Hi everyone!

This is Stephanie, one of the founding members of Une Chance de Vivre. It has been just near a month since we left Kinshasa and I wanted to give you an account of our experience. I know many of you follow our social media accounts and so I won’t give you a play-by-play of our days and the activities we carried out at the hospital and the surrounding community. Instead, I wanted to give my perspective – the challenges I encountered, things I found difficult but also the moments that gave me incredible hope and fed my drive to keep pushing this project forward. So, here it goes.

We arrived in Kinshasa quite late at night, after some adventures just on the way there: baggage issues, delayed flights, CANCELED flights…I won’t get into it all but suffice it to say we were exhausted on our arrival. By our arrival, I mean Micha and myself – Cynthia and Louis were delayed an entire day. The first thing that struck me as we were making our way to our accommodation was the traffic – it was passed 10 pm and the streets were PACKED. And that stayed true our entire stay. There is no way to imagine the sheer amount of cars and people that are on the road at any given time of day unless you see it for yourself (and remember, I live in Montreal!). I remembered Micha telling us that at the HKK, when the team was unable to care for a newborn, the baby had to be taken by the parents, by whatever means they could come up with, to the closest hospital. This hospital was, on a good day, 15 minutes away. One day, it took us nearly 30 minutes to drive the distance between that hospital and the HKK. For a struggling newborn, those 30 minutes, even 15 minutes, can be the difference between life or death. This drove home the real impact that our organization can have on this population. Having professionals trained and proficient in basic neonatal resuscitation – a topic we spent a significant portion of our week discussing and practicing – will contribute to positive outcomes for babies and families in this community.

I don’t think it will be a surprise to many people, but the hospitals of Kinshasa are rather different to what we understand of hospitals here in Canada and even in the rest of North America. In Canada, we are very fortunate to have the social safety net of universal health care and many people will never truly realize the price of the care we receive. But even in the USA, where you get a bill at the end of your hospital stay, materials, equipment and medicines are readily available. Rarely will someone see delays in care due to lack of access to these things, even if they cost a lot in the end. In Kinshasa, before the staff can start treating a child, the family must go purchase everything that their child will need – from IV catheters, antibiotics and even alcohol swabs – from a nearby pharmacy. Sometimes the family has the means to purchase all these items. Still there is a delay between the patient’s arrival and the start of treatment. Other times, probably most of the time, families either only have the money to buy some of those items leading to suboptimal treatment. And other times still, the family will leave with the list only to never return.

These are just some of the difficult situations that the doctors and nurses at the HKK are confronted with on a daily basis. And yet they come to work every day, ready to help in any way they can, with whatever they can. This was the bright spot, the light in an otherwise bleak situation. The people. The professionals who care so deeply about their community. The two doctors, who even after being on call over night in a busy ER and intensive care, came to the workshops in the morning in order to learn, to improve their practice so that they might better serve the children of Kimbanseke. The nurses who asked important questions so that they could understand the impact of their assessment and interventions on patient outcomes. The midwife, who with all her years of experience, showed everyone else a thing or two about resuscitating a newborn. These people, along with the wonderful children and families we met throughout our stay in Kinshasa, are the reason I, and our team, are determined to persevere, to overcome the obstacles and challenges in our path.