Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tour of Rwanda- Just getting there

Tour of Rwanda

Travel Day Part Deux

I was originally scheduled to leave Richmond for Rwanda yesterday 11/16. Unfortunately 10 minutes before my cab arrived I received a call from US Air. In a warm manner that only a computer generated voice could deliver I was told my flight from Richmond to Philly was cancelled. 45 minutes of phone work with a very nice agent named Ashley revealed that my only option was to essentially re-book me for the exact same trip one day later. Unfortunately Kigali, Rwanda is not a hot spot of flights. Having researched many options on this flight beforehand I think I may have taught Ashley a few things. Anyhow, I now sit here in the Philly airport waiting for my next leg to Brussels. From there, Brussels to Kigali. I at least get a window seat so if the weather is good I should get to see some amazing landscapes flying over Africa.

Rwanda was a little known place to me a few months ago when I was asked to go on this trip. It’s a country about the size of Maryland located in east-central Africa. Probably like most Americans the only noteworthy thing I knew of Rwanda was the genocide that took place in 1994. I also know from cycling magazines that Joques Boyer (first American Tour de France racer) and Tom Ritchey had found something unique in Rwanda that made them want to introduce cycling to the people there. As I read up on Rwanda it really is an amazing story at this. In 1994 in a period of great instability over a 2 month period nearly 1 million Tutsi’s were methodically killed by the rival Hutu’s. It is completely unfathomable to me what happened there, and almost as amazing is that there has been remarkable reconciliation and stability since 1996. I have a few patients of mine from Rwanda. They were very excited that I was visiting their homeland but also found it very difficult to talk about Rwanda for long before I could see old ghosts staring to come over them. If interested “A Thousand Hills” is a great book about the circumstances leading to the genocide, 1994, and the time since then.

I will be part of a 19 person delegation with Team Type 1 going for this event. TT1 went to this last year partly to compete in the race but also as a humanitarian mission. They were able to establish contacts within the country to start diabetic training for local health clinics and the also delivered a significant amount of diabetic supplies. Building on that, team founder Phil Southerland wanted to return this year to expand on the groundwork laid. We have a race crew of 6 riders, DS, soigner, mechanic and me. We also have a crew of diabetic athletes and teachers who will focus exclusively on the outreach side of things. Rwanda is small and stable enough at this point to allow us to set up a comprehensive program of care to try to help every type 1 diabetic in the country. It’s a pretty cool and I am proud to be part of it – it sucks however I will be nearly 2 days late arriving to meet the rest of the crew.

The race itself is a 6 day, 8 stage race. This one is a little out of my comfort zone. First I’ve never had to get a bunch of shots just to go cover a race. Second, I’ve covered hundreds of cycling races at this point but none where my backup is so scarce. It’s a luxury in the States to have great medical care. Last year when my counterpart with TT1 arrived for this he found the medical kit in the doctor’s car only contained a box of gauze. I have drugs, vitamins, IV fluids, suture material and all sorts of wound care material. My medical bag at check-in weighed 40 lbs and I am sure I will get there and wish I had something else. I am nervously looking forward to the experience and hope my crew all stay safe and if they do get hurt, it’s something I brought stuff for.

I have no clue what internet connection will be like but I will try to keep updates coming for those interested. Now, off to Brussels (is 8AM took early for a Belgian beer???)

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