Emotional seems to be the best word to describe today’s events. Dr. Gordon and I had the opportunity to fly to the very northern part of Ethiopia, a region called Tigray, where our very 1st CCC program was established. When we first arrived, a pleasant and unexpected surprise awaited us—Sara and Tsehay—the first CCC “see and treat” trainees came to greet us! Dr. Gordon was overwhelmed with gratitude as these two women held a very special place not only in CCC’s history, but as very special friends to her. Alongside those who were there to greet us were Dr. Samson Mulugeta who is the chairman of Ayder’s OBGYN department, Usha who heads the International Relations and Resource Management at Ayder, and Dr. Hale Teka who coordinates Ayder’s International Communications Office. Delightful greetings were quickly exchanged and we were then on the way to visit our 1st clinic!
There was something calming about this city as we drove down the smooth roadway towards Ayder. The sunny, breezy weather reminded me of being home in southern California but perhaps this feeling was no coincidence. It was only my first time being on a mission at all with CCC and having the opportunity to visit the first clinic felt like I was visiting my childhood school.
The campus was drastically different than where we had been for the past two days down at St. Paul’s. Ayder Referall Hospital is the largest teaching health hospital in all of Ethiopia. As we walked around the corners, we finally reached the waiting room of the clinic. It was packed. Women lined the dim hallways leading up to the main office of the clinic where the CCC sign stood since the very beginning. I wish everyone could have seen the look in Dr. Gordon’s face. She took a deep breath in as if she were trying to hold back tears and said, “Yvonne, would you look at that? There it is—CCC’s 1st clinic that started it all.”
Sara and Tsehay wasted no time and quickly began to bring in the first patient of the day. I can’t even begin to tell you all how proud Dr. Gordon looked at this point. A smile and gaze that seemed to be in disbelief that she was seeing what she had always imagined CCC to be was happening right in front of her. Sara and Tsehay were TEACHING the nursing students the “see and treat” procedure! Our trainees were now the trainers and that is the model Dr. Gordon had always dreamed to happen.
A very surprising report by Tsehay was proof that the sustainable model works. Of all the returned visits, all but one patient showed that the precancerous lesions were gone. The exception was an HIV patient which only places strong emphasis on the need for screening and treatment for these women. We not only succeeded in the “sustainable, ongoing” model in which our clinics are currently operating, but CCC had made a profound impact in changing the circumstances for these women who would have lost the battle to cervical cancer if it hadn’t been for the availability of early screening and treatment.
Our second objective of the day took place as we wrapped up the early morning hours at clinic. Dr. Gordon had the opportunity to talk with the public health students at Ayder regarding the demographics of cervical cancer and how CCC’s mission to eradicate the disease is being accomplished by “see and treat”. Initially, it was a very quiet crowd and I thought perhaps the language barrier was hindering the message Dr. Gordon wanted to convey, but by the end of the lecture, we actually had to stop mid discussion during a Q&A session before the students were late for class! Many students were researchers in the topic of cervical cancer and were strongly engaged in the conversation of how CCC’s work is an effective solution for one of the leading causes of death for the women of Ethiopia. They were all extremely grateful and appreciative of what CCC had to offer.
The very short time Dr. Gordon and I got to spend with some of the board members at Ayder and having been able to see the first clinic established by CCC was nothing short of insightful and inspiring. Here we are in a very resource poor country where finding a solution to an epidemic entails persistence in prevention and I cannot be more proud to say that I am part of this movement that Dr. Gordon has created to give to women in countries like Ethiopia. For my first time going on a mission with CCC, I came expecting to empower the people of this country with such a simple and effective technique, but actually, this expectation has been greatly reciprocated. We are only half way through the week, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say how full my heart feels to be able to part of an incredible, hardworking, and selfless team.
Authored by: Yvonne Nong, CCC Coordinator