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December 14, 2017

A Heart Warming Success Story

By Tom Ramsey – Total Placement, Waco, Tx

This is the time of year that begs one to pause and access just how blessed we have been during the past year.  Like many, it is also the time we slow and consider those less fortunate, in particular charities that share our ideas on the best way to help someone.  Those providing longer term solutions within people’s lives are our choice.

I would like to share a story of an east coast surgeon, John Woods, who two years ago, decided to dedicate 10 years of his life to perform surgeries for the Congolese people who had no access to surgeons. Along the way, John was hopeful he could instill social responsibility and modern medical techniques in local doctors.  In the Congo, one only needs to go to school for a year to become a doctor. Well, more like a mechanic.  John was hopeful he could train doctors to use modern techniques and medicines while performing much needed surgeries.  The Congolese doctors are accustom to using horse tranquilizers for anesthesia.  Puts one into “la la land.” Does not put one to sleep.  Surgeries were crude at best with an abundance of complications and people do not trust doctors.  John Woods wanted to change that.

UpRight Africa was formed.  John takes no salary, has no home there, and lives out of his suitcase.  One suitecase.  John lives off the hospitality of community leaders and friends.  Sleeps in people’s homes on floors, benches, or if available a nice comfy couch.  Many times his medical team consisting of himself and local volunteers go to bed hungry.  You see, there are no stores.  Food comes from what can be harvested from the jungles.  Still John feels blessed he can do this.

In 2016, UpRight Africa performed approximately 240 surgeries.  They did it with less than $100,000 to work with.  Do the math. Year to date, over 850 surgeries have been completed averaging $200 per operation while using modern medicines and a local anesthesiologist John has “modernized.”   While their facilities are crude by US standards, they are proud to tout their success and infection rate. It is one that would make any US hospital proud.  John said when he was practicing in the US, heart pacemakers took sixteen minutes to install at a cost of $150,000. Maybe US medicine should take notice?  Central Texas businesses and hospitals have been instrumental in donating old equipment and out of date supplies. The point is, this is an extremely lean running organization that knows how to get things successfully done on a shoe string.

John was back in the US for a week to discuss UpRight Africa’s needs with its board (also volunteers).  One of his closest friends and staunch supporters is my next door neighbor, Charles Johnson.   We were able to visit last weekend and John told a story of a young twenty-something year old mom who walked 3 days through the jungle with her three month old baby for a mastectomy. After a few days of recovery, she walked back home.  See, there are no roads and people do what they must to survive. Villages are 8-12 hours away through the jungles, fields, and mountains.  Access is limited at best.  A mining company allows John the use of an old Toyota 4 Runner looking vehicle and a corner in their open warehouse for supplies. Due to the extreme terrain, John cannot access many of the villages.  Recently the truck pictured here was purchased.  It will literally be a life saver.  It has all-wheel drive, auto inflating tires, generator, only 7,000 miles on it, and will include a water purifier and generator bolted inside the trailer – an all terrain portable mash unit! All compliments of a government auction and about $4,500 of donations.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck!  However, because of the various cartels operating in the area, it cannot look military so something has to be done regarding its looks.

If you appreciate a good heart warming story, you should visit their website:  http://uprightafrica.org/

This is a link shows where their equipment comes from:  https://youtu.be/58JoAP9lDN0

For 2018, one milestone is to reach 1000 surgeries per year.  With 850 through November of 2017, 1000 surgeries are within its grasp. A second milestone is the construction of a small warehouse in Kalemie which would provide  secure storage of supplies, a place to train technicians in repair of medical equipment, a small office, and more secure and predictable housing situation for John.

If you have read to this point of the letter, thank you.  If you would like to offer John any notes of encouragement or have questions, you email  Info@UpRightAfrica.org