Half marathon, full-on effort

MARQUETTE – Matamba, Tanzania, is far from Marquette. However, it’s not far from Dr. Sue Ritter’s heart.

The 67-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist, who is retired from OBGYN Associates of Marquette P.C., plans to run in the Marquette Half Marathon Saturday to raise money for a hematology machine for a health center in the small village of Matamba.

Ritter is involved with the Matamba Aid Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Ishpeming.

According to the group’s website, www.matambaaidsociety.org, its mission statement is the continued education, improvement and expansion of healthcare to the people of the greater Matamba area in Tanzania, a country located in east Africa.

Located in the village is a medical center, which isn’t a hospital because it doesn’t have an operating room, she said. However, it still has crucial needs.

“Right now they really, really want a hematology machine,” Ritter said.

So even though there are only six members in the MAS, they are trying to raise money to buy the machine, she said.

Ritter visited Matamba in 2011 and 2013 with the help of the local Rotary.

Matamba, however, probably isn’t at the top of many people’s lists of places to visit.

“When I retired, I always wanted to do some international work and support,” Ritter said. “I spent many years in ob/gyn as a midwife and also as physician.”

That, obviously, gave her some medical insight, although only on a local level.

In Matamba, Tanzania, “the needs are great,” she said.

Since Ritter probably won’t win the running event, though, maybe some good can came out of her effort.

“What gift do I have that I can ever help with?” Ritter asked. “And I was thinking, I always run the Half Marathon. I’m old and slow. I’m 67 years old.”

Maybe this year, she thought, she could obtain some pledges for a good cause.

Ritter has no specific goal, but the hematology machine, she pointed out, costs $12,000.

“We looked at them when I was last over there, and they’re totally different kinds of medical things than what we have,” Ritter said.

So, she decided to run the Half Marathon, which takes place the same day as the Marquette Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifier, as well as a 5K run and kids’ run. The marathon races have elevation drops and run through the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

The money Ritter raises will help people half a world away.

“It can be used for a lot of things,” Ritter said of the hematology machine. “They’re way up in the southern highlands of Tanzania, so the big things they want are for anemia. That’s a major problem there.”

There’s also a need, she said, to follow up with the women and children seen at the health center. The machine too will show white blood counts for dealing with infectious disease, which could anything from malaria – which is extremely common, she said – to parasitic disease.

“The biggest issues they have, in most of these small villages, are maternal/child health issues, and specifically, childbirth and babies and young children,” Ritter said.

Ritter said if people want to make pledges, they can visit www.matambaaidsociety.org for more information. However, since there is no way to donate online directly, donors can send money to: Cheryl Marietti, treasurer, Matamba Aid Society, 508 E. North St., Ishpeming, MI 49849.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.