Friday, April 29, 2011


It's Friday. I have to say that not only am I excited that today was the royal wedding and my dad's birthday, but it's Friday. I don't like 'living for the weekend'. I don't like living, hoping the weekend would come faster. I think that if you live like that then what are you doing in your life? I do believe you need to live each day, not just in anticipation for your days off from work. I will admit though, today I am really glad it's Friday even though I am sitting on my bed still thinking of all I have left to do in the ward or in my office. This week, oh, this week... Started off amazing. Spent all last weekend on the ship with friends and chocolate. Tuesday was going to be a big screening day here at the centre for VVF in the Western Province. One woman showed up, thanks for sending her Sandra. We did have seven women to screen which came from the screening trip the week before to Kambia. Three were suitable for surgery. Oh, Monday Ann Gloag arrived as well, the founder of the Freedom From Fistula Foundation, the founder of this centre. I honestly didn't feel much stress with her coming. I know I am here doing the best I can and that's all I can be doing. Wednesday was the 50th birthday of Sierra Leone. Music and celebrations galore. Wednesday, two nurses quit. Today, one more. When I found Sia's resignation letter taped to my computer I had to laugh. I laughed only because I knew that if I took too long to think about it, I would cry. Sia is the woman I have been training up to be the ward supervisor. She had been doing an amazing job in that position and I knew she was going to be the right person for the job. I was mistaken. Two more nurses as well... I had interviewed a few women not too long ago so I already had some in mind and at the top of my pile to hire. I found as I was calling them to offer them positions that hiring people is so much harder than firing. As it is anywhere, some people can interview really well but come to work and it's a different story. I really pray that the two nurses I hired today will fit well into the team and will be hard workers. Now I am on the prowl to find someone else to fill the position of ward supervisor. A national nurse. Please, please, please, join me in prayer for this.

On top of it all I am deworming. I know that probably sounds gross but I think it's time. I just hope this doesn't mean I am going to start gaining weight...

I have to share part of todays passage from My Utmost for His Highest:

To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time.

So, so true...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A 50th Celebration

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence. You are not allowed to forget it. For the past weeks everything has been getting painted green white and blue. I walked to the beach last night to watch fireworks, which never happened, and the two roundabouts by the centre look like Christmas with lights and flags and freshly painted cement. Driving down the roads you are met by traders selling green, white and blue necklaces, buttons, t-shirts, pens, underwear... you name it. Ann Gloag, the founder of the AWC is here right now for the celebrations as well. I walked onto the ward yesterday to the sound of the patients standing in a circle waving their freshly painted flags and singing the national anthem. Monday night a group of us went to dinner at Alex's, a restaurant close to the centre. Stepping out onto the street was crazy. The amount of people walking up from the beach as we walked down was incredible. The mix of having it be Easter monday and celebrations for the 50th brought the entire country to Lumly beach, the beach just down the road from the centre. I felt like a fish swimming up stream with the amount of people I had to dodge. The funniest thing I saw was when I passed by the gate to the OPC, the children's centre here. All my VVF women were standing there just staring out the gate at the mass of people. They love to people watch as much as we do.
The women make their Sierra Leone flags.

Easter was great. I spent four nights in a guest cabin on the ship. It was such a great retreat. Friends, food, scrabble, movies... The past few weeks have been challenging and this weekend was a great getaway. As soon as I set foot on the ship I dropped my bags and headed to deck 7 for foot washing, then to a communion station and time in the garden of gethsemane to just sit in the quietness and presence of God.

Sandra, Mikey, Francis and I decorated Easter eggs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Give the Gift of Blood

Since I first worked on the Africa Mercy in 2007, I have dreamed of donating blood to a patient. That may sound funny but here we are the walking blood bank. There is a local hospital which has a large sign outside their doors that says if you need a blood transfusion you have to bring your own donors. On the ship and here at the centre the patient's don't have to bring their own donors, sometimes we ask if they have family or friends willing to donate, but we are it. I was never able to donate on the ship because my blood type is not common and here throughout Africa, it's even less common than back home. Last year in Togo a surgery had to be cancelled because there were not enough people with the same blood type that the patient needed on the ship. The day finally came today! I was sitting at my computer when Kate, the head of maternity, came in and said she could finally use me! There was a women who had a caesarean who needed blood and I matched. I was so excited. After a lunch of cassava leaves, rice and fish I headed over to the lab and gave a unit. Completely the highlight of my day and my week! Tomorrow I will go meet her.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I just got back from an amazing weekend. Amazing in so many ways. First, this past week had many challenges and I really needed some time away. Second, I got to explore a new area I have not been to. Third, I met some new people and got to spend quality time with friends. And fourth, I got to sleep in a tent last night and I absolutely LOVED it!

I went camping at Tokeh beach. I borrowed a tent and we set up two tents in a field right off the beach and the others just slept under their mosquito nets. It was so relaxing. The taxi ride there and back was something that, to tell you the truth, doesn't really phase me anymore. We rode in a mini van taxi. Ok, not a problem, but the sliding door kept falling off. On the way back today a guy had to sit next to the door and hold it on while we drove. Yeah, no joke. There we so many holes and due to the lack of door not being fully secure, all the dust from the un-paved roads came right into the van. I showered when I got home but even afterwards I was still rubbing the red dirt off.

The taxi door fell off, again.

So Saturday afternoon we arrived at our campsite a few hours later than expected. Saturdays are cleaning days in Freetown. It's usually just once a month but on the 27th of April Sierra Leone is celebrating 50 years so cleaning days are every Saturday for now. On cleaning days no one is allowed to drive from 6am-12pm. If you are found driving you can get ticketed. Everyone should be outside cleaning the streets so we had to wait until this was finished to leave.


When we got to our campsite it didn't take long to realize that right next door there was going to be an outing. An outing is a party which wouldn't be a party without large speakers, loud music, and lots and lots of people. It started about six and at 2am the music was still going. We walked down at about ten to see what was happening and there was dancing and people everywhere. At 11 the live music was going to start and at 12 the beauty pagent was going to begin. A couple of the guys with us stayed for the festivities but I was ready for bed. It was so refreshing to sleep in a tent! I didn't get much sleep at all with the music next door and the thin yoga mat I slept on didn't give me much comfort but honestly I didn't mind. Just sleeping in a tent was great for my soul.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In the mornings we meet at 8:00 every day for a time of singing and devotion. The last couple weeks it's been a bit more exciting because the centre has hired a new mechanic. SHE is a woman and I LOVE it! I love seeing her at 8:00 every morning in her blue and orange jump suit, ready to climb under the cars and get to work. In a country where women are so oppressed and rarely given status, to have a woman in a role that is traditionally for men, it makes me smile every day when I see her.

Our numbers are up. I don't like playing the numbers game. I think that even if we just help one woman we are doing our job. The slight problem with that is that if we don't help more then our funding won't be there. For almost the last week we have had over 30 beds occupied. It's been great to see considering two weeks ago we were down to less than one ward. It's great to see so many women!

Sia has been gone for almost a month now. She was on leave then had to fly her father to Ghana for medical treatment. He is doing better and she should return soon. I'm really excited for her return for many reasons. First, I enjoy working with her and seeing her grow into a place of leadership as the ward supervisor. And second, I am tired. Trying to do her job and mine is a lot. Constantly trying to stay on top of things like restocking the meds and supplies and trying to keep things clean and organized in the ward where when you come in the next day and it's all a mess again, and no one seems to notice to trying to figure out where women are and how we can get to them... I like the work don't get me wrong, I'm just tired.

This past weekend Hettie and Ginger came to stay with me for two days. It was great. Scrabble and dutch blitz and chocolate and good friends to sit and chat with. Just what I needed...

Marijoula left today to return to Guinea. I love watching them leave. They leave as new people. Stronger and more sure of themselves.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I was reminded today why I am here. The gladi gladi ceremony was a total of one patient. She was beautiful though. She also spoke Susu, a more common dialect in Guinea, not here in Freetown. During devotions she never sang because she didn't know the words. She never spoke because she didn't have anyone to speak with. During the singing today she just sat there and cried. At first I didn't know if they were sad or happy tears because I knew her catheter had just come out and I didn't know if she was still dry after that. At the end of a gladi gladi ceremony, the women usually start a song and others join in with them. When Marijoula sang, no one could sing along. It was just her. Her voice was beautiful. I cried along with her. The rest of the morning she couldn't stop smiling. It was a thing of beauty.

In the craziness and overwhelming frustration of this week and at times my wanting to just pack it up and go, standing there, seeing Marijoula sing and cry, I just thought, this is it. This is why I am here. To be a small part of this beauty.

Oh, and she is dry.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


As I sit here to write this long overdue blog post, there are many things running through my head...

First, today is April 6th which means I have been here three months today.

Second, I can't believe how long it has been since I blogged. Time is really flying by! I was doing so well when I first arrived then life picked up and I stopped for a bit. Hopefully this means I am back and will try again to be more consistent.

It was funny to me when I saw what my last post was. Today as I was sitting in a class my phone kept vibrating and I kept turning it off. This person kept calling and since I didn't know who it was, I wasn't going to answer. They were persistent so I stepped outside and took the call. It was Fatmata, the patient I wrote about in my last post. The one who went on the radio and did the interview and the one I visited at her home. Another nurse gave her my number and she wanted to call. I asked if she was back in school and she is! I asked her why she wasn't in school today and she told me she is but it was lunch time. She will be back in a month for her followup appointment and I can't wait to see her. I am SO glad she is back in school!

So I'm going to go out on a limb here and be honest... I don't think I realized how hard it was going to be here. Yes, I knew it was going to be challenging. I knew there would be moments of craziness and trying to relate to national nurses was going to be hard, but oy. Today I feel like I have hit a wall. I'm tired. I'm tired of many things but I'm tired. Everything is a struggle. I can't get from one place to another in my day without some sort of issue. I have been working to get HIV trainers out here to train the nurses to be HIV counselors so we can start testing all our women. After going round about how much it would cost and finally getting the cost to something we could afford and settling on dates, they were finally able to come out. I thought my nurses would be excited for this opportunity. We are paying for and supporting them and offering them knowledge about something which I know affects each of them. After the first day of teaching they sat me down and proceeded to tell me everything I did wrong. It was one thing after another. My favorite was that the sodas weren't cold enough and they were pretty upset about this.

I am making friends though and that's been encouraging. Having the ship on the other side of the city has proven to be amazing. I have lots of returning friends from there and have spent the last few weekends with them and have loved it.

On the VVF side of things, the women are still lovely and amazing. Our numbers have been down a bit but I feel like things are going to be changing and I'm really excited to see that. We have some things in the works and this excites me. I'll keep you posted as I can.