Besides our hardworking local Zambian staff who help to run the eye camps, we could not see as many patients as we do without our dedicated non physician volunteers. Some are nurses, some happen to be married to our volunteer physicians, and others are community members with various skills that we happily put to work. On our latest eye camp, we were fortunate to have Jan Cichwski, Lori George, and Julie Poel accompany the doctors and keep them on task and focused.
Dr. Mark Cichowski had the incredible good fortune to have married his wife Jan as he was starting residency, and they have been an incredible team ever since. They have traveled extensively in various mission trips, not only to Zambia but to Haiti and other third world countries. Jan puts up with Dr. Mark in the operating room and is a wonderful OR nurse. When Collins, our regular OR manager was ill last year Jan stepped magnificently into the breach and scrubbed in on every single surgery for one of the busiest eye camps last year. She is still owed a day at the spa for that Herculean effort. Also, ask Jan sometime how her fingers are after prepping and packing the thousands (?) of ophthalmic medical drops, all of which had to be extracted out of their small boxes (see Facebook page).... in addition to being an awesome scrub nurse, Jan is a formidable Scrabble player and could beat all of us at Scrabble with half her brain sedated. Beware if she ever proposes a game of Scrabble for money. My advice is to just say no.
Lori voluntarily accompanied her husband Dr. Stan George, and she will apparently not be persuaded out of that claim even after 2 weeks of long days of surgery and clinic. Lori has been described as a saint (by her husband no less). Lori undertook a thorough clean out and organization of our storeroom and pharmacy area, in between helping keep the patient flow running smoothly during the eye camp. We may need her to come back in a year or two for a repeat performance. And of course, if she must, she can bring Dr. George back too.
Jan Cichowski persuaded her sister Julie, who is a neonatal ICU nurse , to come along to work during the eye camp. Hopefully even after long grueling days, Julie will consent to accompany another eye camp to Zambia. Her talents were put to good use in the eye clinic, especially for those difficult to insert IV’s in the children, and also in the main mission hospital where she helped train the labor and delivery staff in neonatal resuscitation. Julie and Jan both spent significant time in Africa as teenagers when their parents took their family on a mission that lasted much of their high school careers. While other high school kids were worried about dances and whether their clothes were cool enough, Jan and Julie were working in a small mission hospital in Africa helping to deliver babies.
As you can see, we are grateful to our “unsung heroes.” The eye clinic would not run nearly as smoothly without them, and we appreciate their accomplishments. Thanks Jan, Lori, and Julie!