Thursday, March 29, 2007

Daily commute...

Yes, I have to commute to work everyday, however, I definitely can’t complain about it. The commute takes all of about 15-20 minutes (depending on traffic and who’s driving) and most of the drive is along Lumley beach. Ocean breeze…crashing waves…fishing boats going out to sea…children walking to school…palm trees lining the road…beach huts…lots of speed bumps… Anyway, you get the point; it’s a nice drive, except for the speed bumps maybe. And I must say it's a great way to start and finish the day. This picture was taken on the way back home after a long days work. I took the picture from inside a moving vehicle, but it still turned out quite alright. This week hasn’t been too busy but it’s been very hot, which in itself has been quite draining. I’ve been pretty tired. Twice this week I had the chance to go to one of the little huts along the beach after work to stop for a drink. It’s amazing what a cold coke, a setting sun and an ocean breeze can do to change one’s mood!

Monday, March 26, 2007

This is bliss...(with video footage!)

Bliss = a state of great joy or happiness

It started off with a long lie-in on Saturday morning. Everyone else was gone when I got up and it was quite nice to have the place to myself. I was expecting some friends over later in the morning and as I started making pancakes they showed up. Talk about good timing. After a lovely breakfast we headed for Lakka beach. We spent a lovely afternoon there; reading, talking, laying in the sun, sitting in the shade, eating steak & fries, meeting other expats. Very enjoyable.

On Sunday we decided we were up for an adventure: a drive to/picnic at Fourah Bay College hill. But first, we needed picnic goods. I suggested going to a new place I had heard of: “Bliss Patisserie” which opened about 2 weeks ago. So off we went. First impression: friendly people, nice atmosphere, delicious looking pastries. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been here for so long, but it was truly amazing! We ordered chicken sandwiches to take with us and while waiting we couldn’t resist trying some of their treats. So we ordered some small delicacies- little square treats with chocolate, toffee, hazelnuts, almonds & pistachios. Wow! I’m definitely going back there…and it’s even within walking distance. This is Bliss.

After our treats we drove to the hill. We decided to go into unknown territory and continued up the hill, further than any of us had been before. We were on a dirt road that became steeper and more rough as we went along. At one point us girls (4 of us) got out of the land cruiser while the 2 guys continued; us girls were getting a little nervous and felt better walking back down the hill. We soon found out that instead of turning the land cruiser around the guys decided to continue uphill but had reached a tough spot. This consisted of a steep incline, a large pile of sand on the left and a drop off on the right. Hmmm. What to do? The guys’ thoughts: “Put her in 4-wheel drive and fly over the hill”. The girls’ thoughts: “Put her in reverse and go back the way we came”. After trying a few times and watching the wheels slip in the sand we (I) had a heart-to-heart with the guys. And the women prevailed! I convinced the guys that getting over this pile of sand was not something we ‘needed’ to do and that we could easily go back the way we came, seeing as I didn’t feel like potentially dealing with a toppled over land cruiser! We had a very enjoyable ride back down the hill. By the way, the chicken sandwiches were bliss and the view of the harbor/city was amazing as well.

Our daring driver a.k.a. videographer took some excellent footage of this adventure. You don't want to miss these video clips:
1. Falling
2. Driving

It was an all around fantastic weekend!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

5 in 1...

This little kid has been at the center for about 4 weeks now. His mom is a VVF patient and had her surgery almost two weeks ago. She came from a small village near a place called Moyamba and brought her 11 month old son, since he was still breast feeding. I was told the child wasn’t very well and so went in to see him on Friday evening shortly after they arrived. Sure enough he looked pretty pale.

The interesting part of the evening was that I ended up ‘being’ 5 different people for this little guy. I started off doing the job that my receptionist usually does and registered the child. Then I checked his vital signs including weight and height, which falls under the nurses job. Then I examined him like I usually would as the doc. After that I did something that I don’t do too often- I played the role of the lab technician. It was kind of fun to do that for a change. I stuck to the basic tests of a hemoglobin and rapid malaria test and the child got by with a finger stick. The lab results soon revealed a low hemoglobin, but no malaria. So my next task was to be the pharmacist and get the medication he would need. And I made sure he had the food that he would need (which is a powder substance called Bennimix which becomes a porridge when mixed with hot water). All in all it ended up taking about an hour or so; not how I would normally like to spend my Friday evening, but it was interesting to be 5 people in 1 body!

It’s been amazing to watch this kid change from being quiet, pale and inactive to being a lively little boy. I think the food really made a difference; besides the porridge we've started him on rice, sauce, eggs, cheese etc. He turned 1 on Wednesday which was fun too and he pretty much begs me to pick him up every time I enter the ward. He’s a cutie!

Friday, March 23, 2007

On alert...

You always have to be aware of your surroundings around here. Last Saturday I went to a St. Patrick's day party with some fellow Mercy Shippers. It was quite the event; a lot of people, a lot of music, and...a couple of thieves! It was a good thing I was paying attention...

See my friend Mel's blog for the full story on how she/we saved the day!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Happy faces, scared faces, pale faces, laughing faces, miserable faces, swollen faces, sad faces, curious faces, dirty faces, snotty faces, silly faces. Many faces.

I saw 60 little faces and at least 60 big faces accompanying them. In other words, it was a busy clinic day today. But it was a good day. It’s a strange thought to think about how many people I interact with on a day like today. Just think about the impact I could have.

Hopefully the families leave with the feeling that the kids are well taken care of and know that we are genuinely concerned about their health. I think our staff shows a lot of concern towards the patients and really takes time out to explain to the parents what the child has, what medication we’re giving, how they can prevent sickness, how to feed them etc. I think for Sierra Leone it’s unusual for a parent to get so much information! Usually a child isn’t even examined properly in a clinic and the parent leaves the clinic not knowing what is wrong with the child, hoping that whatever injection the child was given will help. And we still wonder why so many kids are suffering here??? I’m thankful to be able to work in a place where we can provide a high standard of care.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the kids I see here. Of course, these were the less sick and happier faces among them!

For more info on the kids:

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Yesterday a group of us went to a place called Bure Town. I had never been there before but had been told that the beach is amazing. So, we ventured out in the landcruiser. It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get there through the bumpy mountain road which fortunately met up with a real highway. Bure Town is at the south end of the Freetown peninsula. While in the car I was hoping the beach would be worth the was, although I wouldn't make the trip every week. The beach is beautiful and there was hardly anyone else there. River no. 2 (where we usually go) remains an excellent beach, however, it was nice to go somewhere new. It was a very relaxing day after quite a tough work week. It's nice to work in a place that has amazing spots to relax at.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Normal or not...

Here the unusual starts seeming quite usual after you’ve been here for awhile. Someone asked me this evening if I noticed the loud barking dogs last night. I said, no, I didn’t hear them last night but I heard them every night for the first two months I was out here! I do think the dogs are out there every night…but after a few months, I guess I just got used to them. Just like I get used to seeing people walk up the street every morning with buckets of water on their head or used to the piles of trash on the side of the streets (used to the sight, not the smell!). I’ve gotten used to the sound of the generator at night, people honking their car horns every five seconds, little kids yelling ‘white man, white man’ and so many more things. This picture is just an example of one of the many things one can encounter on a daily basis here :)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Red moon rising...

“A dark red shadow crept across the moon last Saturday [March 3rd] during the first total lunar eclipse in nearly three years, thrilling stargazers and astronomers around the world.” (CNN)

I was one of those stargazers that night. It was quite incredible. Actually we were sitting inside and someone mentioned there was supposed to be a lunar eclipse at around that time. So we quickly went outside and stood there gazing at the moon. And sure enough it really was a reddish orange moon. Very cool. Also, I did recently read a book called ‘Red Moon Rising’ which has to do with a 24-7 prayer movement. Also very interesting!

Anyway, for those that don’t know: lunar eclipses occur when the earth passes between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s light. The next total lunar eclipse is on August 28th.

Friday, March 09, 2007


This is how I felt last night. It’s been a long week although, to be honest, I’ve had busier weeks. This week was just a bit more chaotic. I guess some of that was because our lab tech was sick yesterday. That meant that I had to simultaneously run clinic and do lab work. Mind you- I requested much less lab work than usual and treated some cases empirically instead. However, in some cases you do really want to do some tests.

There was a 2 year old boy that came in with fever and vomiting. He looked pale enough to need a transfusion, so I wanted to double check his hemoglobin before sending him to the referral center. I took him to the lab, did a finger stick, ran his blood through the hemocue and set up a rapid malaria test. 15 minutes later I had my diagnosis; anemia and malaria. His Hb was 3.0g/dl, so off he went in a chartered taxi to Emergency. I have to admit it was a cool feeling to be the doctor and lab tech at the same time…but it also added to the workload. I finished with my last patient at about 630pm.

Needless to say I was quite tired. When I woke up this morning I was happy it was Friday and already looking forward to being able to sleep in on Sat and Sun! So, here I am. Friday evening. Relaxing. Emailing. Watching a movie. Doing house laundry (yeah, that’s my chore). But I’m sitting here knowing that I can sleep in tomorrow morning.

I love weekends.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2 years in Sierra Leone...

It’s hard to believe that exactly two years ago (probably to the hour) I arrived in Freetown.

I remember meeting up with Josette and the boys and James in Brussels, flying to Freetown, Pastor Mark running around arranging our helicopter tickets, laughing at the wooden boarding passes, waiting for the helicopter, Doug meeting us on the Lungi side, taking the helicopter over, being picked up by my dad, driving over to the Lumley team house…not knowing that this would be my home for the next two years.

That first night I shared a room with Gisela in the house; the noisy room next to the generator. We had a small portable AC that leaked and so if you got up in the night you’d be standing in a puddle of water! I didn’t know my ‘own’ room wouldn’t be ready for another few weeks but since then I’ve been in my own room, overlooking the gazebo, with a view of the ocean and its been great (besides the walls that are sometimes wet and moldy!)

My first day in Freetown was spent exploring the ACFC (our center). Wow, it’s changed a lot over the past 2 years. Of course the outpatient clinic part was just empty rooms. But even the wards weren’t wards yet at the time. I remember one ward was totally full of boxes and medical supplies that had just been offloaded from a container from the USA. We didn’t even have a kitchen or laundry yet at the center. At the time I didn’t know it would be another month before we started surgery and two months till the opening of the clinic!

Wow, how time flies. It’s fun thinking about everything that’s happened over the past two years; the good, the bad, the funny, the sad. I’ve made some good memories, met some cool people, helped many children, made many beach trips, taken lots of Lariam tablets, posted a number of blog entries and done so many more things. And, the adventure continues…

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~