Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 1:12 PM
Sunday, May 10, 2015
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since I opened the outpatient pediatric clinic in Aberdeen. At the time it was called the ACFC - Aberdeen Clinic and Fistula Centre - operated by Mercy Ships. It is now known as the Aberdeen Women's Centre and no longer run by MS. Although the pediatric clinic is currently closed due to Ebola, I am confident they will reopen in the next few months.
I remember the two months leading up to the opening of the clinic - it was a bit of a bumpy ride trying to get the community to agree to the scope of services that would be provided. I was keen to open a pediatric clinic since the child mortality rate in Sierra Leone was the highest in the world and there was no pediatric care nearby. Fortunately the stakeholders agreed that this was a good idea.
Day 1 of the clinic went well and I soon went from seeing 3 patients, to 18 patients, to 27 patients, to 50 patients, to anywhere between 60 and 80 patients per day. There were many mornings that I had to turn patients away at the gate which was very difficult. There were some occasions in which children died in the clinic because they came in such a bad state and there was so little we could do for them. Those were difficult moments in which we were faced with the reality of the high child mortality rate in the country. Fortunately there were many children, thousands, that my team and I could help and for that I am grateful. It's fun reading through some of my blog posts from 2005-2009 to see some of the adventures I had working in Aberdeen. There were good times and bad times but overall it was such a great experience. It was a really busy time, running the clinic, seeing patients everyday, overseeing the lab and dispensary, ensuring supplies were available, etc. It was worth it though. It was a very rewarding time. A few of my nurses still work there and it is great to be in touch with them. Sometimes I run into some of 'my former patients' or their parents in town or at the Children's Hospital and it is always a blessing to know that I was able to make a difference in their lives.
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 6:31 PM
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
|Katie, myself, Bob, Yembeh, Dolphine, Aminata, |
Alimamy, Alusine & Aqueelah - #safeHANDS
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 5:15 AM
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I was driving along Siaka Stevens street downtown when all of a sudden the world around me froze. I realized it was 6pm, which is the time that the anthem is played and the flag is lowered in various parts of the city. During this activity, out of respect, no one is allowed to move. Our car also stopped. Everyone around me froze - people stopped in the middle of the street, okadas (motorcycles) stopped abruptly, vehicles stopped. Except for one man. He kept walking because he was apparently oblivious to what was going on - within seconds he was shouted at and told to stop, which he did, after he backtracked his steps a little and stood frozen in the spot where he was expected to stop originally. It's a bizarre scene. I wish I could film it. After 2-3 minutes the music stops, the flag is lowered and everyone starts moving again. Back to the craziness of Freetown but for 2 minutes, the neighborhood was quiet.
The first time I experienced this was years ago on Fourah Bay Road near the Eastern Police Clock Tower - at that time I was the one who was shouted at and told to stop, which I did, having no clue what was going on. Now I know. I don't experience this 'frozen in time' event often, but when I do it really feels like I have stepped into a movie. It's a fun experience. Unfortunately the clock tower does not seem to play the national anthem anymore.
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 12:21 AM
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Usually the day is marked with devil parades in the streets of Freetown. It is generally not a nice atmosphere since the devils can be somewhat daunting and slightly aggressive in their approach. It's a combination of people singing, running, and dancing down the street, often combined with a lot of alcohol, and slight aggressiveness. The devil and his helpers force people to give money or make their followers bow down at certain points of time. The whole scene is a bit upsetting to watch to be honest with you. About 10 years ago I was once caught in the middle of a so called devil parade in the Eastern part of Freetown and it was a scary experience with drunk men climbing on our cars and not letting us proceed. We finally managed to get away from them and had to take a long detour to go home. All this to say, I do not like devil parades and am thankful that this year they did not take place. That is one of the few positive side effects of Ebola. No mass gatherings means no devil parades. I am not complaining about that.
The other most notable difference is that people are not allowed to gather at the beach. Today is usually the busiest day on the beach, Lumley beach in particular is usually packed, and today was probably one of the quietist days at the beach ever. I went to Lumley beach last year on Easter Monday and it was the busiest I had ever seen the beach. I guess today people found other ways to spend time with their family and friends.
Anyway, for me it was just another day at work and thankfully a more peaceful day than it could have been. I was thankful that there was no traffic going home, no disruptive devil parades, and no noisy neighborhoods. I can't complain.
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 12:03 AM
Monday, April 06, 2015
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 9:51 PM
Monday, March 23, 2015
Conversation with the immigration officer at Heathrow:
Officer: Good morning
Me: Good morning, how are you? [handing over my passport]
Officer: [scans passport and looks puzzled] Where did you just travel from?
Me: Brussels and prior to that Sierra Leone
Officer: Um, that's what I thought
[pause in the conversation]
Officer: I am sorry but I will have to call someone
Me: That's fine, that is what I expected.
Officer: I am going to have to have someone from public health England meet with you
Me: No problem
Officer: You haven't been around any dead bodies recently have you?
Me: No, don't worry, I haven't and I am well
Officer: Okay, sorry, this is the first time I have encountered this
Me: You don't have to worry, there's no risk to you
Officer: Okay, please have a seat and wait
Conversation with the man sealing suitcases at Luton (yes, my suitcase if falling apart):
Me: Good afternoon, I would like to seal my suitcase
Man: Okay, I can help you [takes the suitcase and puts it on the machine]
Man: Where are you traveling to?
Me: Amsterdam and then Geneva
Man: Oh, that sounds interesting, what are you doing in Geneva?
Me: I am going to a WHO meeting
Man: Oh, wow, what is that about?
Man: Are you sure it's safe for me to touch your suitcase?
Me: Yes, it's not a problem at all, you are safe, I am well, there's no risk
Man: If my 11 year old daughter finds out about this she is going to be terrified
Me: Really, there's no risk
Man: My daughter is worried that I will get Ebola since I work at an airport. I better not tell her about this.
Me: I think you are pretty safe here in Luton, I wouldn't worry about it. Thanks for sealing my suitcase.
[and off I went with my sealed suitcase]
And there you have it. Some people just don't know what to do when they hear the word Ebola. I guess that is understandable. I have to say, I have wondered how people in the plane would react if they knew I had just come from Sierra Leone. I bet some people would feel pretty uncomfortable for no reason. Thankfully, so far, friends I have met up with in London have not treated me any differently and it's been great (although a bit weird) to shake hands and hug people again. And today for the first time in a long time I held a healthy baby on my lap - that's been a while. It made me realize how little physical contact I have with people now in Freetown.
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 10:41 PM
In Sierra Leone alone we have had over 8,000 confirmed cases of which more than 3000 people have died. In the region, over 10,000 people have died due to Ebola and that is only counting the Ebola deaths. So many more people have died of other illnesses, in part due to the unavailability of health care services and fear of patients to go to health facilities for medical care. There is a real need for all facilities to resume regular services safely.
On Friday we had 0 new cases in Sierra Leone. Today we had 2. The numbers are definitely much lower than they were in November and December when we were averaging anything from 50-70 cases per day. However, although we have now reached the tail end, this phase of the outbreak may yet drag on for some time. The fewer cases recorded, the more chance that people become complacent and revert back to their traditional practices, such as following the traditional burial rites.
Last week Liberia recorded its first case in more than two weeks of not recording any. In Guinea and Sierra Leone there are still pockets of high transmission. Even worse, in some incidences, is cases that arise without any known contacts. This is a cause of concern, as it means there are more cases out there that no one is aware of.
Of the 13 districts in Sierra Leone, 4 of them are well past the 42 days without any new cases and 3 districts have gone 21 days without any new cases. However, the remaining 6 districts have all had cases within the last 0-8 days. There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of contact tracing and early case identification. For as long as there is one case in the sub-region, there is a chance that the the epidemic can ignite.
In the Children's Hospital our last positive case of Ebola was 12 days ago. However, staff must remain vigilant. They need to keep screening patients and isolating any children who meet the case definition. One Ebola case that ends up on the general wards in the hospital by mistake could have disastrous effects. We need to keep the safety of staff in mind and be on the alert for any suspect cases. Our plan is to do more training soon on effective screening and safe provision of care during an outbreak.
Hoping to see zero cases for more than 42 days consecutively throughout the region someday this year...
Posted by Sandra's Latest... at 10:26 PM