TMC employee turns hardship into inspiration

Donatian Mahanga TMC 2At the age of 10, Donatian Mahanga became a refugee in the Congo, introduced to the overwhelming challenges of intense poverty, starvation, disease and political strife.

There was a constant shortage of food and medicine. “We buried people every day because of starvation,” he said. Of his 32 aunts, only three survived.

That incredible story of survival fueled a positive mindset and a deep passion to help others.

“People ask me why I am always smiling,” said Mahanga, who works in environmental services at Tucson Medical Center. “It is one of the ways I heal my heart.”

United Way Champions 2017 Donatian MahangaMahanga, who recently served as a champion in TMC’s United Way campaign, also finds healing in giving to others after being affected by more than 20 years of moving between refugee camps in the Congo and Uganda.

War and deprived living conditions claimed six of his 12 siblings. The harrowing experiences were made worse when he was abandoned by his parents at age 13, leaving he and his remaining siblings to fend for food and clothes.

Mahanga was surrounded by a terrible situation that he felt was consuming a generation of young Africans. He wanted to improve living conditions – but not just for him, for his community.

“So many people were suffering at zero. There was no hope at all – I wanted to create a change,” he said. Mahanga took part in organizing a group of young men called COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA). What is COBURWAS? The founders took letters from the names of the countries that refugees traveled from: Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan.

Donatian Mahanga CIYOTA 3Their first step was to raise funds and learn craftsmanship. Mahanga, himself, helped build a school in the refugee camp. “Without education, nothing will do!”

He brought the diverse group of refugees together, and taught himself eight languages in the process. “If you want to help someone, speaking in their language will put them at ease.” He helped many express their grief through performance and song, a method he still uses to engage refugee communities in Tucson.

Mahanga and his friends even reached out to sources in the United States to provide medicine and mosquito nets to treat and stop Malaria, which claims so many lives in the refugee area.

CIYOTA also advocated for women’s rights and encouraged young women to obtain an education, a rare pursuit for women in refugee settlements.

Donatian Mahanga CIYOTA 2After 12 years in operation, CIYOTA has grown into an international, volunteer-based non-profit, that is now organized in the U.S.

Mahanga is glad to see the school he built become a large and prosperous education center. “My number one goal is always to help people,” he said.

In August of 2016, Mahanga came to America with his wife and five children. A temporary staffing agency helped him get a job with TMC and his position soon became permanent.

“TMC is the right place for me –the workers treat each other and the patients with such compassion,” Mahanga explained. “They really show humanity – always working to help others.”

A friend from Uganda reached out to Mahanga to say good bye because he could not afford a life-saving surgery. He was touched when his coworkers raised the needed funds.

TMC monument signHe has already begun helping others, donating his time to help other refugees find work and acclimate to life in the United States. “Change is a part of life, but everyone should feel proud of who they are.”

“Donatian’s love for humanity is visible from the moment you meet him,” said Beth Dorsey, the director of food, nutrition and environmental services at TMC. “His compassion for others truly shows in all he does at TMC and for the community.”

Mahanga is proud to work at TMC and proud of the difference he’s making in the community. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children, ages 2 through 10. “The secret to happiness is being content with what you have.”

 

 

Safe Kids Pima County – keeping kids safe through education and advocacy

Safe Kids Pima County LogoPlenty of us have practice patching up the skinned knees and elbows of active children in our lives.

Unfortunately, though, accidents are too often far more serious than bumps and scrapes. In fact, accidents are the leading cause of death for ages 0 to 19 – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news about this chilling statistic is that we have the power to change it. “Childhood accidents can (often? always? Almost always) be prevented – a few easy steps for children and adults can help keep kids safe,” said Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County coordinator.

Safe Kids Pima County is a network of organizations focused on preventing accidental, childhood injury by educating adults and children, creating safe environments, conducting research, and advocating for effective laws.

Mitchell is a part of TMC’s participation in the Safe Kids initiative, working with community partners to actively engage adults in taking action for stronger child safety. From providing free bike helmets and pool safety to education workshops and school presentations, Mitchell coordinates a full schedule of activities to facilitate child safety awareness.

Jessica MitchellRecently, Mitchell spent a week at Frances Owen Holaway Elementary School, educating each PE class on the merits of bike safety.

“We explain to the kids ‘the brain can’t fix itself’ and make sure every student has a helmet and how to put it on correctly,” Mitchell explained. “The kids also learn the proper hand signals, where it’s safe to ride and how to avoid taking dangerous risks.”

Many child accidents involve bike riding. Over the past three years, Safe Kids Pima County has provided more than 8,000 free bike helmets to children in our community.

Safe Kids Pima County provides information and resources to help keep kids safe. Going forward, look for Mitchell’s monthly blog posts on helping keep kids safe, happy and healthy.

For further information about Safe Kids Pima County, please email safekidspimacounty@tmcaz.com or call (520) 324-2783. If you are holding a community event and would like Safe Kids Pima County to attend or participate, click here.

Whooping Cough cases on the rise

Peds ED Logo_RGBTMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department is issuing a heads-up about a recent increase in cases of pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.  So far this year, nine cases have been confirmed – eight of those coming in just since May.

At this point, the Pima County Health Department is NOT considering this an outbreak or epidemic.  TMC simply wants to make people aware, and take the opportunity to educate the public.

Symptoms are similar to an upper respiratory infection:  Cough, cold, congestion and fever.  How can you tell if your child’s cough is caused from a cold?  Could it be croup?  How do you know if it’s whooping cough?  You may hear a croup cough described as a barking cough that sounds like a seal.  Whooping cough is a cough that does not stop.  It’s especially dangerous to those with compromised immune systems – the very young, and the very old.

“It’s very dangerous for young children, especially babies, as it affects their ability to breathe,” explained Tammy Myers, RN.  “Babies can cough so hard and so long that oftentimes they appear to be choking, and can turn blue.  They come into TMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department, and can end up in the ICU with pneumonia where they may need help breathing.  We especially want to protect the little ones who don’t have much immunity on board yet.  We also want to protect our elderly and make sure they are vaccinated and seeing their provider regularly.  They too can get very ill.”

The good news – pertussis is preventable.

The best way to avoid it?  Get vaccinated.  There are vaccines for infants, children, preteens, adults and seniors.  The childhood vaccine is called DTaP.  The pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.  It’s a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines.

Make sure everyone in your family has immunizations that are up to date, and that everyone is receiving regular checkups.

Rest assured that TMC takes care of these patients quickly, and in a manner not to expose others.  All safety measures are strictly followed.  If a patient comes in with a suspected case of whooping cough, masks are immediately placed on everyone.  The patient is placed in a negative pressure room that is like an isolation area so that others are not exposed.

In the event you are exposed to pertussis, or start to develop symptoms, let your physician know right away.  Your provider may prescribe medication to treat you.  Also, it’s imperative that you wear a mask to the doctor’s office, or ask them to provide you with one immediately so that you are not spreading it to our community.

Click here to see KGUN 9 On Your Side’s coverage of this story.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461