Sunday, January 30, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This weekend when we were driving home from the beach we passed and man and his daughter selling beautiful fruit on the side of the dusty road. We stopped and for Le 3,000 I was able to get half a dozen perfect sweet star fruit then on top of that he piled that many more sour ones so I could try them. That was less than a dollar. I just ate one and it was delicious!
I walked past a patient today who was leaning over her bed digging around inside the plastic bin all the patients are given for their personal belongings. I noticed she had a stack of those composition notebooks. When I asked her if she was in school she said yes. She told me she was studying agriculture. Instead of being in school she is laying in a hospital bed trying to not leak urine. We got to talking for many reasons but it was also nice being able to talk to a patient in english. She learned english in school and spoke it very well. I opened her agriculture book and quizzed her on the difference between substance agriculture and commercial agriculture. Pretty smart cookie she was. She told me that she didn’t want to be a farmer but someday she hoped to become a nurse. At seventeen she has her life in front of her.
Here’s a bit of Esther’s story: She became pregnant about a year and a half ago and was in the midst of taking her exams when she found out she was pregnant. She decided to continue with school though. The “young man” who got her pregnant continued to help her with her school fees. When she started feeling a little pain she told someone but she told me that because she is only a child, she didn’t know what to expect from labor. She thought that when her labor started her whole belly would start moving around and everything would hurt. When this small small pain started the woman took her to the TBA, traditional birth attendant. For three days she labored. She asked them to take her to the hospital but they said they could not afford an ambulance. It would cost Le 20,000, about $4. She gave the TBA a small amount of money to call her boyfriend but they took the money and never called him. She told me the baby tried to come out but it got stuck. “It wouldn’t go up and it wouldn’t go down.” Eventually they gave in and took her to the hospital. The surgeon there said he would only do the operation for Le 200,000, money she did not have. Another day went by and that night she passed her dead child on its own.
In the hospital they inserted a catheter. She was having a small amount of urine coming out but the rest just fell out of her. By the third day nothing was coming from the catheter. It was all just pouring out. She went home.
There was a car that came to her village. It was the screening team from AWC, where I work. The nurses met her and although there were other women in the same condition, they all ran away but she stayed. Others told her to run because these nurses would eat her. She knew she needed help though. She came and had her surgery but was still wet and had to come again for another one. She had her second surgery yesterday.
Esther told me that when she went home after her first surgery, although she was still wet, she didn’t tell anyone. She dressed fine and made herself look happy because she wanted to help the other women in her village. She wanted them to see that she went and was healed. She wanted them to come as well. Even if after this surgery she is still wet, she will do the same thing. She knows she is the one who can help her friends find healing.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Throughout my days I always think, I should blog about that, then I never remember what it was I was going to share.
I am settling into the routine here. Figuring out more day by day what my role is and how things work. I am training up Sia, a national nurse, to be the ward supervisor which I thought would be more challenging that it is turning out to be. She is fabulous. From day one she has been taking initiative and making sure things are getting done. I have been rearranging the wards to make things easier to get to and to have less clutter around and she has been giving ideas and jumping in to help. Last week I was teaching her how to enter patients into the database. She told me she took a computer class not too long ago but after we got past how to use the mouse, things picked up a little. She is a fast learner and I think this will be a great position for her to be in.
I am awful at learning names. I was asking someone the other day if they knew where a certain nurse was and she said she was the black woman sitting outside. I could only laugh and walk away considering the long row of patients sitting outside and I was the only white person around.
The patients are beautiful. They will stay here for close to twenty days so the opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level is something I am really looking forward to. Dr Lewis is the VVF surgeon here and she is wonderful. We have enough bed space that if a woman comes and and is malnourished, even if she is not a candidate for surgery, we will keep them on the ward to “build them up”. We will work on getting their nutrition in line and get some meat on their bones before sending them home.
This past weekend I went to another beach. It was amazing. Not only was the beach absolutely beautiful, I had my first full lobster. This beach was incredible. The restaurant we were at was inside this small bay. There was a sandbar that came out which left a small area for the ocean to come in. We would swim out to this bar and jump in the ocean and let it push us in. I felt like I was floating down the Clark Fork after being dumped in my canoe, without the fear of hitting rocks.
So far through this experience I have really been learning so much about God’s grace and goodness. At times I still wonder if this is the right place for me, if I have enough talent and leadership ability to not only do this job, but to do it well. True, I had a slight breakdown last week but who hasn’t when they start a new job. The people that are here at this clinic couldn’t be more supportive though. There is a substantial expat community in Aberdeen and Freetown. It’s been great meeting people from different NGOs and getting to know people outside of this place as well. And there are people living here from all over the spectrum but somehow it all works. Somehow in the almost two weeks of me living here I am feeling a part of this. I can’t wait to see what happens and what comes of this year here.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Outside my window, on the other side of the cement wall, is a home. I don’t know who lives there but I know they like to listen to music loud all through the night and right now they are watching a horror movie. The suspense music part is playing right now. I’m just waiting for the scream...there it is.
This weekend I have been able to get out and see a bit more of my new home and surroundings. Yesterday I went to Lakka, a beach about a thirty minute drive away, with Pete and Sonia who work in finance, and Mikey, the pediatric physician who works in the outpatient clinic. Things here aren’t very far away but with the roads in the condition they are in it takes much longer to get places. If a truck or car breaks down, it stays there until it’s fixed. The road is also being widened so a great part of the hassle comes from the construction. It’s impossible not to notice the shops along the road. It looked as though the front of the shops had all been torn off and that is exactly what happened. When they had come through to widen the road any shop which was in the way was bulldozed and for many shops that just meant the front wall of the shop was torn off, keeping the inside exposed. I was told though, that the owners were compensated for this.
One thing Sierra Leone does well are their white sandy beaches. Lakka is a large crescent cove where the beach is lined with many small places to get chop, food, and they all have wooden lounge chairs and huts to lay under. The water is pretty clean and the swimming is perfect. The shrimps I had for lunch were massive and the chips, fries, weren’t too bad either. I laid on a chair and read most of the day and watched the fishing boats come and go. It was a perfect day to breathe and take in the new sights and sounds of Sierra Leone.
The main modes of transportation here are the poda podas, large vans which you shove as many people into that you can, taxis and motorcycles. Poda podas are pretty standard throughout most places I have been in West Africa, every place just has a different name for them. The nice thing about here though, is that the rates are pretty standard and easy to figure out so you don’t have to haggle for a better price. I had thought of getting a drivers license since I’ll be here for a bit but I think I’ll be able to figure out public transport just fine. I found the supermarket but we were in a hurry to get back so I’ll save that excitement for another day.
We all just said goodbye to Anna, who I am taking over from. It was bittersweet for everyone here. I have only worked with her for the last few days but she has done a fabulous job bringing the VVF part of this clinic up to where it is. Saying goodbye to her also means here I am. The adventure of this next year is just beginning.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I’m here for a year. This is the longest I have been anywhere longer than seven months in the past seven years. I have my own room and if I look out to the left I can see the city of Freetown otherwise I just see rooftops. There is a beach about a ten minute walk away. That’s as far as I’ve made it beyond these walls so far. I don’t think I would swim there but it’s a nice place to walk to. The clinic is separated from the team house by a wall so I have a really short commute.
My first three days I have spent with Anna getting handover. I will be taking over her job and she leaves this weekend so Monday will be a big day. It has been, to say the least, very overwhelming, as any job seems to be when you first start. The Aberdeen Women’s Center (AWC) is where I am working. There are basically three areas to this clinic. There is the VVF side, which I will be working in, the maternity clinic where babies are delivered daily, and the outpatient pediatric clinic. Everyone I have met here has been extremely welcoming and supportive. The past three days have been trying to fill my head with every part of this place. I’m tired now. I'll have the weekend off and start fresh on Monday!