By BRIAN WALKER
Hagadone News Network
COEUR d'ALENE — With the hurdles he's faced caring for those with life-threatening diseases in his native Zambia, it's only fitting that his name is Brave.
Eight years after Lynn Rinker, a local nurse who also owns Memory Lane in Coeur d'Alene, went on a medical mission to the country in south-central Africa and met medical coordinator Brave Sikangila, she finally was able to fund his trip here this week so he could gain training to take home and teach others.
"He's earned his name," Rinker said. "I saw what he's doing there. His heart is to do whatever he can to help his community."
After the mission with local nurses Amy Ford and Sara Dreschel and physical therapist Matt Rogers, Rinker said it became her next mission to bring Sikangila here for basic training such as CPR, with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for cardiac arrest patients and tactical combat critical care.
However, a series of setbacks on both ends — Sikangila was in a car crash, Rinker had a brain tumor, the recession and a bureaucratic mess with the U.S. Embassy — prevented him from arriving.
When he finally received his visa, Sikangila hitchhiked back to his home, which was six hours away, before boarding a plane.
Rinker and Sikangila are bonded by faith.
"God put him on my heart," she said.
Sikangila replied, "Amen."
Sikangila, 36, called the training and tours he received at Kootenai Health, Riverstone Dental Care and Ironwood Family Practice "my American dream."
"The training that I have gone through is a door opener for me," he said. "Lynn made it possible for me to come to America. Now I'm going back home to help more people and teach others."
Rinker said she's seen how a little goes a long way in Zambia. Clinics there are still using the resuscitation bags that were delivered by the local team eight years ago.
Rinker said a photo she received on Thursday of a baby whose life was saved by one of those very bags was heartwarming.
Sikangila said the health ministry in Zambia quit paying him three years ago because he's not related to a medical officer. However, he's remained steadfast to health care there and believes the certificates he's earned here will put pressure on officials to add him to the payroll.
"This will push the hand of their government," Rinker said. "Walking with lions and rhinos is more prosperous over there so they've quit handling a lot of their medical needs."
Rinker said Sikangila has earned the trust of those in his village.
"Brave sees 500 to 700 people a day," she said. "When he's not there, 50 show up."
Asked to describe the difference in health care in Zambia to here, Sikangila said, "150 years."
The medical problems are also a world apart, he said.
There, diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis are at the forefront as opposed to obesity, diabetes and depression here. Sikangila said the life expectancy in Zambia is around 40.
Basic medical and hygiene supplies like Band-Aids and toothpaste are in high demand in Zambia.
When Coeur d'Alene residents John and Kathy Pierce and Kathy's mother, Betty Hove, presented Sikangila with those necessities on Thursday to take to back to Zambian clinics, Sikangila was overwhelmed with gratitude.
"This is amazing," he said on his knees, thanking the family. "I don't know how to thank you enough. To God be the glory."
Sikangila shared Zambian culture with students at Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities on Thursday and also has experienced other local hotspots, including the Dockside restaurant and boardwalk at The Coeur d'Alene Resort, McDonald's, Cabela's and scenic drives.
He listened to music at a Lake City High concert and the Iron Horse downtown, drove a Dodge Viper sports car and braved "those shoes on wheels" (roller skates).
Milkshakes are too sweet for him to drink and our normal, pleasant fall weather is too cold for him to bear, but seeing our wildlife and sunsets has been mesmerizing.
"It's like the sky is speaking to the mountains," he said.
Summing up his North Idaho experience, Sikangila said, "My dream has come true."