It's been a very busy week in all the clinics, and tho' we're on the ship on Tues that was busy too. It's a bit like being at work in the UK - patients appear from out of the woodwork, apparently!
First - good news - a baby girl named Blessing was born on the ship recently! Her mother was staying with her son as he was having surgery, when she went into premature labour (8 months). There was a midwife on board, and Blessing was safely delivered. I was on the ward one day talking to a Mum when I saw a bundle behind her on the bed - the baby is doing well, and so is Mum.
It has been a mad week of clinics, seeing up to 150 people each day. Usually there are 5 of us seeing patients (a US ophthalmic tech, 3 health education translators and myself). I remember when eye nurse Bob (retired) saw all the patients by himself last year. It is a challenge seeing patients; we don't have the luxury of a slit lamp in these clinics - most are primitive, tho' with a concrete floor and roof, at least! Alot of people have heard about the free readers and shades we have - you can't blame them. So we need to check whether they have any disease before sending them for glasses. I have found alot of glaucoma and check everyone for it, even some children, as the translators tell me glaucoma can be present in children as young as 9. We give them glaucoma drops, plus tablets if their pressure is high enough, and a referral to the local eye hospital for continued management and drops. The problem is that the hospital charges according to means (part of Christian Blind Mission), so there will always be patients who, unfortunately, do not go for further drops. Another charity, Unite for Sight, works in Liberia too, thankfully.
Desperate people with other problems come too - we see them, but if it's a problem the ship doesn't deal with, we refer them too. Today, a 63 year old grandmother brought her 8 month-old BEAUTIFUL grandaughter (she was happily 'singing' the way they do at that age!) Grandma said the baby couldn't sit up. I don't know much about these problems; she could move her lower limbs but had muscle wastage. I took a mobile number; on return to the ship I could speak to a lovely Irish physiotherapist named Gary (I accused him of being Scottish - no offence to Scottish people!) Gary told me of a charity, Handicap International, at a local hospital, so I was able to pass on the information that they give free care. It is relatively easy for Grandma to carry Blessing (a common name here!) presently, but of course, she will get heavier. Grandma has total care of Blessing.
Have seen Gary (Parker) to have a chat to a couple of times, he sends his blessings to all at Sussex St. He looks well. Fortunately for me, I'll be able to watch him do surgery on the afternoon of 14th Oct, Tues. We can be slightly less busy on Tues as we're on the ship and eye surgery hasn't started yet; tho' last Tues I saw 3 eye casualties with bad problems - fortunately the staff Dr is very helpful, resulting in 1 patient coming in for intravenous antibiotics 2 days in a row, and the other, a lady, being admitted to the local eye hospital for surgery. I wondered why she had a bruise on her cheekbone 1 month after surgery, then I noticed a perforation of the eye under the top eyelid. She eventually admitted to being punched in her operated eye. Some of us went to see her yesterday - she hadn't had the op because she couldn't afford to pay £17. Anyway, we sorted that between us; hopefully she had the op today.
Often it takes 1 hour to get to clinics and back as once off the main roads the tracks are of mud, often with DEEP potholes. If you see alot of motorbike riders in an area you know there are serious potholes!
Today I am feeling well, but am only now just learning about pacing myself here. I am now used to working being continually bathed in sweat, I don't mind that now, but yesterday was a record day with about 150 patients and I stood for about 5 hours in a row - boy, was I tired! We went to see the patient I mentioned, then there's work to do when we reach the ship, stocking up for the next day. I went for a lie down, then the alarms went off - we all had to go to the dockside for a drill! Anyway, I eventually got my lie-down after tea, falling asleep tilll 7.45. By this time I'd missed devotions, the 1st time ever! THANK YOU for all your prayers - they are working, particularly the ones about 'strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord' - remember that song? I've had those words so many times, both before coming and since I've been here, and they do encourage me so much.
Am still reading Hebrews, tho' my usual bible-reading routine is difficult to keep to because of the need to get 5 'girls' thro' the shower each morning. Today I read '...we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure'. (6:19) The NIV note explained how the Christian is anchored 'upwards' to God in heaven, as opposed to a ship's anchor being firmly attached downwards - that is so apt!
Usually in the clinics there are 10 of us, including translators and crowd-control people. The Eye Tech here, Linda (she's here for 2 years) tells me that from Feb there'll only be 4 - the ship will be in Benin, Ghana then. Bob's returning, but stilll the workload will be massive, without our lovely translators. Most of them are young women with children, who won't be able to go to Ghana. Ship people who are transferring are busy learning French. I THINK I would like to help then (I have the money), but I had problems having 6 weeks off from work, and I don't know how I'd be placed asking for more time off.
Alf - my face still looks like a beetroot after aerobics/circuits, but that's where I'm off to in 1 1/2 hours, so I'd better go to have my tea. It's amazing how much energy I have today!
Catherine - I hope the bat survey went well and that you're safely back from Carlisle.
Sussex St people - thank you for your prayers.
I will be in touch again soon.