Br. Joe Dufe, OFMCap, a Loretto
Christmas is here again!
Christians (and almost everyone) celebrate Christmas as a commemoration of the Incarnation, the Word of God taking on human flesh in his Son Jesus Christ to come and dwell among us. Others may have their motives for the celebration, but consciously or unconsciously, they find themselves inside the mystery that has guided the lives of Christian believers for over 2000 years. Their lives are also inserted in the mystery of the Incarnation because of the universal kingship of Christ. This mystery is made available to us, thanks to the resounding “YES” of Mary. As to her role and her other prerogatives, not all Christians agree, talk less of non-Christians; but as to the birth of Christ, there is a common meeting point.
The birth of Christ was an event long foretold by the prophets, that God would send a Messiah to free mankind from the slavery of sin. The celebration of Christmas is thus both a historic event as well as a contemporary spiritual event. It is God showing his love for us. But there is nothing as purely spiritual love. Either we love or we do not. Love is a reality that involves the entire human person and all human realities and communities. It was the propelling force behind the mode of operation of Christ, and so it must be ours. The postulate of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis keeps exploring new modes of operation, that though adapt to the present situation, never lose sight of the paradigm set in place by Christ—they do everything possible to (re) incarnate Christ in our current context of life through their healthcare and other apostolates. Through the Incarnation of the Son of God and the commemoration of this event, Christians keep prophecy and hope united, looking up to the Second coming of the Lord as King of the universe. Christmas is therefore a time for making peace with each other, a time for sharing, a time for getting closer and closer to our fellow brother and sister in order to feel their experience, it is a time for looking up to the day when we would meet God face to face. In a word, Christmas is a universal ecological celebration.
Finding Ways to Overcome Threats on Our Cardiac Surgery Program
Sr. Alphonsa Suliy, Deputy Director, Shisong
History has it that the Cardiac Center in Shisong in the North West Region of Cameroon came into existence in a dramatic way. It was a dream shared between an Italian Priest- Don Claudio Maggioni and the then Fr Angelo Pagani OFM CAP (now Bishop Angelo Pagano), which was later shared with Sr. Alphonsa Kiven, then Provincial Superior of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis and Prof. Alessandro Frigiola, President of Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo. Thus, the Cardiac Center came into existence through the collaboration of two Italian non-governmental charitable organizations and the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis in 2002. Its inauguration by the Minister of Public Health, seating in for the Head of State of Cameroon in November 2009, brought hope to the hopeless cardiac patients in the Country and the west
African Sub Region; as well as giving the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis the opportunity to care for patients with cardiovascular diseases.
The entrance of the first Cameroonian resident cardiac surgeon 2012, Dr. Charles Mvondo, was another landmark, whose dynamism enabled the story to continue in a way that is sustainable. The efforts of the volunteer visiting surgical teams from Italy, Germany, USA, United Kingdom and Mozambique remains laudable. Of recent, Senegal, France and Germany joint the team of volunteers, who have put smiles on the faces of the 890 patients that have been operated in Shisong Cardiac Center and in the rescue station in Yaoundé-Clinique de Jordain. Despite these successes, the outbreak of the socio-political crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon in 2016 and the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic have rendered the Cardiac Center limping, adding to the list of other threats among which are:
– Limited government subvention to substantiate high running cost of the Cardiac Center.
– Lack of a National Health Insurance Scheme impeding prompt consultation by the patients who are generally poor
– Long distances from the major cities in the Country on poor road networks
– Unpaved 3 km road from Kumbo
town to Shisong, leading to a significant drop in patient turnout.
– Insufficient number of referrals to the Cardiac Center
In order to combat these threats, the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, together with their partners, are continuously on their toes to find innovative solutions; such as:
• The creation of the Heart Foundation to support the under-privileged access and afford cardiac surgery promptly,
• The creation of the surgical mission outreach in Yaoundé there by providing accessibility to all patients and improving referrals, despite the ongoing sociopolitical unrest in the North West Region (seat of the Shisong Cardiac Center). Overcoming challenges in the past has been based on the adage, ‘little drops of water can make a mighty ocean’. Despite the two major threats highlighted above we could move forward. The Shisong cardiac surgery program came to remain, not to end. It was started through local and international collaboration and should continue to thrive through collaboration whereby every hurdle can be overcome. If you are interested in our Cardiac surgery mission, you can contact us for details on our strategies for sustainable development.
Hidden Pioneers of the Cardiac Center
Dr. Roberto Fonda and Ing. Vicenzo Albonico paved the way !!! By. Dr. Gilbert Lawong (Consultant, TSSF Health Services)
The objectives of the Cardiac Center Partners — Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo and Coure Fratello, registered non-profit, non-governmental Organizations in Italy, are to provide treatment and
healthcare support to children with heart diseases worldwide. While the first does this through a specialized medical team that offers its services and know-how, Cuore Fratello takes it from the technical and financial point of view.
Dr. Fonda as part of the executive team of Coure Fratello has managed and coordinated activities of his organization with the Shisong cardiac Centre since its creation. Although not often seen in the limelight, he has a heavy hand in the conception, implementation and running of a medical plant is the right electrotechnical planning and execution. When finally, the medical equipment is in action, the walls cover all connecting cables, the wireless networks are not seen and the technical interfaces and centrals are hidden in small technical rooms, but we admire the wonders of medical technology. The work of the engineer does not end here. He is responsible for overseeing the effective and secure running of the technical plant. This implies regular servicing, calibration, updating of hard- and software, undertaking repairs, planning future modifications and supplying the medical team with needed technical advice and consumables. Summarily, the biomedical/electrotechnical department of the Cardiac Center can rightly be termed one of its vital organs.
Being a versed biomedical engineer, Vincenzo Albonico (Cuore Fratello) has been another core behind the above-mentioned vital department since the conception of the Shisong
Cardiac Center. He went beyond offering his excellent technical knowhow to training technicians, opening doors for more collaboration and consistently/patiently accompanying the Cardiac Center team on the ground with constructive comments on the technical management. The creation of the so-called, technical help desk, was his invention. After retirement from their professions in their home Countries, both Vincenzo and Roberto continued service with the Cardiac Center tirelessly. They combed through Italy to find suppliers, organize the transfer of the formidable medical technologies from Europe to Shisong village in the North West Region of Cameroon, just to assure that “a cardiac patient deserves the same standard of care in Milan as in Shisong”. Buried day and night in the plans of the Altieri Studio, Coimel, Technair, etc, made you forget your food, family, holidays, money, just to make the dream happen. They knocked at every possible door in Italy, Cameroon and India to make Shisong Cardiac Center stand. With their services. Roberto and Vicenzo have set the pace, and we shall follow as you still coach us from the background.
Preparing to retire fully in 2021, the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, with profound respect, publicly appreciate the two giants for the marvelous work that they accomplished over the years with patience, precision, professionalism and endurance. We pray that the Almighty God may bless you abundantly and keep you. Equal thanks to your families that supported your numerous travels and work in the Shisong Cardiac Center.
SHINING NEW FENCE FOR ST. PIUS X CATHOLIC HEALTH CENTER TATUM
How development is still possible despite the ongoing sociopolitical unrest! By Dr. Gilbert Lawong
For decades, health institutions have been conceived and constructed without consideration of specific security measures. Apart from the presence of a yardman, who was in charge of security, triage and other duties, there was often no physical security measure. Some years back, some institutions like the St. Elizabeth Catholic Mission Hospital in Shisong and the Banso Baptist Hospital in Kumbo invested in more effective security measures. These have proven the test of time, and particularly during the current sociopolitical crisis in the English-speaking Regions of Cameroon.
The fence, as a physical barrier could serve not only patients and staff, but the neighboring populations that run to health institutions to seek for refuge. The St. Pius X Catholic Health Centre Tatum struggled with a very open campus, accessible from every angle, whereby, some of the units are less than 50 meters away from the main road.
The need arose to copy the example of other institutions. Would this be possible in times of social, political and moreover, economic hardship?
Through determination and focus, this could be attained in 2021 with the collaboration of donors, interreligious support of the local population and under the able leadership of the matron, Sr. Xaveria Ntenmusi.
As a consequence of this investment, consultation figures, amongst others have been improving. Tatum will for the first time witness a dry season with no stray goats, sheep, pigs and even cows trespassing into the Health Center. This and the limited trespassing by unpermitted persons will contribute to the wellbeing of patients. If this project is possible in times, when no vehicle is allowed to enter or leave Tatum (since September 2018), we can only be grateful to God the Almighty. The experience made in this project encourages us to keep going despite the hardships. The St. Pius X. Health Centre is very grateful to its donors and collaborators, through whose relentless commitment this project could be executed.
Association of Seasonal Drivers and Malaria Prevalence
Does Malaria Break Out at the Change of Season? Mr. Fanka Marcel, Nurse Profusionist, Shisong
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite (Plasmodium) that is commonly haboured by a certain type of mosquito (Anopheles) which feeds on human blood among others. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flulike illness. Four kinds of malaria parasites infect humans: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae.
The three main climatic factors that directly influence malaria transmission are temperature, rainfall and relative humidity). The geographic distribution of malaria depends on the climate. Regions where the climate fulfils the above-mentioned conditions are conducive for the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria parasites.
N. Akenji et al could demonstrate that the malaria parasite prevalence was higher in the rainy (50.1%) than in the dry season (44.2%) with a significant difference. The female Anopheline mosquitoes that conveys the malaria parasite needs surface water to complete their life cycles.
Rainfall influences malaria transmission by supplying water to create aquatic habitats, although excessive rainfall may flush breeding sites, thereby reducing mosquito populations.
Which season is most suitable for the spread of malaria and why? In tropical Africa however, the change of seasons from rainy to dry season is predestined to more malaria cases, because not much rain falls, leading to more standing water habitats, which propagate reproduction of the Anopheles mosquito among others.
In tropical Countries, particular attention ought to be paid during the transitional period from rainy to dry season. Water logging and clogging in public and domestic surroundings need to be prevented, so as to
prevent multiplication of the malaria conveying Anopheles mosquito. An additional preventive measure is the use of mosquito nets over beds during sleep. The municipal authorities on their side should ensure that each house has appropriate drainage. With these practical preventive measures, many cases of malaria could be prevented.
Ref.: Nkuo-Akenji T, Ntonifor NN, Ndukum MB, Abongwa EL, Nkwescheu A, Anong DN, Songmbe M, Boyo MG, Ndamukong KN, Titanji VP. Environmental factors affecting malaria parasite prevalence in rural Bolifamba, South West Cameroon. Afr J Health Sci. 2006 JanJun;13(1-2):40-6. doi: 10.4314/ajhs. v13i1.30816. PMID: 17348742.
Why the Last Cardiac Surgery Mission was Exceptional
Sr. Juliette Burinyuy, Cardiac Outreach Coordinator
The Cardiac surgery outreach team has just successfully completed the 11th surgical program in its outreach—the Jordan Medical Services in Yaoundé. The mission which ran from November
6 to December 6, witnessed the operation of 19 patients, the highest number to be operated in a row since 2009.
The voluntary blood donation by the Christian community of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish- Simbock, the convergence of national and international staff and patients, procurement of consumables and servicing of machinery were the immediate preparations to the mission. Prof. Christoph Schmidt from Muenster , Germany, brought enormous experience and expertise from his 40 years+ in service at a high-end Unit
in his home Country as an anesthesiologist, of which he laid emphasis on pediatric cardiac anesthesia. He joint the resident cardiac surgeon Dr. Charles Mvondo and his team to save lives of children and adults, ranging from 16 months to 66 years. Prof. Schmidt, visiting Cameroon for the first time, appreciated our “unique” medical technology, strong team spirit and management. Our clients came from Loum, Buea, Foumban, Bamenda, Bafoussam, Equitorial Guinea, Yaounde, Mbengwi, Tatum, Kribi, Baba 1, and Rwanda, presenting with a variety of congenital and acquired heart diseases. Our team was able to carry out Artrial Septal Defect (ASD) closure, (Mitral Valve) MV repair, MV annuloplasty, MV replacement, Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) ligation, Ventral Septal Defect (VSD) closure, Tetralogy of Fallot (TF) correction, mechanical MR, Aortic valve replacement, Aortic Root enlargement andTricuspid Annuloplasty. In some cases, more than one replacement/repair was performed on a patient.
Considering our global economic situation, sponsoring cardiac surgeries remains a challenge, but our passionate and committed friends have continued with their humanitarian aid. The patients and we are grateful for the great support given us by Cuore Fratello, Etica Mundi Mi-Do, Franciscan Mission Outreach, Bishop Angelo Pagano and the Capuchins of Lombardia, Archbishop Paul Verdzekov Memorial Heart Foundation and respective families.
A new need that featured was to have facilities for Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) besides the longstanding need of sponsors for the underprivileged patients. The story of the working visit of Prof. Christoph cannot be complete without appreciating the role of Dr. Lawong Gilbert, Consultant of the TSSF Healthcare Services, who as our eye in Europe liaised Prof. Christoph with the Shisong Cardiac Centre. According to our local team, Dr. Christoph was “very competent, simple and related very well with everyone, and this enabled us to handle every surgical and post-surgical case successfully”. All acknowledged his tremendous knowledge and skills and unanimously recommended that he returns for subsequent missions. With the bank of 4 volunteer-visiting anesthesiologists, we look forward to performing more surgeries in 2022.
What we are Learning about the Covid-19 Pandemic
Nebah Gregory Fon, Nurse Superindent, St. Martin de Porres Hospital Catholic General Hospital Njinikom
The Saint Martin de Porres Catholic General hospital Njinikom is one of the hospitals in the North West Region of Cameroon with great success in the management of people with COVID-19. The first confirm positive case
was diagnosed in our facility on May 14, 2021 before the Government declared the hospital an official treatment center for COVID-19. More cases followed with severity ranging from mild, moderate to severe.
Severe cases in our context would present with respiratory distress, chest pain, dizziness, low oxygen saturation, cough, fever with temperatures above 39.5°C; at times, altered state of conscious ness, severe asthenia, and very high breathing rates. All these were successfully managed with no deaths recorded. With these good results, other hospitals in the region; mostly Catholic Hospitals, referred critical cases for management at the St. Martin de Porres and all ended in a success despite its limited human and material resources in the COVID-19 treatment center.
We look forward to upgrading the treatment center with more resources so that, death rate from COVID-19 can stay at zero and more patients can be managed effectively within the shortest possible time. Some of our needs include oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders with gauge, disposables, resources for capacity building and more nurses to work in the treatment center. Moreover empowerment at the level of sensitization, supply of protection material for hospital staff and initiation of a vaccination campaign would be highly welcome in our setting.
TSSF Health Leaders Review 2021 and Plan For 2022
Sr. Budzee Appolonia, CEO TSSF Health Services
The ordinary meeting of the heads of TSSF health facilities was conducted on November 16-17 in Laverna Spiritual Center -Bamenda. As usual, the Sisters broke the travel challenges as much as possible and came from the knocks and crannies of the land. Besides the budget defense and deliberations with the Provincial Leadership Team on the new financial control policies, the participants also discussed reports from the 13 Health Services and made recommendations for the 2022 activity plans. Some of the paramount topics of challenge were management of the COVID-19 outbreaks, central procurement services, internal and external collaboration with stakeholders, management of trauma, handling of the numerous sick persons who are unable to sponsor their health bills; (with those in Anglophone Cameroon generally more impoverished) and sustainability of health services.
According to the Provincial Superior, Sr. Gloria Wirba, strengthening collaboration was a principal way out, given that “unity is strength”. Some collaborations were made more specific: with the respective village development associations, national and international partnerships. The assembly also considered expanding healthcare services to other needy areas and consolidating human resource management. The meeting was chained to the training of the newly elected staff representatives on November 18, facilitated by the North West Regional Delegate of Labour and other Divisional Delegates. Through that formative session, the new staff representatives are required to acquire the abilities to effectively coordinate the staff issues vis a vis the law and the Institutions.
Medicines for Humanity Trains on Effective Data Management
Sr. Manwe Nicoaline Munyar, Matron Ako Health Center
The meeting took place in Laverna Spiritual Center, Bamenda from October 26 to 28, coordinated by Mrs. Olivia Fobid, the Cameroon Coordinator of Medicines for Humanity (MFH). In attendance were 42 representatives of partner health facilities from the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, fostering the commitment of “reaching the world’s most vulnerable children”. Module 18, implementation of community directed interventions in humanitarian context, was treated. It included aspects such as malnutrition, how to live and work safely in humanitarian crisis, home visits, retraining of health workers and community health workers on a monthly and quarterly report. Medicines for Humanity continues to intervene in enabling the health facilities enhance in quality healthcare through provision of basic equipment, material and formation of health personnel.
Cuore Fratello- 19 Years As Herald of Good News for Cardiac Children in Cameroon
Sr. Budzee Appolonia, CEO TSSF Health Services
Cuore Fratello exists to alleviate the plight of children suffering from cardiovascular diseases in the world, including those in Cameroon! In fact, the “Cameroon Project” was the original dream of Don Claudio Maggioni, President of the Cuore Fratello Association, Milan—Italy.
The global economic and health crisis that has slapped every community and organization around the world, caused significant adjustments on the Cardiac Center of St. Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital, Shisong. But the dream and enthusiasm of Don Claudio remain fresh. In a recent meeting between the Executive Board of Cuore Fratello and the Provincial Superior of the TSSF, a decision was reached to increase the number of Cameroon children being evacuated to San Donato Milanese for cardiac surgery from 2 per group to 4 per group. Despite the presence of the Shisong Cardiac Centre with its outreach, currently functioning at the Jordan Medical Services in Yaounde-Cameroon, some very complex pediatric cardiac cases need specialized experience and equipment. They are often evacuated by the Shisong Cardiac Center to the Policlinic San Donato, Milan- Italy. In 2020, 6 were sponsored; in 2021, 6 have been sponsored in Milan; could we expect an increase in 2022? The last group, still in Milan, will hopefully, return to Cameroon before the end of December 2021. Those operated in both in Cameroon and Italy over the years are growing up in age, academics and profession, the pride of their parents, Cuore Fratello and other partners.
(Micro Donation) and Franciscan Mission Outreach: sponsored 4 persons in the November cardiac mission.
• The Capuchins’ Mission Office‚ Lombardy, through Bishop Angelo Pagano, subsidized the cardiac surgeries of 2 persons:
• Cuore Fratello ONLUS (San Donato Milanese) for continuous advocacy for the Cardiac Center and sponsoring and hosting 4 children for heart surgery in Milan. They also sponsored 5 children in the last mission.
• Archbishop Paul Verdzekov Memorial Heart Foundation
• The Franciscan Companions’ Solidarity (Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, USA; Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, Milwaukee, USA and the TSSF) continued to offer remarkable contribution for the sustainability of the TSSF in Africa
• Dr. Gilbert Lawong, for his human resource contribution
for the strategic sustainability of the TSSF Health Services
• Medicines for Humanity, for the training on data management and sponsoring the meeting with partners from the
North West and South West Regions.
• St. Laurentius Catholic Parish Grosskrotzenburg (Germany) did more fundraising and sponsored treatment of the
underprivileged patients and education of the children in
• Surgforall, Spain for finding and sponsoring the shipment
of medical supplies and equipment to our health services and for the strategic planning of the urology program with the TSSF
• Dr. Esther Tallah for offering free lodging to the international and national staff of the Cardiac Center • LUMOS for part-sponsoring the solar energy installation in St. Padre Pio, Douala • Missionszentrale der Franziskaner for part sponsoring solar energy installations in St. Padre Pio, Douala
• All those who contributed for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the canonical erection of the Cameroon Province of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis
We remain grateful to all our Benefactors
• Sudtirol Aerzte fuer die Welt‚ South
• Fofeni Bonito, USA
• Missio Brixen/Bozen
• Fr. Leonhard Weidemayr, MHM Absam-Austria
• Mission Doctors
• ASHIA Cameroon, Switzerland
• Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo
(San Donato Milanese) for continuous
advocacy in favour of the Cardiac Center
• Nso Family Union, Canada, for supporting in the control of covid-19 infections.
• Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, General
Administration (Rome) & the Provinces of Brixen and Hall
• Fr. George Hanser, MHM (Austria)
• Jo Overton and friends in the Diocese
• Dr. Daniel Gwanula
• Call to Mercy
• Italian Doctors (Ziernhold Guinther and team)
• Mr. Clement Fondufe
• Dr. Italo Millocco
• Orthopaedics ONLUS, Pisa-Italy,
planning an orthopaedic mission to
• Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health
for revamping technical support to the
…all of you for your solicitude, solidarity, mediation and every form of support.
Sr. Jacinta Bole
of the Unconditional Love of God
was born on the 18th of September, 1986 at Lassin Noni
into the family of Papa Kili Zachary Bole and Mama Bole
Jenet Befeh. She was baptised in Lassin on the 23rd of August, 1988, received First Holy Communion on the 3rd of
September, 1995 and Confirmation on the 17th of March
1998 at Nkor.
She did her secondary education in Government High
School Nkambe where she obtained her Ordinary Level
in June 2004 and Advance Level in June 2006.
After her Postulancy formation, on the 5th of June, 2007, she applied to enter the
Novitiate. Sr. Jesinta made her First Profession on the 29th of September, 2009.
On the 25th of January, 2017, she applied and was accepted for Final Profession
which took place on the 1st of September, 2017 at the Kumbo Cathedral.
Her services in the Province were centred on catering and studies in the medical and health domains. She was hardworking, intelligent, joyful, smart and courageous. Due to poor mental health, she applied for exclaustration on the 19th of March, 2019. A year’s exclaustration was granted whereby she journeyed with a councillor and attended to her health needs. At the end of the year, she applied to return to the community, and was accepted back in July 2020. Despite her fluctuating mental health, she contributed to community growth in various ways. She slept in the Lord on Friday, 10th December, 2021 and laid to rest in the Shisong Convent cemetery on the 11th of December, 2021. May her Soul rest in perfect Peace!
Mr. Ngong Julius
started work in St. Martin de Porres Catholic Health Center, Wum, as a guard in 2014. Throughout this time, he was very committed, self-giving, duty-conscious, neat and orderly in himself and environment, respectful and exceeded job expectations without counting the cost. It was fun to be around Pa Julius because of his sense of Humor. Our entire team misses him. He fell sick early this year and was being managed in Wum Health Center. Eventually, we realized that his situation was not improving. Early October, he was referred to the Regional Hospital in Bamenda. He finally passed on the 20th October 2021 and was buried in his native village Melim-Kumbo. May the Lord reward him for his service and contribution to our healthcare mission, pardon his sins and receive him into heaven. Amen
SPONSOR: Sr. Wirba Gloria Kenyuyfoon, Provincial Superior‚ Sr. Eileen Javnyuy, Councillor in charge of Health Care
EDITORS: Sr. Budzee Appolonia (in Chief), Dr. Tantchou Tchoumi Jacque Cabral, Mr. Jato Richard, Fr. Joseph Dufe, Sr. Alphonsa Kiven, Dr. Gilbert Lawong, Mr. Benard Kong, Sr. Alphonsa Suliy, Sr. Priscilla Yein, Sr. Priscilla Assamba