Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sierra Leone does have great things to offer...

After reading my previous blog entry you might wonder what this country has to offer. Well, it is true that the infrastructure is poor. Basic healthcare is far from reality for most, many do not have access to clean water, electricity is scarce in most places but at least in Freetown it is finally becoming a somewhat regular concept for people since the elections (regular meaning electricity at least once a week, but not every day!), the roads in many places are poor (although I must say I was quite impressed with the road to Kabala!) and again, the list goes on.

However, I do think there is HOPE. People are trying to make a difference. But it takes time. I found out recently that the ‘Corruption Watchdog Transparency International’ ranks Sierra Leone among the world’s most corrupt countries. No wonder there are so many problems. Fortunately President Koroma has made strong statements about fighting corruption. Let’s hope for a better Sierra Leone. Let’s hope for wise decision making, honesty and integrity.

In the meantime, there are still many things to enjoy. The country is beautiful with it’s gorgeous beaches, amazing mountains and hills, spectacular waterfalls, friendly faces and heartwarming children. It is a country I love for many reasons, and a place that I want to see thrive. Pictures above were taken a few weeks ago at Charlotte Falls, about a 30 minute drive from our house.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


About 40% of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.
That’s 2.5 billion people at risk.
Over 500 million become severely ill with malaria per year.
And more than 1 million die from the effects of the disease.
Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa.
There, 1 in 5 childhood deaths is due to the effects of malaria.
An African child has 1.6 - 5.4 episodes of malaria per year.


Just think, while you are reading this post, at least one child will die of malaria. In my opinion, that is unacceptable! What is the answer? It sounds simple: early diagnosis and prompt & effective treatment. In the West this is logical. Get in the car, go to the nearest doctor/hospital, get some tests done, get a diagnosis, receive treatment, and go home. Unfortunately, in an impoverished country like Sierra Leone, nothing is simple. In a place where the health care infrastructure has been devastated by years of war, there is no easy answer. A long list of obstacles keep children from receiving prompt treatment. Too many reasons to get into now. Some are: Lack of Accesibility, Availability and Affordability of QUALITY healthcare. Even prevention of the disease is difficult in a country with very limited resources; limited stock of bednets, with poor methods of distribution, informal fees being charged etc. The list is long.

Malaria is a daily occurrence in our pediatric clinic. From mild cases to very severe cases. Children that can take treatment on an outpatient basis, children that need to be referred for admission. Children that survive, children that die. We can provide proper diagnosis and treatment and even teach on prevention but even though we did 7,245 consultations last year, there are so many children in the Freetown area alone that never made it to a clinic with similar care. We do what we can and hope and pray for a positive change in the healthcare system. People are trying...

This little boy came to the clinic last week. He was actually very happy but had a 2 day history of fever. His lab test: Malaria POSITIVE. This child was lucky. First of all, he wasn’t very sick. But most importantly, his mother took him to a clinic. And she chose a clinic where lab tests and effective treatment are available. Hopefully she will give him the medication as prescribed! And this child will survive...

Facts from

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sierra Leonean bath...

I know I’ve blogged about bucket baths before but this picture was just too cute to pass up. This little guy’s mom is admitted at our fistula center for surgery. When his mom first arrived I had to make sure this little guy (6 months) was alright health wise. Fortunately he was and he’s been a joy to have around. Often towards the end of the work day, when I’m still waiting for the last lab results, I’ll sneak onto the ward to find him and take him for a little stroll. Or I'll carry him around as I lock up the clinic, put the open medication back in the fridge, etc. Today I helped his mom give him a bath. I have to be honest and say that I think I had more fun than he did this time. I do think this is mainly because he was really hungry and knew he was going to get his porridge after the bath. We had more fun later, after he ate! It's amazing how food can change one's mood...even at such a young age.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

28 years with Mercy Ships...

Has it really been 28 years? Well, for my parents it has been!

When I looked at my parents’ website today I was reminded (& surprised) that it was 28 years ago that my family joined Mercy Ships. On January 14, 1980 we (apparently) packed our suitcases and flew to Greece to join the M/V Anastasis there; seeing as I was 2 years old at the time, I don’t have any memories of this exciting journey. However, that journey was just the beginning of many. The Anastasis was home for 14 years and took me to over 40 different countries! And now, years later, life’s journey has taken me back to Mercy Ships- but now working at a land base in Sierra Leone. And so the journey continues…

(That’s me on the bottom right of the picture!)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snake: good or bad? you tell me...

So, this is the second snake that was on our compound last week.
Does anyone know what type of snake this is???
(see the post "2 snakes in 48 hours" for details)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Going upline to Kabala...

I’ve wanted to visit the MSF hospital in Bo for sometime now. So, last week Friday we were talking about the possibility and decided it would be fun to go this weekend. Well, this week we started ‘planning’ but didn’t get far with our Bo plans due to various reasons. So plans changed a bit. Let me explain...

My first patient this year was a 5 year old with a very large tumor of her jaw- Burkitt’s Lymphoma. In the past it has been very hard to find treatment (chemotherapy) for these patients in the country. Fortunately I recently heard about a facility in Lunsar that might have treatment, so I sent her there on the 7th after briefly talking to one of their doctors on the phone. Yesterday, I called a nurse in the hospital to inquire about the patient; did she show up, is she on treatment, etc. Thank the Lord, she did arrive and started chemotherapy the previous day. So, since our Bo plans weren’t getting anywhere I thought it would be great to visit this patient in Lunsar. And then seeing as I’ve been wanting to go to Kabala – where it is mountainous and cold supposedly – for sometime, I thought that would make for a great trip. Plus I know someone who works for Cause Canada who spends some time up in Kabala. It was worth a shot. And I found out my friend is actually in Kabala this weekend.

So, the plan is for 5 of us from the team house and one of our drivers to leave the center at noon today. Drive from Freetown to Lunsar. Stop to see little Mariama & connect with doctor giving treatment. Drive on to Makeni. Stop at a hospital there that I’ve visited in the past. Then probably spend the night there. On Saturday we’ll drive on to Kabala and hang out there for the weekend. Do some hiking and sight seeing. And then make our way back to Freetown sometime on Sunday. It’ll be a nice little break from Freetown and a great opportunity to see more of beautiful Salone!

2 snakes in 48 hours...

Yikes! On Monday I found out that one of our guards killed a snake in our garden; with a broom! Even worse- later I heard it was actually spotted in the bathroom in the gazebo area. Boy, am I glad I never use that bathroom. I hate snakes. That is probably because I have no clue, by looking at a snake, if it’s a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ snake. In my eyes, all snakes are BAD ones. I hate snakes.

Yesterday on our way home from work one of my colleagues said there was another snake on the compound. I thought it was a joke. Nope. Unfortunately there was another snake at the team house and this time it escaped! Sick. It was first seen along the top of our wall, it then fell off of the wall, into the compound but made its way out, under the gate, into the gutter. One of my colleagues took a picture of it, which I saw tonight. A LONG THIN GREEN SNAKE.

So, the question is: what type of snake was it? And is it dangerous or not? One guard says the green snakes are the good snakes and it’s the black snakes that are dangerous. The other guard says it’s the green ones that are dangerous. Well, I’ll stick to my own idea: ALL SNAKES ARE BAD.

Sweet dreams!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Painting on the wall...

This evening I am not very inspired to write, so I thought I'd show you some of my creative moments...

My first project in 2008 was a very creative one. A mural! Luzanne and I decided it was time to paint the waiting area in the outpatient clinic. I was a bit hesitant at first, but we got started anyway. So after buying the paint we got going. We had to mix many of the colors, but that was half the fun. Thanks to internet we found the perfect picture of Noah's ark. And thanks to modern technology we could use a projector to get the picture onto the wall. After penciling the picture onto the wall, a number of hours of painting, help from some others, lots of music, a little bit of a mess and lots of fun, we finished. I love it! Now I am hoping to teach families that come to the clinic who Noah is! Because unfortunately I found out this past week that many of them do NOT know the story of Noah's ark...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Interesting start in the outpatient clinic...

Getting up early was tough, but I managed and was in the car at 730am, wondering how many patients would be waiting at the gate. As we drove by, it was hard to estimate the number of patients; they were in a clump rather than a line, but I soon heard that there were about 60 children waiting. Welcome back!

Today was an interesting start to the new year. Lots of 'excitement' and a bit of a delay in getting started in the lab which is also why we were still waiting for lab results at 6pm.

The excitement started when I plugged in my oto/opthalmoscope (machine to look in ears/eyes). Within a few seconds it smelled like something was burning, something electrical. Never a good smell. A few seconds later I saw smoke coming out of the machine. Again, not good! I unplugged it and later got an electrician to help sort the thing out again. Believe it or not, the machine still works! But I wonder how long the burnt smell will linger???!!

The excitement continued when the microscope bulb blew. Then the microscope itself blew. And to make matters worse, when we tried our back-up microscope, it wasn’t working. Agghhh. First day hiccups for sure. Fortunately we got the back-up microscope up and running, but only after 1 1/2 hours; hence the delay in lab results.

On top of the excitement we already had, I’ll add the story of the MISSING WEIGHING BAGS. This sounds strange I know, but it’s a serious matter. You see, we have a hanging scale in the clinic. Basically we have a bag that the children can wear, then we hang the bag on the hook and see how much the child weighs. Well, today both bags were NOWHERE to be found. Imagine that. Both bags missing. Just think about how practical it is to weigh a 1 month old on a standing scale! Well, we managed, but I sure do hope the mystery of the missing bags is solved. Any ideas?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

3 days, 2 nights at River no 2...

Dec 25-27 was spent at River no 2 beach. Need I say more? It was amazing. What a treat.
Early morning swims, lovely sunsets/rises, chicken on the barbeque, roasting (mini!) marshmallows over the campfire, stargazing, floating in the lagoon & lots of time to relax.
A perfect break!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

River's Edge Christmas play...

The children’s Christmas play on the 23rd was spectacular; they did an amazing job. The reciting, singing, acting etc. was perfect. I was so proud of them.

Before the play however, we first we had a regular church service, which meant Sunday school for us. After going through a few of the songs we decided to color. And while the children colored, they were crowned. Finally, it was time for the Christmas play and this is how it began...

“Once upon a time, a long time ago, begins the story of a baby that most of you should know. His daddy’s name was Joseph and Mary was his mom. This babe was very special He was God’s only Son.”

It ended with the cast surrounding Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. And everyone singing “O come all ye faithful”. And of course a big applause for the children as they finished. They were stars!

And I'd have to say my fourth wise man stole the show. At least, in my eyes he did. But he's stolen my heart anyway... He didn't want to wear a costume but he was brave enough to walk to the front, with gift in hand.

Friday, January 04, 2008

My top story from 2007...

“Throw the child away, it’s not worth keeping! How will you ever afford medical care or even begin to look after it?” Huddled together in the small hut, the mood grows darker and more foreboding as harsh words pass back and forth. Family members peer down at the newborn baby; all are intent on expressing a view. Finela tries to cover her ears as each word pierces her heart. Gazing at her husband, Ishaka, their eyes begin to fill with tears. Their hearts overflow with compassion. This is their newborn baby boy, Tamba.

This is the beginning of a story I would like to share with you. You can find the full story at:

This little boy & his family had an impact on my life. They came to the clinic desperately looking for help; I wasn’t sure if I could do anything. I couldn’t believe what they had been through; it was frustrating to hear. Thankfully I was able to send the child to the Africa Mercy in Liberia for a CT scan, (secretly) hoping that he would have surgery soon afterwards. Tamba’s story is one of compassion & endurance. About a father & mother who fight for their child, sacrificing the little they have, never giving up. Not only has Tamba’s life been changed but his parents recognize there is a God who cares. Ishaka’s love for his son is so evident; it reminds me of God’s love for us, His children. The essence is summed up in the following lyrics: “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only son, to make a wretch His treasure.”

Thursday, January 03, 2008


On December 28th I received news that a friend passed away in a tragic diving accident. She was 29 years old. I met her in 2005, while she spent 9 months here, serving the disabled in Sierra Leone. She was full of energy, full of life and a great laugh. Needless to say her absence will be felt by many.

This tragedy has made me think a lot.
Ponder about various aspects:
Life. Death.
Purpose. Goals. Dreams.

Life is full of unknowns.
Full of circumstances which can be turned into opportunities.
I am reminded of a quote from the movie “Dead Poets Society”: Carpe diem

Or seize the day.
Make your lives extraordinary.
Live life to the fullest.
Make every moment count.

My friend’s sister ended her email with a comforting thought, which I want to leave with you:

“It is not what happens to us in life but how we deal with it.
The things that happen to us in life can either leave us a little bit better or a little bit bitter.
It's our choice. We choose better, and we hope you do too.”

I am continuing to pray for my friend’s family in this difficult time and pray that God will use it for the better.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy New Year!

I hope 2008 brings you lots of joy & laughter.
Many memory making moments.
Special times with loved ones.
Some of your dreams come true.
I looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts & stories with you this year...

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