While on medical missions, Dr. George Pettit has removed plenty of tumors. During a recent trip to Rwanda, he actually helped a woman give birth to one.
“I had a patient come in who thought she was pregnant, but had a complete hydatidiform mole, which is a tumor of the placenta,” Pettit explained. “She was laboring and passed the entire thing. It looked like a bunch of grapes. It was the largest tumor of this type that I have ever seen.”
The woman had been “pregnant” with the tumor for 34 weeks, or roughly eight and a half months.
That was just one of the experiences that Pettit, who is a physician at Southern Ohio Medical Center, had during his two weeks in Rwanda’s Butaro Hospital. He was there on his most recent medical mission. As was the case with previous trips, the mission served as a stark reminder of how different life can be in less developed parts of the globe.
Even simple acts, such as bathing, were more complicated in Rwanda.
“Every morning someone would bring us a bucket of hot water,” Pettit said. “We’d put some water in a cup and splash ourselves. Then, we’d soap up and splash ourselves again to rinse off.”
In addition to assisting local doctors and providing much needed medical care, Pettit also went on an African safari with his wife and took in Rwanda’s beautiful countryside. Most of his time was spent within the walls of Butaro Hospital, though.
He wasn’t the only one that made the hospital a home away from home. Harvard Medical School and Partner’s In Health, an advocacy group that focuses on providing healthcare to the poor, also had a strong presence in the country.
“There were a lot of doctors there from Harvard and the Boston area,” Pettit said. “We were all helping to train the local doctors.”
The country also received a visit from NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and former president Bill Clinton. Gordon gave a $1.5 million donation to Butaro Hospital’s cancer center, which is the only such facility in the entire country. Pettit didn’t meet with Rwanda’s more high-profile visitors, however, in part because he maintained such a busy schedule.
Though he just recently returned to Portsmouth, Pettit has already put some thought into where he may go on his next mission. But at the moment, he’s more than happy to be back at SOMC and enjoying the comforts of home.