July 18th, 2017
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My name is William McKeown. I am a 24-year-old doctor from Northern Ireland who suffers from severe Hemophilia A and I am currently on prophylaxis.
Two years ago, whilst still a medical student, I had the opportunity to work and study in a hospital in Tanzania for six weeks.
Hemophilia is a significantly different experience for my blood brothers in East Africa where care for persons with hemophilia (PWH) is a fledgling effort. While in Tanzania I had the chance to meet three other men with hemophilia who, despite the enormous disadvantage of living in Africa, were living their lives with quiet dignity. One man I met owned a shop, one worked as a lab technician in the hospital and another, still just a teenager, harbored ambitions to become a doctor too!
It would be hard to overstate the disadvantage these men contend with. They have limited access to factor as their supply stems from occasional donations from western centers and their trips to Tanzania’s main hospital is long and treacherous. Only 30 men in Tanzania are currently diagnosed with hemophilia, yet there are more than 40,000,000 people who live in Tanzania. So where are the other bleeders?
Despite these challenges, things are looking up in Tanzania. The center in Dar es Salaam is embarking on a twinning program through the WFH and the country now has the Haemophilia Society of Tanzania, an organization recognized by the WFH. Ten years ago Tanzania had no confirmed hemophilia diagnoses, so having 30 in the books is a big achievement! The last few years represent a significant, albeit small, step into modernizing hemophilia management here.
In conclusion, I’d like to make a couple of important points. First, if you plan intelligently and safely, any person with hemophilia can visit and explore exotic places, even remote areas of Africa! (Check out travel advice on Frankly.net for starters!) And second, travel is enriching, so if you’re planning on visiting exotic destinations, use your adventure as a chance to meet other people with hemophilia. Learn from and encourage each other. I have found it both amazing and humbling to have met fellow blood brothers from all over the world and recommend you should take the chance to build international friendships too!