Monday, October 31, 2011

Breathe in, and out...

This week is especially busy. I am reminding myself to breathe in and breathe out. What I get done, is done, what I don’t will have to wait until next week.

Our Comic Relief funding starts tomorrow – November 1st, which is very exciting. However, it also means that we’re starting with a new financial system, which involves a variety of forms that need to be filled out per transaction, spreadsheets to update and a new coding system to learn. I hope I will get used to it quickly. I also need to get cracking again on the Monitoring and Evaluation side of things for Comic Relief, which involves developing tools to monitor patient satisfaction, staff empowerment, quality of care in the hospital and other things. It’s an exciting project but also a lot of work.

I also have to prepare for a Skype Board meeting on Sunday, which means compiling reports and the like. I’m sure it will be a good meeting, if Skype works that is, but it always takes a little preparation time. We’ll be Skyping in from Freetown, London and Boston!

A small team from King’s College in London arrived yesterday. They are here to see how they can partner with Sierra Leone in the area of undergraduate/postgraduate medical/nursing training. They have various meetings lined up and we hope to tag along to some of them. A colleague and myself are meeting with them tonight to finalize the schedule. It’s a fly-by visit with them leaving on Friday but I’m sure it will be productive and hopefully impact training in Sierra Leone in the (near) future.

There is also a congress this week for the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association. We’ve been invited to the opening ceremony on Wednesday, which will be a good networking opportunity since most medical professionals in the country will likely be present. It frightens me to think how this will affect clinical care in hospitals on that day... The following two days they will hold scientific sessions, but considering the amount of work to do in the hospital, I’m not sure if I’ll attend. We’ll see how the week goes.

And of course, the usual work goes on. I don’t think I’ll make it to the wards much this week but that’s okay. I spent all day in ICU/Ward 3 on Friday so I’m saturated for now. A physiotherapist from the USA arrived last week and is willing to volunteer her time at the Children’s Hospital a couple of days a week. So, I spent Friday showing her around, introducing her to staff and patients and kicking-off in-patient physiotherapy at the Children’s Hospital. Exciting times.

All right, I have a few more emails to finish off before heading up the road to Mamba Point for a dinner with the Kings crew.

HRH Princess Anne in Sierra Leone...

Website Article: Visit to Sierra Leone of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal

Just after lunchtime on Wednesday a small crowd gathered at Lungi to bid a fond farewell to Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at the finale of an historic royal visit to Sierra Leone. Her Royal Highness, accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, had spent the past two days in Freetown to mark the 50th anniversary of independence and recalling the visit of Her Majesty the Queen back in 1961.

Arriving late on Sunday night, the Royal couple’s first taste of Sierra Leone was crossing the bay from Mahera to Freetown, a truly unique airport arrival experience. They awoke the following morning to the bustling sights and sounds of Wilberforce and then wound down Hill Cot Road for a call on His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma. During their meeting, the Princess and President discussed the depth and breadth of the historical links shared between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom and enjoyed a lively conversation about the strength of the 21st century relationship. This built on a similar conversation during the recent visit of Henry Bellingham MP, the UK’s Minister for Africa.

Keen to experience more of Sierra Leone and to meet its people, the Princess undertook a busy schedule of visits throughout the peninsula. Talking with businessmen and women she learned that British and Sierra Leonean companies are working well together across a range sectors, nearly doubling trade between the two countries during 2010. This dynamic partnership will contribute so much to the prosperity of both countries.

The Royal Family strongly supports development and human rights work around the globe and the Princess is no exception. She was keen to use her first visit to the Sierra Leone to see for herself the progress made in health, education and equality since the war. Staff at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) described for her the significant role that the UK’s development assistance continues to play in helping to build Sierra Leone’s future; especially through the Free Health Care Initiative. The Save the Children Fund showed her their work with vulnerable groups at Kroo Bay. The Princess is President of SCF’s UK chapter and was pleased to feel a personal connection to the ongoing work of British aid organisations and volunteers in Sierra Leone.

The Princess rounded off her stay in ‘Sweet Salone’ by taking the time to explore her diverse culture, environment and history, visiting Bunce Island and spending an enjoyable afternoon amongst the wildlife at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Both of which highlight the potential for a vibrant tourism trade in Sierra Leone; bringing further investment, jobs and development.

The British High Commission was keen to document this visit and proposes to share it with as many people as possible. We will be putting more information, including many photographs, onto the High Commission website, flickr and Facebook pages. If you are interested in finding out more about the visit or were lucky enough to have been at the events please check theses out, you may even be in one of the photos!

Taken from:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beaches in Sierra Leone...

The beaches here never cease to amaze me. These photos were taken at Bureh last weekend.


Football. An international sport. Fun to watch & fun to play. These were taken at Bureh beach last weekend. The little guy that was goal keeper did an excellent job. He wasn't to be reckoned with. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Namina's second surgery...

Last week Wednesday Namina, her mother and her older brother came to see me at the hospital. They arrived in Freetown as planned for Namina's admission on the Africa Mercy the following day. To my surprise, Namina showed up in her school uniform. She looked adorable. The family seems to be doing well and are coping with the loss of little Ibrahim. As hard as it is to have lost him, they are looking to the future.

A few weeks ago I received a call from Namina's brother saying she was sick: fever and vomiting. I arranged for her to be seen by a doctor (who I had never met) and she was diagnosed with malaria and admitted overnight. She tolerated the medication well and within a few days she had recovered. I was thankful that a friend connected me with the doctor and amazingly he treated her for free even though she is above the age of 5. I was also relieved that she got better quickly because I certainly did not want anymore drama for a family who had recently lost a child to malaria.

So now, 5 months after her first surgery onboard the Africa Mercy, the time had come for surgery number 2. The surgery took place on Friday (a week ago) and the plan was to put another skin graft under her left eye to ensure that her eye is not as exposed. A few other techniques were performed and I am happy to say that the surgery went well. I saw Namina last Sunday and she was as cheerful as ever and getting into trouble already. That's a good sign. I hope to see her again this Sunday and expect she'll be heading home by the end of the week. Back to Lungi and back to school. I'll go and visit them in their village again before Christmas.

Lumley beach in September...

A September walk on Lumley beach. It really is beautiful, despite the (medical) waste and seaweed that washes up now and then. I should really go down there more often. After all, it's only a 15 minute taxi ride. I always hope to go for a run but usually end up getting home too late to venture down there by taxi, run and make it back before dark. Must keep trying. It's maybe not the most beautiful beach in Sierra Leone, but for being right in Freetown I'd say it's amazing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good things...

On a day like today I need to count the good things that occur.

I woke up in good health.

We had running water in the house.

The Land Rover started this morning.

Amara Kamara who was admitted in ICU with meningitis three weeks ago has been discharged today. I remember the first few days he was with us, with his persistent fits. We were afraid for his life. Today, before leaving he gave me the cutest smile ever. I am very thankful.

The city waste management came to take away a truckload of trash from the compound. That’s a good thing.

The Internet is working in the main building of the hospital.

I was able to arrange a free CT scan for an 11-year-old girl with severe headache. Hopefully it will help in reaching a diagnosis and potentially treatment for her.

A patient of mine has been admitted on the ship for surgery tomorrow.

I just had a very cold bottle of Coca Cola.

It’s the good things that matter today, no matter how small they are.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Friday...

I'm so glad it's weekend. It was another crazy day today. It was one of those interesting days at work in which I ended up doing so many things that probably someone else should have done...

I went to the ward to sort out two patients only to find out one of them disappeared. Instead of waiting for a referral letter (as instructed) for an echocardiogram they decided to go elsewhere for a blood test that needed to take place at some point but which was much less urgent! No one knew where she went at 6 am! Anyway, all said and done, they returned mid-morning and echo is re-scheduled for Saturday.

The second patient has been in hospital for a month and needs anti-tuberculosis medication. Unfortunately the country is out of anti-tuberculosis medication (can you believe it?) and has been for the past month. The child also has an infection in his leg and so I sent him for a second opinion elsewhere. Mom's a trooper cause when I walked in to town later in the afternoon to go to a meeting I met mom on a busy street on her way to the hospital after buying some anti-tuberculosis drugs from the pharmacy. One of the three meds was not right, so we ended up going to the pharmacy together to sort it out. Her child will finally receive anti-tuberculosis treatment now. Question is, will this be sustainable? Let's hope the national TB program's drugs come soon so that there is a continuous and free supply!

Speaking of drug supply, I ended up having to find anesthetic drugs for the maternity hospital today. They were on their last few vials while waiting for a shipment to be released. We found out the drugs will be cleared on Monday so, to tie them over, we arranged a loan of drugs from an NGO hospital. I'd hate to think of what would have happened to the women coming in needing emergency surgery (C-sections, ruptured uterus, etc). Oh Salone. Oh agencies.

Another mom cornered me as I was leaving the ward. That's what happens: you go in to see a patient and arrange something and before you know it, you're asked by another mom to come and see her child. This was a boy I knew from ICU. He was diagnosed with meningitis and is on i.v. Ceftriaxone. He needs to be on i.v. treatment for a while but unfortunately the supply ran out today. I won't go into details because the whole supply/re-stocking is very complicated but it means his treatment will be interrupted. So sad. Fingers crossed he'll make a full recovery. Unfortunately he does have some right-sided weakness but I'm hoping physiotherapy will help! Let’s hope for i.v. Ceftriaxone again on Monday.

I had a meeting today about radiography training and am hopeful about the prospects. Not for me of course, but for the trainees and for the children in the health facilities who will finally have access to x-rays! Let's hope this kicks off in the next two months. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, we need to try to source an x-ray machine, some equipment to go with it, consumables, etc. Toes crossed too.

This evening after we got home from work I went out again to go and visit my driver. He fell down this morning and wasn't able to make it to work. So, a friend and I drove up. He's okay but will probably need some rest and painkillers for a few days. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to convince him to stay away from injections. Almost everyone here loves injections.

When we brought the car back to the office I went inside to download some documents that were sent to me this afternoon. Financial documents for a meeting I have tomorrow. Better late than never? Well, I was a bit frightened by what I saw and decided I would need to stay in the office for a few hours to go through the spreadsheets/documents. So, here I am: in the office, with a cup of tea, looking through spreadsheets (and blogging). In an hour a friend will come to pick me up (and bring some bread) and I’ll head home to sleep. In the morning I am taking the Land Rover to IMATT for inspection and then going to my accounting meeting. I'm definitely taking next weekend off!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Bailor town shots...

Condolences in Bailor town...

On hearing about Ibrahim’s death on Tuesday I decided I needed to visit Wara, Namina, Saidu and family in Bailor town to express my sympathy and encourage them. Osman kindly agreed to drive me there, which was great since he is also a friend and knows the family too.

For some reason I was nervous about the trip. I was not sure how the family was doing and unsure what was expected of me. However, I knew I had to go. I prayed for wisdom, sensitivity (knowing culturally what was okay) and safe travels. Osman is a great driver but his car, ABJ, is not the most reliable. I love and hate that car! Also, it was middle of rainy season and the roads and bridges had been damaged. There was a possibility that we would have to take a detour. Only time would tell.

We had an early start on Saturday. The drive to the ferry was fine. The ferry crossing was perfect. We met up with Saidu in Lungi and had breakfast. We then continued on to Bailor. We had to stop at a checkpoint, which was troublesome last time but we made it through quickly without any problems. Saidu said that the bridge had been fixed and was better than last time and so we thought we would try the usual route. Thankfully, the bridge was intact. After the bridge we drove through a mud pool and that didn’t stop us either.

When we arrived in Bailor town people surrounded us within seconds, mostly children. We were taken to the landing outside of the house and I waited for Wara to appear. As soon as she came out I got up to meet her. As I embraced her, she started to weep. Her deep sorrow was so apparent. This woman has been through so much in the last few years. She has sacrificed a lot for her family. And now she was in need of comfort. And that is all I could do. I had the chance to talk to her a little later to encourage her. She’s an amazing woman and I hope that she will sense His peace and comfort.

Namina was in great form and quite cheerful really, which was good. I wondered what was going through her mind though. I spent some time playing and doing some crafts with her and her brother in Saidu’s room. It was nice to have some quality time. I also ended up doing a consultation for an aunty. She had been unwell for a few days. I had come prepared with a stethoscope and some medications for children, but had not expected to see an adult. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do. For the rest I spent time playing with children, went around the village with an aunty to meet ‘everyone’, watched the end of a football match in the ‘cinema’ with Osman and Saidu, waited while the aunty bought fish from the fishermen on the beach, had some coconuts, etc. I didn’t want to take many pictures because this visit seemed a bit different, however, the children kept asking, so just before leaving, I took out my camera. They loved it.

I have to say it wasn’t an easy trip. It was tiring. I fell asleep on the ferry back to Freetown. But it was a good trip. It was the perfect time for me to visit Namina and her family again. And I was worried for no reason. Everything went as planned. Besides a few awkward moments (being stared at by like 20+ people) it was a perfect day.

The day Ibrahim died...

Tuesday, September the 13th started off like any other day. Before leaving the flat, I went to the balcony to watch the sunrise. It was pretty amazing. I then headed down to the office on spur road where we park our vehicle. Our driver was slightly delayed due to transport issues, but came soon enough. After a 30-minute journey to the hospital, I started work. Work mostly consisted of firefighting; little issues here and there. And I spent a good portion of the day trying to resolve a conflict between various staff members.

Then I received a phone call. It was from Saidu, Namina’s brother. I thought they were probably just calling to say hello. But no, this time it was different. Saidu called to tell me some bad news. The line was not good and I had to have him repeat the message a few times. I don’t know if it was the connection or if I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Saidu was telling me that his little brother Ibrahim died that morning. Silence.

I didn’t know what to say. Osh ya, the Krio phrase for ‘sorry’ is all I could think of. I wanted to speak to Wara, Namina’s mom but she was too distraught. Saidu asked if I could come to the funeral but it was to take place in just a few hours. There was no way I could get to Bailor town on time. I had to say no. Instead, I said I would meet them on Saturday. I still found it hard to believe that Ibrahim was no longer with them. Just two weeks earlier he had been in my office with Wara and Namina, looking like a healthy one-year old. They had just come to visit.

It sounded like Ibrahim had been sick for just two days. Enough I guess to cost him his life. My guess is malaria. His symptoms were fever and paleness. They took him to a ‘hospital’ and he received a couple of injections. That’s all Saidu told me at that time. I knew Ibrahim had not received appropriate treatment and I wished they had come to Freetown. After all the times they had come just to visit, this would have been the crucial time to come. If only.

I know I work at a place where death is a daily occurrence but when it's a little child you know and have come to care for, it hits home a little harder. When you see the pain the family is going through, it is all so much sadder. I can’t change what happened. I can only continue to support this family. And that’s what I did when I went to Bailor town just a few days after Ibrahim’s death. And that is what I will continue to do.

Attention, attention...

This sign was posted at various sites around the hospital several months ago. It is still there. I've thought about taking it down but I don't want to upset whoever put it up. I am, to be honest, intrigued by this sign. I love the spelling, for one. Secondly, I am so curious as to what kind of herbs are used to treat a sickle cell attack. And interesting that it is free of charge. I guess that should be expected, after all this is the era of free healthcare at the Children's Hospital and Maternity Hospital. However, I almost wish it wasn't free, I'm slightly concerned about easy access to this treatment for patients who could be in critical condition! I wonder if anyone has called the number yet. Should I try?

Internet & Water...

Here I am at Bliss. And, thankfully, internet is working. And it's fast. It's funny how easily we take things like internet for granted at home. Not having internet at home has been a bit of a challenge. To be honest, I've gotten used to it. But, having said that, it has meant that I have not kept in touch with family and friends much. And, it makes it hard (very expensive) to actually talk to people back home. I have to admit I have done poorly on the blogging front lately. I have so many things I could write about. Soon, soon. Hopefully at some point, we may have internet at home. We do have a usb dongle, which usually works for my colleagues, but it doesn't seem to like my mac. It tends to freeze my computer every time I try to use it. Sometimes it lets me use the internet for twenty minutes or so, but usually it cuts me off before that. All this to say, I am happy to finally have access to fast internet! And I may come here more often. The desserts are definitely a pull as well!

Speaking of taking things for granted. Even here in Sierra Leone I tend to take it for granted that I usually have water running from the tap. Since Thursday we have been out of water in the flat and so it's back to using water from 5 gallon containers. It's not great, but I just remind myself that that is what my neighbors water supply is like all the time. I really can't complain. However, it would be really nice if they can sort out the water at the flat. Apparently the pump to pump the water from the reservoir to the tanks on the roof is broken. The plumber has been twice already. Now that the rains are ended, we may have a water supply problem anyway. Due to road works the Guma pumps in Wilberforce have been locked since September. We're probably going to have to get water delivered every two weeks. We'll see and we'll manage for the time being. Hopefully it doesn't take two months to sort it out like it did last year at this time. Fingers crossed.

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