I have been quite behind in writing up stories from outreach, but even though this is from a while back, I wanted to post it :) So during outreach 8 in Milne Bay last year, I got the chance to spend some time training in the lab! I have this passion for TB and want to see what can be done to make a difference in this space. So spending some time with the lab was so refreshing and inspiring!
We’d go out to the village in the day, collect sputum sample… I must admit I can’t take sputum. I gag every time I hear someone cough it up. The consistency grosses me out, and the smell! Ugh! It reminds me of tracheotomy care during my time as a nurse on the surgical floor. But once the thick sputum is spread thin on the microscope slide all is well! We let it dry, burn it, then stain it with a bunch of dyes and it doesn’t look like sputum anymore. Everything is blue.
Until you look under the microscope. Then this is where my attention to detail comes in handy! To diagnose or read a slide, you have to look through 100 fields of vision and scan them thoroughly to ensure there’s no trace of TB.
That image is from one of the many that tested positive on that outreach. Roughly 70% of those tested had tuberculosis. Once tested positive, they can be started on treatment, start getting better and stop spreading the disease.
Testing is relatively hard in Papua New Guinea due to the remoteness. It is hard for patients to get to the health centre. And if the health centre don’t test for TB, they might take a sample, but without proper transport, the sample won’t be viable when it arrives to the next destination. Having the lab on board, not only allows us to diagnose, but also help identify locations that could have a lab and train their staff.