weeks in a year, I think he gets a couple weeks off, so he works 50 weeks a year.

50 weeks * 40 hrs./wk. = 2000hrs.

$6000/2000hrs = $3 an hour

Expenses are certainly cheaper here, so it probably has a bit greater buying power than it would in the U.S.  However, Dr. Bwelle pays rent, has kids, and has to eat.  That drains all of his salary.  When possible, Dr. Bwelle will take private surgery cases, where the patient pays privately so that an operation can be done without waiting in line, but for more money, a practice commonly referred to as moonlighting.  First impression screams black market surgery.  However, I assisted Dr. Bwelle at one, and it’s actually a safer and better environment in terms of sterility and equipment.  The operations are done at a private hospital that may not staff the proper surgeon so they call Dr. Georges.  Dr. Georges must pay them a rental fee for using the equipment and operating room, which is typically half the cost of the surgery.  In most instances, two surgeons are needed, so Dr. Bwelle will take in about 1/4 of what the patient pays.  At the end of the day that’s about $100 a surgery for Dr. Bwelle, all of which he puts into ASCOVIME, the formal organization he founded (which operates the medical missions).  Dr. Bwelle can usually find one or two private surgeries a week, so conservatively he empties his savings of $600 a month to buy medications and supplies for people he doesn’t even know.

Loading up the van with medical supplies

Dr. Bwelle has accepted his role as civic servant and doesn’t complain, he only works harder to finds way to overcome the obstacles that keep him from helping those of his country.  The $2600 that has been raised so far, which put a huge smile on Dr. Bwelle’s face, was a little more than enough to buy an entire big box filled with every medication and surgical supply that was needed on the one trip to Maboye the weekend of May 30th.  I don’t mean to downplay the amount because there were tons of supplies and medications, enough to treat the entire population we encountered.  There were vitamins, minerals, antibiotics, antimalarials, pain killers, gauze, syringes, needles, you name it, it was in that box. And it was enough to supply 200 people.

In Maboye, our team consulted 200 patients, men, women, children, all of whom needed prescribed medication.  Of the 200, 17 needed a surgical operation in addition to medication.  Surgical operations are significantly more expensive because of all the associated supplies that are needed to maintain sterile fields, instruments, gauze, bandages, betadine, etc.; so they drive the cost up.  On average, it cost $12.50 to treat each patient.  However, if the average is weighted to cost-shift toward the patients needing surgical intervention, my estimate is about $7.50 per person and around $75 for a surgery.

Israel, all better after some quinine

Therefore, if you made a $10 contribution, you were helping Israel get better from Malaria…

...Or the injection Samuel's mother needed

Either way, real people with simple problems had their lives changes by others 5000 miles away,  and I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, that’s just exactly what is going on here.  Hopefully this all can put your donation into context and show you what you’ve accomplished!

Thanks again from all of the volunteers, Dr. Bwelle, and the people of Maboye, Cameroon.

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