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!