Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bye bye child...

While I was at the Children's hospital this afternoon a colleague of mine told me that she has been helping a 2 month old in the Emergency Room. The child's condition was not good and it was decided that the child should go to the intensive care. I believe this is the 3rd day of admission. 

My colleague was distraught. Only minutes before seeing me, the mother decided to discharge the child against medical advice and left the hospital with the child. Without oxygen, the child's saturation levels were only 50%. This child is unlikely to survive without proper medical care. My colleague told the mother that the child will die if she takes the child out of the hospital. "Bye bye child" is what my colleague said to me. The mother did not seem to care. It seemed as though the mother no longer wanted the child and this was the easiest solution for her. 

This is a sad but true story. And unfortunately we see a number of discharges against medical advice every week. Why is it that people decide to leave the hospital, especially when told that there is a big chance their child will die. I suppose some of it is lack of faith in the medical system, a strong belief in traditional medicine, other commitments at home, pressure from the family. So many reasons why it is not convenient to stay in the hospital with your sick child. But what about the child? What about the child's rights? What about child protection? For this child, it would almost have been better for the mother to just walk out and leave the child. But do we want to encourage that? What happens to the children that are abandoned in the hospital? It's often difficult to find a home for them. 

This is a dilemma, and right now I don't have any answers. I'm praying that somehow God will intervene in this situation. And I'm hoping my colleague will be encouraged, since she put a lot of energy into this family over the past few days. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday at River 2...

River 2 is an amazing place. One of my colleagues who works extremely hard and hasn't been out of Freetown for a while took today off, so I decided to arrange a beach trip. Osman drove 4 of us there and picked us up later. It was a lovely day. Sitting, chatting, resting, swimming. The scenery is really stunning: mountains, forest, palm trees, river, beach, ocean. Pretty perfect. 

I took some time to reflect. I was reminded that no matter what I do, I am forgiven. What Jesus went through on this remembrance day many years ago - the suffering, the pain, the grief, His death - is my saving grace. I am thankful for what He did/does for me. It is a comfort to know that even though I make mistakes (over and over) I can go to Him and I can be certain that He hears me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Remember the boy with the cleft lip/palate...

Do you remember the cleft lip/palate patient I blogged about a few months ago?

He is doing really well. His parents were thrilled with him. Six weeks ago they were encouraging another family with a cleft lip/palate to hang in there and love their child. I was amazed to see how they were handling the situation. And finally, the child was growing and so I changed the weekly appointment to once every two weeks.

About 4 weeks ago, the baby’s mother became ill. I advised them to take her to the hospital. Instead, the mother’s family came from upcountry and demanded to take her back upcountry with them. They were convinced that the baby, who they referred to as the ‘devil child’, caused the mother to fall ill. They wanted to take the baby to the village with them as well so that they could sacrifice him and give him back to the devils.

You can imagine how horrified I was on hearing this. Well, so was his father. His father acted quickly and refused to let them take the child. He came to us for safety. He was scared, worried and totally out of his depth.

Now, four weeks later, the father is still taking care of the child in a safe location. I see the child frequently and provide him with milk, diapers, soap and other things he needs. His father is still worried about the situation and feels he cannot continue like this for much longer. As much as he loves his son, he realizes he cannot stay in this location much longer, cannot take the child back to the family compound and also does not have an income to provide for him otherwise. Because of this, he asked us to find a home for the child, at least for now. Thankfully, it looks like we might have found temporary housing for him, until he undergoes surgery, which I am hoping will take place on the ship in May. Please pray as we finalize matters in the very near future: for a new home for baby and father, a job for father, a successful surgery in Guinea, and a bright future for this family.

Getting around town...

Since I don’t have access to a vehicle for personal use (evenings and weekends) I rely heavily on public transport. Usually that’s fine and it’s pretty cheap to get from place to place and to often just means waiting a little longer, needing to change taxis and being squashed in the car a bit more. Going up to church in Regent for example, the taxi usually has a driver, two people in the front seat next to him, and four people on the back seat. There are no seatbelts in a lot of taxis, definitely not the back seat, and often cracks in the windshield. Yeah, that’s the norm.

Of course, after about 8 or 9 at night for security reasons (or at other times if wanting a more convenient/easy ride), I call someone to pick me up and drop me off at home, mostly because I don’t like walking down my road at night. Thankfully a guy I met 2 ½ years ago, first as a taxi driver, who I then hired as our Welbodi driver for 3 months and who then became one of my best friends here – Osman – is by far the person who helps me get places/home the most. And he is almost always ready for me. However, when he’s upcountry or with a customer for a week, it sometimes means I need to find someone else. And so, if I find a good taxi driver during the day, I might ask for his number so I can call at times when Osman isn’t available.

This evening I needed to go to the store to change money (to help out a patient coming early tomorrow morning with transport money for Guinea) so since Osman is on his way back from Kenema, I started calling. First Mohamed – my number 2 driver, but he wasn’t available. So I called Jeffry, who I recently met, but he didn’t answer his phone. I then called Farah, who drove me a lot in the past, but his car has a problem. So I called Morlai, one of Osman’s friends but he also had car problems. I finally called Rex, one of my friend’s drivers who also has a taxi but he was in Lungi picking someone up at the airport. I quickly realized I was not going to manage to find someone to drive me tonight. Seeing as it was only 7:15, I decided to go right away so that I would be home again by 8:15. And I was, and I was fine. Our road was very busy this evening, so I had nothing to worry about. Let’s hope Osman stays in town for a bit now and that the other drivers get their cars fixed!

Back to Beautiful Bureh Beach...

After about a year and a half, I made it back to Bureh Beach. It’s probably the beach that is the furthest away, which is why I rarely go there, however, it is an amazingly beautiful beach and one of the only beaches one can surf at (not that I surf, but it’s fun to watch others try).
I had the opportunity to go to Bureh with friends yesterday and it was great to spend a day out of the city and enjoy nature, catch up with friends, eat grilled fish and just have a little time for self.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

8 years in Sierra Leone...

It is hard to believe that it's been 8 years since I first arrived at Lungi Airport. My initial plan was to stay for a year, as you can see, plans changed. I guess that is one of the things I've learnt here - plans change, be flexible! 

It is great to see that there has been progress over the past 8 years. Yes, there is still a long road ahead, but it is encouraging to look back and see how far we have come. Free healthcare for children under 5 years has its challenges, but it is a step in the right direction. The quality of services at the Children's hospital are better than they were and we will continue to improve on that as time goes on. National power is more frequent (although I'm saying that after we having a number of hours without power in the office today), road works have been completed in some areas (others are still ongoing) and well, the water supply has been fine in my house (although I know people in our neighborhood still have shortages). 

When I look back over the years I am thankful for the work I was able to do at the Aberdeen Women's Centre (initially ACFC) in the outpatient clinic. There are still days that I really miss working there. I am thankful for the work I have been able to do with Welbodi Partnership at the Children's Hospital. There have been many challenges, but also many rewards. There are so many great people I have met along the way - both patients, families, expatriates, Sierra Leoneans. I have been blessed. I am thankful for friends and family who have supported me on this journey.

Honestly, I have no idea how long I'll be here. I have no plans to leave at the moment but like I said above, plans can change. But for now, this is my home and I have to say, with a view as shown in the picture above from my bedroom, I can't say I feel the need to move anytime soon. Sweet Salone I am happy to call this my home.

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