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Lifesaving equipment is gift from Cornwall to Africa

By WMNlynbarton  |  Posted: March 24, 2014

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A piece of vital medical equipment used in the diagnosis of disease will this week begin a 4,100 mile journey from the Western tip of Cornwall to the Horn of Africa.

The rotary microtome is a gift from the pathology department of the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Truro and will be personally delivered by Professor Robert Marshall from his home in St Ives to the Wollega University Medical School in Nekemte, Ethiopia.

Prof Marshall, who leads a project linking Exeter University Medical School with the medical school in Africa, will set off on Thursday. (march 27)

He said its delivery would be of vital help in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

“The rotary microtome is an essential piece of pathology equipment,” he said.

“It is used to cut tissue samples into very thin slices to be examined by microscopy for the identification of diseases.

“Currently, specimens obtained at Wollega University Medical School have to be sent hundreds of miles away to Addis Ababa and therefore many patients are treated without a confirmed diagnosis.”

The first leg of his journey was to have been by train, but because of the continued closure of the track at Dawlish, Prof Marshall has obtained a lift from St Ives to Tiverton with Philippa Penney, property manager with holiday lettings agency Classic Cottages.

From Tiverton, Prof Marshall and the microtome will go on to Heathrow and fly 3,660 miles to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. He will then drive for a further eight hours to reach Wollega University Medical School in Nekemte.

The equipment costs £7,500 and weighs around 40 kilos, so Prof Marshall said he was grateful for the help transporting it.

“Classic Cottages is really helping to make the transportation of the microtome possible and I am very grateful for their support - the equipment is heavy and bulky and I would not have been able to carry it between the train and the bus.

“Once the microtome has been delivered it will be the only one for hundreds of miles around, and will allow a new department of tissue pathology to be created.”

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