World Vets Arusha Day 2, Part 2: Roadside Assistance

This post is part of a series documenting a trip undertaken by a team of volunteers with World Vets who traveled to Arusha, Tanzania in June 2012 to provide veterinary care for the under (or should be say un-) served donkey population. For the full series of posts covering World Vets, please click here.

World Vets Arusha Day 2, Part 2: Roadside Assistance


By midday on our trip to Nando Soito, the donkeys were arriving in earnest, and the World Vets team was chugging along through the line of punda in need of preventive care services.

Most of the skin abrasions we had seen were fairly minor, and needed little more than a cleaning and a spritz of Vetericyn to hasten healing and keep the wound from becoming infected.


Given what I had seen the year prior in Peru, the maggots and botflies and sorts of hideous tropical skin things that come with equatorial humidity, I think we were all surprised at the general good condition of most of these hardworking little punda. Another benefit to living in the dry zone surrounding the mountain.

But then there was some excitement. Down the line, one punda who had a deep lesion on his back, and Dr. Kirkhope wanted to do something a little more long-lasting than the typical clean/spray. Livingstone obtained the owner’s permission, and we pulled bandaging material out of the back of the truck in preparation.

Dr. Weronko looped a halter around the donkey in question, and led him out of line and over to the boma, where we would have a quiet place to work and the other team members could continue their job without interruption.


Drs. Mushi and Weronko share a smile as they prep for a wound care procedure.

Standing in the shadows of the boma, an oasis in the middle of the African heat, I began to understand why livestock happily remained inside. I went to the other side and stood next to a couple of curious little children, marveling yet again that I was actually here in this idyllic location surrounded by donkeys, watching the shadows play on the faces of my friends as they prepared to do open air surgery. I tried to remember what day it was and wasn’t sure. There, then, it didn’t matter.


This calming effect did not translate to the patient in question. He was not in a compliant mood, so he was sedated just enough to take the edge off.


And in goes the happy juice...

Once this was done, Rudy started the arduous task of cleaning out the deep wound.

All right, who donated the heart pattern vet wrap? And is that pink vet wrap being used as a ponytail holder? (I love Dr. Weronko.) That stuff is just so versatile. We used it to tie the Vetericyn banners to the chute as well. I sense another craft project in the works…

On each side of the wound, two looping sutures were placed to hold the bandage onto the donkey.

I think it’s fair to say this was an atypical sort of surgical suite, one where overhanging branches would slap you on the back of your head every time you stood up:

But, the company couldn’t be beat.


With the sutures in place and the wound cleaned and dressed, Rudy then looped the Vetwrap through the sutures in order to create a compression on top of the bandage and hold it in place on the donkey’s back.


By now the meds were wearing off and our act was wearing thin. It took about four people holding the donkey so Rudy could finish. (Insert how many vets does it take joke here)


But finish he did, and the donkey left much more comfortable than he arrived. The owner went home with supplies to change the bandaging every day for a week, a bottle of Vetericyn, and some topical nitrofurazone ointment.

And as a side benefit, the amount of padding on the bandage will also help the wound heal if he continues to work during the recovery time. The process was repeated on other donkeys over the course of the day, though most wounds were superficial enough to not need the long term bandage treatment.

When we were done, we turned around to see Toccoa, sweaty, covered in Vitamin B and spit out dewormer, shaking her head.

“What?” I asked.

“Just like at home,” she said. “The second something interesting comes up, all the vets take off.” I looked at the boma, where every single person there was a DVM, and back at the chute, where everyone else was still working their rears off getting the vaccinations and dewormings taken care of.

“Oh yeah,” I said as everyone scurried off back to the chute and I paused to photograph a particularly expressive cow who had been watching the exchange with interest, “That’s because we knew you all could handle it. Brilliantly.”

And they did.

Filed: Adventures, Be The Change, Blog, Photography Tagged: , , , ,
  • Deborah Mendez

    I am truly loving your recaps. Plus the music on the videos almost makes me cry!

  • Tamara

    This must have been the donkey shown in previous posts with the two large wounds. I’m glad he was given some extra TLC 🙂

    The way your photos and video bring this to life is just wonderful. It really helps us see the entire context – the background sights and sounds, all of it adds to the experience. Oh, and I love the cow. He is very expressive. There’s a whole world in those eyes.

  • So cool! You are living my long-time dream of going around the world documenting and capturing life.