“So, what did you do today, dear?” The question is not meant to be loaded, but most days I struggle to answer it. Between running errands and shuttling children, cooking, cleaning, and carrying on, what do I actually do that might have any comic value, insight, or interest to a man who is about to fall asleep on the sofa? I recently asked Danny Smelser, the chief physician/missionary at Tanzania Christian Clinic, a variation of this question. “What does a typical day look like for you at the clinic?” I asked. His answer was an honest, “No day is typical!”


But if he had to pin it down to broad generalities, it would look something like this. A weekday begins around 6:30 AM when Danny and his wife, Nancy, open the clinic for cleaning. An important part of every day is pumping water to the holding tank for use in the clinic. Because patients are seen in the order in which they arrive at the clinic, one of the staff begins handing out numbers around 8 AM. Danny and Nancy hold a short devotional around 8:30 before they meet with their first patient. Lunch is taken from 1:30 to 2 and closing time is roughly 4:30 PM depending on when the last patient is seen and treated. Afternoons may also include home visits to see patients who aren’t mobile and runs to the nearest hospital. Danny commented that his evenings are short as there is really nothing to do after the clinic closes. Saturdays are reserved for the week’s shopping of groceries and medicines in the closest town, Arusha, a 45 minute drive away. Sundays are spent at the little church next to the clinic or in Bible studies in the homes of the locals.


During our conversation, Danny also spoke about a wide range of topics such as his thankfulness for an x-ray machine that was recently donated to the clinic. Now, he is actively seeking a trained technician to run the machine. He spoke about the challenges of finding medicines such as Pepto Bismal, which is often used to treat a myriad of gastrointestinal complaints at the clinic, but which is not available locally. He commented that things like gloves, casting materials, elastic bandages and dressings run out quickly… things we would never expect our doctors to go without.


The complaints that Danny treats most often at the clinic are febrile in nature, such as malaria and typhoid. Gastro and parasitic diseases are the next most common complaints followed by pulmonary illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Over course, HIV/AIDS is ever-present, affecting nearly 10% of the area population. Hypertension, diabetes, and asthma are on the rise, according to Danny. Danny commented that about 1 in 5 children qualify for protein supplements at the clinic, which indicates a low caloric/low protein diet, but rarely do they see a life-threatening case of malnutrition.


The clinic treated approximately 5,700 patients in 2012 at roughly a cost of $5.50 per patient (a cost which includes labs, pharmaceuticals, and seeing the doctor!). The donations the clinic receives help to keep these costs low; however, even that low of a cost is still difficult for Tanzanian patients to pay. The clinic staffs the Smelsers as well as David, the clinical officer, two nurses, one lab technician, and 15 Tanzanians as grounds and security staff.


“We lay our a-typical days on God’s care,” stated Danny as he wrapped up our conversation. “And we thank you for your support of the clinic and the work we do there!” Thank you, Compassion Tea friends, for your support!

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