Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Tauranga doctors feel pull of Africa

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Destinee and Jono Macleod at Memorial Park with their two children Ellisha, 1 and Zoe, 3 and Mrs Macleod's father Bryan Archer. Photo/George Novak
Destinee and Jono Macleod at Memorial Park with their two children Ellisha, 1 and Zoe, 3 and Mrs Macleod's father Bryan Archer. Photo/George Novak

Doctors Destinee and Jono Macleod are home in Tauranga for a three-month visit after an extraordinary 15 months in Africa.

The couple have been living in Tonj, South Sudan, and delivering medical care to the local Dinka people. Volunteering with In Deed and Truth (IDAT) the couple are two of 120 doctors in a country of 12 million people.

In one year the clinic saw 17,000 patients made up of 5000 antenatal care visits and 12,000 child health consultations.

Every doctor will have lots of patients but there will only be a few that mean a lot to them. In Tonj I get them all the time.
Jono Macleod

Zoe, Jono, Destinee and Ellisha Macleod with some of the many boys who follow them around during the day in Tonj, 2015. Photo/supplied
Zoe, Jono, Destinee and Ellisha Macleod with some of the many boys who follow them around during the day in Tonj, 2015. Photo/supplied

Last year The Bay of Plenty Times published the story of Bryan Archer, Mrs Macleod's father, who fundraised and then sent a shipping container to South Sudan filled with materials to build them a house. He then flew there to construct it himself.

The couple arrived home in mid December last year and will head back to their African home on April 1.

Read more: Tauranga doctors make a new life in war-ravaged South Sudan
A Tauranga family leaving an African legacy

Doctor Jono Macleod said it was challenging but the work was equally as rewarding in South Sudan.

"Every doctor will have lots of patients but there will only be a few that mean a lot to them. In Tonj I get them all the time.

"Even a few weeks before we left, we had one child who came in with malaria that had gone to her brain. She was convulsing and shortly after arriving she stopped breathing. We used a bag mask on her and gave her medicines and the pastor was praying - all the while the parents of the child were crying and wailing, wanting to take her away to be buried. I said, 'Please, please give us half an hour. Let us try.' Malaria, if you can get on top of it, can turn the corner quite quickly. She started breathing after half an hour, the next morning she was sitting up, two days later she was running around smiling."

Every few weeks they would get stories like that, he said.

Bryan Archer holding his granddaughter Zoe, 3, Richard Welch, Destinee holding Ellisha, 1, and Jono Macleod when Bryan and Richard arrived in Tonj in 2015. Photo/Supplied
Bryan Archer holding his granddaughter Zoe, 3, Richard Welch, Destinee holding Ellisha, 1, and Jono Macleod when Bryan and Richard arrived in Tonj in 2015. Photo/Supplied

Destinee Macleod said what kept her going was that she knew her family were meant to be there.

"God made us for a purpose and that's our purpose, being there. Being in a place where there is so much to be done. You are doing something that no one else is doing. Or very few.

"It's such new beginnings in South Sudan so being there and doing what we do is very exciting."

Between the pair and the three other staff they had in their clinic they could see between 70 to 130 patients a day.

Before Mrs Macleod's father organised a house to be sent and built in Tonj the family were living in a single room building with no shower, toilet or cooking facilities.

Now having the home made every difference to their daily lives.

The couple said they could not express in words their gratitude to Mr Archer for travelling the epic 15,297km journey to South Sudan to build the house and to the Tauranga business community who donated supplies for it.

The family will be joined by family friends Steve and Larne Wilson who will work alongside them for two years when they head back.

The Macleods do not plan to return to New Zealand until December 2017, just in time for Mr Archer's 70th birthday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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