Monday, June 28, 2010

Checking in again…

The days have been going by quickly here in Africa! Most weekdays I am at the clinic from 8am-4pm, seeing patients along with Mary, the resident RN. The majority of the patients are either pregnant women or young children, and more than half of the patients that come in are treated for malaria. We don’t have the ability to do many diagnostic tests, so we often have to “do our best” and treat based on the patient’s symptoms, history and physical exam. As I am learning, medicine in the rural tropics is very different! Other ongoing activities at the clinic include oral polio vaccination for children and onchoceriasis medication distribution throughout Camphor and other surrounding villages. I have tagged along a few times with Agatha, the clinic registrar to administer polio vaccines and it has been an interesting experience to travel on foot to the different villages and go inside people’s homes. Our clinic director, Meleiah, has been distributing Ivermectin as part of a nationwide campaign to prevent and treat onchoceriasis, or “river blindness”, which is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of a black fly. The medicine has to be given every year for several years in order to be effective, so she has been making her yearly rounds with “the stick” to measure people’s height so that they get the right dose.

One recent highlight was the trip to Monrovia from June 9-11. My primary reason for traveling was to buy drugs and supplies for the clinic, but I was also able to do a little sightseeing as well, which was nice. Paul, two of the students at Camphor and I all started the journey in the African car, but it broke down about an hour after we started driving. After trying to find and fix the problem himself with no success, Paul sent me ahead with a group of travelers that agreed to take me part of the way for a small fee and then find me a taxi. I felt a little bad for leaving them behind! Thankfully the necessary repairs were made quickly with some professional help, and Paul and the students made it safely to Monrovia later that evening.

I also recently visited Ganta United Methodist Mission up north in Nimba County with Nyamah and Helen, who are both UM missionaries both working in Monrovia. We happened to be there when the school was having an end-of-the-year concert for the students and we were treated to the soulful sounds of a fantastic local gospel choir and a band all the way from Arizona in the US. I was also able to tour the hospital and eye clinic while I was there. Ganta Hospital is definitely a much bigger place than Camphor, with full-time physician staff, inpatient units, and even a nursing school. There are several permanent missionaries that live there and mission teams coming through all the time. It was good to see what it was like, but it also made me glad that I am “stationed” at Camphor where I definitely feel needed.

Another recent event was the TBA refresher training, where I helped teach and answer questions along with Meleiah. It was a nice change of pace from work at the clinic. We also had the school commencement program on June 27th. The outgoing 9th grade class and the kindergarten class celebrated their graduation, and many of the other students were present to support their classmates. Everyone at the mission spent the last several weeks preparing for the program; preparing the students report cards and certificates, painting the mission gates, re-surfacing the road and cutting the grass. Now Paul and the mission staff can rest (at least for a little while!) after a successful program.
More next time!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Judy Olin UMVIM Guesthouse

The Guest house is on “finishing”. I really did not know that the “finishing touches” (smoothening of external walls and pillars, tiles laying, painting, etc) was the most meticulous stage of construction. Mr. Gbaa says so. It’s taking some time. We are however slowly, but surely getting to completion of the two units.

Liberia comes to East Ohio and Mentor UMC

Shaffa Seward, Liberia Annual Conference UMVIM coordinator arrived in East Ohio on Sunday, June 13th. Shaffa spent time at Lakeside for Annual Conference and then shared in ministry with the Jr. High Mission Group at Mentor UMC. The photos of our attempt to cook Liberian rice and beans and plantains, YUMMY, and of us hauling water and filling up larger vessels for washing and cooking. Shaffa and the group watched Pray the Devil Back To Hell and learned about the realities of life in Liberia and their history of war. A great time with one another.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Story Continues…

I am starting to adjust to life here and have had some interesting experiences in my second week. I was able to visit the school Wednesday morning for a few hours when they needed a “substitute” teacher for the k-2 class. It was last-minute and I didn’t have much time to prepare a lesson plan, so I did a short geography lesson followed by some drawing/coloring time with some “special” paper, crayons, and stickers from the US courtesy of my mom (Thanks, mom!)

Later on in the clinic that day we had a very sick baby come in that needed to go to the hospital. Luckily Paul was available and the “African car” was working that day, so he was able to take mom, dad, and baby to the government hospital in Buchanan. I tagged along to monitor the baby’s condition and also to see the hospital, which I had never been to. When we arrived, the staff sent us directly to the lab, where we waited to have tests done and then waited for results. I became a little frustrated because it seemed that priority was placed on paperwork and following routines, and since we had arrived no vital signs or assessment of any kind had been done by the hospital staff. They finally started IV fluids and other treatments after about an hour and a half, and while the baby’s condition had yet to really improve I knew there was little else I could do at that point, so Paul and I left. It was an interesting experience, one I am still processing. I’m glad we were able to help. I received an update from someone that went to Buchanan the next day. They said the baby was still alive and doing ok at that time.
On Saturday I was able to attend the monthly meeting of the TBA’s (traditional birth attendants) at a nearby village a few miles from Camphor. The TBA’s, who all received training at Camphor, now meet monthly for “continuing education” and to discuss new experiences and things learned in the past month. A big part of the discussion this day was on the importance of having a designated birthing area or “delivery house” in the village and some of the challenges in accomplishing this. Having a space like this helps improves sanitation in the village by keeping the birthing area separate from where people eat, sleep, and bathe. We will follow up with them next month to see if they have made any progress. We finished our visit by checking up on the “delivery kits” that were given to the village as part of the TBA initiative. Each contains a series of plastic containers and bags, gloves, disinfectant, and other supplies and we wanted to make sure the kits were being maintained and used appropriately.

Nyamah, our UMCOR representative in Monrovia, came on Friday and Saturday to visit for the TBA meeting and also brought the clinic some supplies (see picture) which were much appreciated. The weekend finished up on Sunday with service at Paul’s church, Mt. Galilee UMC, where they celebrated mother’s day and crowned (and sashed, pinned, flowered, and gifted!) the mother of the year for the church. It was a colorful event with lots of dancing and singing.
More next week!

Sarah, UMVIM