A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: liberiaeye

Last entry

-17 °C

As I write someone down in the lounge below is playing the piano very well - those of us on the internet often have a merry accompaniment to out toils! Sometimes it's not so merry ie when a child is practicing! Several crew members give lessons, and one of my friends here helps children with their German grammar. There's a wide range of ability here on the ship!

A Liberian man who valiantly records all the patient visions in the clinics also helps run a local charity, WODRI. It helps destitute people who live in what I believe is the poorest area of Monrovia, West Point. He'd asked myself and colleagues if we wanted to see what they do. As we don't have official clinics on Tues we went along. I wasn't prepared for the level of poverty; it was indescribable, however, I will try. We saw 2 schools, one small and one larger, both with a wooden frame matted with vegetation. These schools are for the use of children who wouldn't otherwise go to school and whose parents are out all day. Most children seemed happy enough, they were certainly happy to see us. The 2nd school was near the beach, Cole told us that, with the winter tides the school gets washed away, also nearby houses. The awful part of the day was walking to this school; we wound our way through slums for 10-12 minutes, past people carrying out their daily activities within a few feet of where we walked, ducking under washing lines and around people lying on mats by the side of the path. The smells weren't nice; their were lots of flies and 1 dead rat. Apparently over 50,000 people live in this small area, over 30,000 of them children. The worst part were the ' homes' these people lived in; I'm used to seeing shacks, but these were bunched up on each other a few feet apart. There were hazards every few feet such as sharp corrugated tin sticking out at a childs' head-height and pots of boiling oil or water. It's easy to see why skin grafting after burns with contractures is a common surgery on the ship.
Most of the people we saw on this trip had an air of desolation about them, as if they'd given up. From their houses they could see sky, apart from that nothing but filth.
One unexpected humourous moment though - we rounded a corner to find 2 teenage girls sitting - one was carefully attaching false nails to the others toe nails! Female vanity exists everywhere!
WODRI showed us plans for 6 latrines with public washing areas they want to build. It's about £1600 - nothing in our money. We knew we were going to be encouraged to give money; I will be leaving some money here as I haven't spent all the money I've been donated. One of the orphanages wants to buy bunk beds and mattresses for the children, as some of them sleep on thin foam on the floor. Also, most weeks people take food to the orphanages, and to the prison. This work will continue after the ship leaves. One of the single men is going home to the States when the ship leaves, but is then coming back to volunteer/work in an orphanage.

I want the prayer chain at Church to permanently put West Point on our prayer list.

To more cheerful things - last night 2 landrover loads of people, plus equipment went out to a Sierra Leone refugee camp to show a film in the middle of nowhere. It was very atmospheric - the screen was hooked up high on the back of one of the vehicles, and the auditorium was the night sky with masses of stars and lightning continually flickering in the distance. This was a small village, only a few hundred gathered, but one a recent occasion there were around 1000 people, apparently. Our driver was a young S Korean electrician, like our last driver, he was also good at negotiating the huge potholes.

Since we've spent hours in the landrover going to clinics I've had plenty of time to talk to locals - the war is always a difficult subject to talk about, but sometimes the translators will talk about it. One of them told me that absolutely EVERYONE left Monrovia, even the elderly, though many must have perished in the effort. They went into the bush, though they probably weren't safe there. The rebels 'recruited' locals as they went so the forces got bigger and bigger and could probably penetrate everywhere. Although I've only seen a little of the interior the evidence is there to see - derelict, fire-damaged bulidings, and everyone living in shacks. Young patients with one cataract describe being hit in the war as they were running through the bush. The translator I talked to said they survived by eating plants, cassava root etc.

Home now - to snow, on my immediate return! (Only on the hills).
I've had plenty of time to reflect on Liberia since my return; it's been more difficult to settle this time - last time I was only there 3 weeks. A friend on email said she felt 'lost' when she returned. Life on the ship is so lovely, even if the work is hard. What I can do over there feels much more valuable than what I do here. I'm sure I'll get used to it again!
Something I noticed is that there appeared to be less signs of vitamin A deficiency than last time,(one of the signs is a cloudy cornea) though I don't know if that's true in practice. MS had to discontinue the clinic where I saw this, as mentioned earlier.
Something it was useful to help the patients with was to explain options to a patient with corneal scarring. Quite alot of patients presented with this - they think it's a 'catarac', and that we can remove it. They're usually young; I especially felt sorry for young females with this, as it affects their 'marriageability'. Apparently, one surgeon had done a graft on the ship, obtaining a cornea in just 1 day, I think from USA. This was a one-off though. There is no corneal graft to be had in Liberia normally; I found out that the nearest place doing this is in neighbouring Ghana. So I'd explain this to the patient, going on to draw pictures to show the operation, and telling them that it wasn't quite as straight-forward as a cataract operation, that they'd need to stay in that country a week or two. If the opacity was in one eye and they saw well in the other eye that wasn't so bad, but some were bilateral, probably from measles. These latter patients we prayed with - Isaac prays real powerful prayer!
I reasoned that at least then the patient knew what the score was, and that they could save and go to Ghana if that was within their reach.
Liberia badly needs an eye screening service for children.
We were able to help some patients financially to enable them to pay for medical care; one 2 year old boy received care for malaria courtesy of my mother - she'd been saving small change!
I feel sad at leaving Liberia and the translators I worked with last year and this. They include: Joyce, she is undertaking nurse training; Catherine and Sarah. I know that I probably won't see them again - but God! The UN leaves in 2010 - what will happen then, and what will happen to them and their families? Most of their menfolk have gone, and they have children to support. There will be elections in 2011, and it's said the UN may return - I hope they do.
In the war apparently abut 75% of Liberian women were raped. You'd never guess it; they're always laughing and joking - it's a good thing they depend on God and that they're tough.
There's a funny story about Sarah - she has a child and I guess she's about 35. In the clinics you get used to people without registration slips hanging around - they're trying to have a word with you. When I noticed one old gent had been there for a while I asked 'what is this elderly gentleman waiting for?' I was told 'he's Sarah's fiance!' Honestly, he looked about 100! Sarah laughed!
When examining a small child I often noticed that he/she clutched a Liberian dollar in one hand - this is apparently a bribe to persuade them to be good. Something seemed to work, though often I think children were transfixed at seeing what was probably their first white person!
I have had a couple of emails from WODRI asking if I can help financially. It's hard to know what to do - where exactly would the money go?
Well, at least now I don't have to remember to check in on the ship after returning from clinic. The phone in the cabin rings about 11.30pm if someone's not checked in or - even worse - someone hammers on the door about 2.30am! That's makes you really popular! (Especially as I sleep with earplugs to block out the engine noise!)
The eye room is near the 2nd gangway so we leave and return to that, carrying our stuff in and getting on with re-stocking the next day. Hence it's easy to forget to go to the other gangway to check in, especially as you approach it from inside the ship and the Ghurka thinks you're checking out. It's fun!
Good news! The eye surgeon that I've mainly worked with has given up his private practice and is going to volunteer on the ship for the whole of the next outreach, Feb-Dec '09. His wife, who has been escorting patients to and from OR (Theatre), will also be here. That's great, though the eye field team will need to be on their toes to keep him supplied with surgical patients all that time!
I've just had an email from Jean, a Practice Nurse from Sheffield who was on the ship with me - she's returning early next year. Often, she will give up a job to go to Mercy Ships, not try to get enough time off, as I did. This is testimony to God about trusting Him - Jean's the same age as me, has had many jobs, and said that not once has she ever left a job and had another one to go to. God always provides! She's on her own too, so her trust is very great. Blessing follows obedience.

That's all of my reflections from an eye nurse for now; let's see where I can get to next time. Thank you Liberia.

Posted by liberiaeye 12:27 Comments (0)



Before I forget, there are now photos in the photo gallery.

Mercy Ships advise us to include a disclaimer in our diaries, so here it is:

I serve with Mercy Ships. Everything here, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted.Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.

Charcoal burning... the aroma of which will always remind me of our trip to Bong mines. The deeper we got into the countryside, the stronger the odour seemed. Now I knew the answer to why so many Liberians transport around bags full of leaves - palm leaves, I was told. People cut the leaves, pack tham tightly in sacking, than either carry 1 on their head or transport them in lorries with alot of the load hanging over the sides. There are usually a few men hanging over the sides too. The Liberians use old rubber trees, or other trees, and burn them to produce charcoal, slowing the burning by covering the fire with the leaves. They than have a product to sell. We saw new rubber plantations on our ride.
Bong mines was a huge operation (see previous diary), and has lain idle since the war. Apparently several countries, including China, are interested in buying it. The area we travelled through to it was wet, near most streams we crossed there were huge (5 foot diameter) concrete pipes, probably ready to divert the stream prior to road building. Around alot of the streams were gathered both adults and children washing themselves and their clothes. It felt almost intrusive to be there, though the Africans don't seem to mind. It reminded me of one of the wards, which was obviously short of beds. A mother of a one year - old baby, still nursing him, was having an operation. The baby stays with her on the ward, sleeping in her bed. The ward comprises mainly men but with 2 ladies; this Mum thought nothing of feeding the baby in front of the men, and they took no notice too. Can you imagine that in Britain!

The eye surgeons arrived this week - 2 of them, plus Lord Ian McColl, who is a general surgeon (retired), he does some eye operations. I watched him perform a pterygium operation (non-cancerous growth which spreads over the front of the eye. It was very impressive watching him perfect it by using a 'rollerball' type instrument, complete with 'sandpaper' to smooth off the area. Both his wife and the wife of one of the other surgeons have been in working clothes, escorting patients to and from Theatre. Dr Ian's wife was also a Surgeon. About 30 operations are carried out every day, apart from Fridays presently, when we do about 70 Yag capsulotomies. I keep telling everyone that at home we need a nursing staff of about 45 trained and un-trained nurses to carry out a similar workload!

There was another female patient with an eye ruined by a punch, this lady was trying to save a child from being whipped - she was successful, but unfortunately her eye has had to be removed.
In the clinics we are still seeing patients and continuing to give out the 5500 glasses that we've had donated. Word soon gets around about these glasses!

Am updating this on 19th October.
At Clinics we are now running out of the weaker strength reading glasses, these are the ones we generally use. Though we have alot of dark glasses left, people are becoming fussy about the type of glasses they take, not liking the larger ones! So we may soon see shorter queues when we arrive in the mornings; alot of people have nothing physically wrong with their eyes apart from the need to wear specs for reading as they age. There is alot of eye hygiene advice to tell patients, our voices are nearly hoarse by the end of the day! We are still seeing patients with eye conditions of all kinds though. As I said, the queues are lenghtening - one day last week we saw 167 patients. Also last week a new eye team member joined us, an Australian Orthoptist; he's a very welcome member to the team. This week the 16 year-old daughter of a new maxillo-facial surgeon from England is joining us on the eye team; I think she'll be a good person to transmit the eye-health education, to save our voices!

I don't know if I'll have time to visit the prison before I leave next week; I've written to the lady named Blessing who we have been trying to release for over a year. We've told her that money hasn't worked and she needs to put her trust in God for her release. Amazing things continue to happen there, such as an old lady on a lifetime-murder charge being released.
It is so easy to become imprisoned in Liberia, apart from the fact that anyone with money can ask a corrupt Police member to imprison you just for the fact of disliking you. We heard of one case where the father of a family of 4 children took out a Bank loan to fund the childrens' educations, (no education is free here), at the same time setting his wife up in business with a vegetable stall to pay the interest. She became ill and needed hospitalisation. This immediately burdened them with the extra expense of hospital fees, and they became unable to make payments on their loan. Someone needed to go to prison until they had caught up. As the wife was the one with the least earning potential she agreed to go to prison. This is how they address such problems here; in such cases it is just a fact of life that someone in the family must go to prison, and the family decide between them who it will be.
We are so fortunate, although we often don't realise it! Count your blessings!

I felt very priveleged yesterday to be on board as Mercy Ships celebrates its' 30 year anniversary. Practically everyone joined the children (there are 48 aboard, including a 2 week-old baby) in games on the dockside and on the ship. That took most of the afternoon; after that we had a barbecue on the dockside as the sun set, and afterwards there was a thanks-giving service for the 30 years.
Talking about thanksgiving - one day last week it was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I had my first taste of pumpkin pie - delicious!

There's a dark side to alot of things, and when I went to an Orphanage recently one of the children brought up a rumour about Mercy Ships that has been going around. The children had been acting out the story about David and Goliath, seeming to enjoy it immensly, when the lady who had taught them started to ask about their fears, in relation to David appearing to have none about facing the giant. They all came up with something - rats, snakes etc. One child then said he was afraid of having a kidney taken out. I hadn't heard this rumour, that Mercy Ships people remove peoples' kidneys to send to America for transplant on people there. The teacher obvoiusly had, because she was able to put them at their ease. Thank Goodness! Also there is a rumour that, if you're a patient on the ship, when you come out all your family will have gone. I'm glad that these rumours come out to be dealt with. Our fears always centre on things that are precious to us and the person/persons who started these rumours knew where to hit. I just pray that not even one person will be prevented from having treatment by these, or any other rumours.
Life in Liberia is still pretty grim; apparently human sacrifice still takes place here sometimes. I hope that is just a rumour.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to watch Gary Parker (here on Mercy Ships over 20 years!) performing an operation to remove a huge cyst from the front of a man's shoulder. It was very delicate as he had to avoid with his scalpel, as well as blood vessels any nerves to his arm. The cyst came out intact and Gary was able to prove that the hand worked perfectly by stimulating the nerve!

The 'baby' on the ward still being fed by his in-patient mother rules the roost on that ward! There are several children running around, they used to spill out into the corridor till the nurses pleaded with everyone to shut the doors. Today I was there; Mum was calling him for his feed, which he didn't want to obey. One of the male patients was laughing that you don't normally call a breast-fed baby to come for its' feed! The baby's name is Larry; he always has a most determined look on his face, and wants whatever the other children are playing with. He's only one! At the ward service on a Sunday morning (an albino man palyed the drums this morning) we ladies normally have a small child to care for while Mum dances!

A very fond memory I'll keep from my time here is when a few of us have been on the ward singing and playing games with the patients. Many of them come from a long way, spend a month or so here and often have no visitors. A real camaradrie builds up between them, and between them and us too. Anyone who can play a guitar is very welcome, and also anyone who can sing, whether in tune or not! Spontaneous songs often burst out when the patients sit in the evening in the stairwell. They don't sit there to smoke either! We see very few people smoking in Liberia. The patients love any small present, such as paper and pencil, and last week the children enjoyed making things out of coloured pipe cleaners.

We continue to be well-catered for with lovely food, and no washing up! Phone calls are cheap for us; they're subsidised by Pinplan; I've phoned people in the UK about 3 times each week and it's only cost me about £5 so far!

One Saturday recently the whole shipload of us were treated to film shows made by various teams of workers on the ship, including engineers, children and the housekeeping team who presented 'dustbusters' - a spoof on ghostbusters. It was judged and awards were presented in a similar fashion to TV and film awards would be. It was an extremely enjoyable evening; often after these types of evenings we have ice cream in Starbucks cafe and wind down amongst friends.

I think this may well be the last diary I write here, as it's one week today till I leave. Can't belive it's gone so fast; I've learned an awful lot from being in the field team, and in other ways too. So, God willing, I'll be seeing you soon!
Au revoir (people here are learning French in readiness for Benin next outreach, February '09)

Posted by liberiaeye 10:24 Archived in Liberia Comments (0)

Africans in wellies

Also The Dangerous Mop (same day the propshaft fell out)

-17 °C

Just to tell you that there are now photos in the photo gallery.

It's only at Ruthin clinic I've ever seen patients turn up in wellies; one clinic we did last week had a fair turnout of wellies. The African people do endear themselves to you; in one clinic a man in wellies pleaded with me for something to be done for his wife. She had a cataract, so I put her through to the person compiling the operating lists; she had a good chance of an operation because, at that point we still had operating spaces. They're full now, apart from spaces we've left for emergencies, returns to theatre etc.

This time last year I was at the airport waiting for my flight home; I was ready to go home, mainly because of the sheer difference of working in a totally different culture, in an unfamiliar way.
Today I was waving off people on the dockside glad that I have another 3 weeks to go.
Tomorrow our fastest eye surgeon arrives; on Tuesday I will watch him operate, then from Wednesday it'll be full-pelt from then on with 1st dressings. There'll be about 30 per day, as another surgeon will operate too. I've left the field team now (sadly) and will be based on the dockside, but that'll be fun too.
We've an excellent team; a nurse from Australia is part of the team that does the k's and A scan - she's here with her husband who is updating broken databases on our computers (there are about 200). An American nurse without eye training helps her; between them they do the pre-ops. Tomorrow I'm helping them; it's a ship holiday but inadvertantly some patients were booked in. Two new eye nurses and an eye surgeon are here too, but I've not seen them yet, will look them out tonight.
Despite the age expectancy of Africans being about 46 we listed a man of 110 recently!

Now, to the dangerous mop incident.
Yesterday 18 of us set out in 2 land rovers (they gave us the old ones) for Bong mines, which ceased operations in the war. It's a long day out; we covered 200km in all. At this place iron ore was mined and smelted, then shipped straight to Europe.
We went for an hour when the other land rover dropped it's propshaft out. Having owned a car that did this I was rather surprised when eventually, after being mended, we were allowed to proceed. That caused a halt of about 2 hours, which I considered the best part of the day. Within minutes we had gathered a crowd of about 10 small children; the first girl I spoke to said she wanted to come with me, pleadingly. She was about 10. After I explained that wasn't possible she then turned to Carmen, and asked the same. We talked to her about the necessity of staying with her family, and continuing school so that she could obtain a good job and then go where she liked. It was very sad. Her small brother was there, then eventually Grandma wandered up, minus shoes. The girl (Comfort) explained that Moma and Popa were away, and that Grandma looked after them. We prayed with the family.They eventually all started the long walk home along the road.
After this one of our ladies got an impromptu singing session going with the other children; we were near their homes - someone brought out spoons and Marianne showed how to play them. A child beat out a rhythm on a bowl. There was alot of laughter. At one point I sat down on the dirt, and a child brought a stool out for me. This tiny settlement had a pump, as did a few we saw on the way, even in quite remote areas, which I was pleased to see. At this first place we stopped healthy-looking vegetables were growing too, none of which I recognised (no sprouts, tho' we've had sprouts here on the ship!)
The dangerous mop episode came from a man showing us an innocuous-looking home made mop - he explained that if thieves broke in they would ignore this. He then lifted up the 'moppy bits' to reveal a knife. He was laughing fit to burst! He said 'that'll get them good!'
Well, we got underway again. The plan normally is that we drive so far then both landrovers drive onto a trolley and are taken the rest of the way behind the train - we sit on top of the land rover. As we were late we had to drive the whole way. Boy, what a drive!
This year I'll try to include photos in this diary; last year it failed. I can't describe how deep the ruts were, most of them were like deep ditches, and the land rovers were constantly lurching about. It was possible to get a head injury INSIDE the jeep! We arrived mid-afternoon, spent about half an hour looking around, then had to set off for home!
On the way back the same landrover decided it could only drive in reverse; making loud crunching noises on trying to engage 1st gear. Our driver, Emmanuel (who, incidentally must have been to our department because he had one lovely shiny false eye), got underneath, and in about half an hour had fixed it. Meanwhile we gathered another (larger) amount of children. The singing this time wasn't quite so voluble; we'd had a long day and it was getting dark. One of the children had obviously been to the river to wash, she had a piece of soap and a cloth in a small bucket. Quite small children miraculously balanced full buckets of water on their heads. They all had lovely smiles and looked healthy and well-fed. After cleaning the headlights we again set off, in the dark. It's very hazardous,as pedestrians walk down the roads in the dark, but our drivers did a sterling job of maintaining concentration, still having to cross the road to avoid potholes.
Everywhere we went adults and children alike waved to us, and shouted things like 'you are welcome'. The deeper we drove into the countryside the more primitive the housing became, until they were more or less rectangular mud huts. We left behind the 'cloth and corrugated tin' huts of the towns. Some were made of hand-fashioned clay bricks. People were sitting around leisurely outside; despite their poverty they seemed to me to have an enviable lifestyle. One of the girls remarked that we in the West have a spiritiually-poor life, with which I tend to agree.
The envy evaporates when we see babies with malaria, a horrendously high number of which die from malaria every day, I think it's about 3000 in sub-Saharan Africa. I've seen 2 in clinics, both with neurological deficits, one was obviously near death. That is the hardest thing to cope with. We refer them to JFK hospital, but we know they probably won't go. It's possible to give them money, of course, but I'd rather give it when someone has a chance of life. We pray with them, and try give them hope.
One of our ladies had an a/c washout (for blood in the eye) at our local eye hospital, which had no patients and was dirty, no sheets on the beds. She presented 2 months after cataract removal and lens implant, with a bruise on her cheekbone and the blood in her eye. She denied having been struck when I asked her, but eventually agreed that she had. On inspecting under her upper lid there was a scleral perforation, with choroid poking through. She went to the hospital, but on visiting her 2 days later she had had nothing done as she didn't have the £17 fee. That was produced and the op was done next day. A few days later she appeared at the ship, saying she'd been given no post-op drops, so we complied. To my surprise she could see a few letters on the chart with pinhole. The wound hadn't been sutured, but conjunctiva had grown back and her pressure was ok. Just think for how many people we're not in the right place at the right time though.
Two of our translators/eye health educators are starting nurse training, and a 3rd has applied. They're very reliable people, though it's so funny going along in the landrover to clinics in the morning. The ones who've made it to our collection point have their phones constantly rung by the ones who've missed us! They eventually do reach the clinic! At lunch time they jabber away to each other fast - the eye nurse last year used to stand it so long then shout at them humourously to 'shut up!', at which point they would break into peals of laughter! They're interesting to talk to; Joyce told me that the bribes you have to pay to get into the nurse training school make it as expensive as paying for private training, so that's what she's doing.
It's tea time again, so as my stomach's rumbling I'd better go!

Posted by liberiaeye 13:30 Comments (0)

Thank Goodness for Friday!

Hello Everyone
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.

Posted by liberiaeye 10:01 Comments (0)

Liberia '08


It's been good returning to Liberia and looking up friends from last time - I'm full of admiration for the people who've remained here all the time I've been back at home; it seems such a long time. However, the ship stops operating mid-December and normally sails to Tenerife where repairs are carried out. The volunteers then have a well-deserved break until sometime in January, when Africa Mercy sails on to wherever she is next operating.

An American nurse, Naomi, has headed up the eye team all the time I've been involved, and is here until next June. She's doing a fantastic job; she isn't eye trained, but takes into consideration all the necessary factors when planning how many operations we should plan for each surgeon, clinics etc. Surgeons work at different speeds; the surgeon I worked with last year is FAST - about 14 operations per day. Him and a British surgeon arrive on 5th October. Since Glenn is a fast surgeon he can get us up to date with surgery before the ship stops operating mid- November.
However, surgery isn't the only type of work performed by the eye team. To prepare the patients for surgery their blood pressure needs to be stable and we need to measure their eyes for the correct strength of plastic lens they will have inserted into the gap from which their opaque lens was removed. We currently have days planned where 40 patients at a time come to the ship to have these measurements performed; however, some patients will have to have this done on the day of operation as there are too many to book in on previous days.
The outreach clinics are the means of screening patients who require surgery, but of course, we see patients with medical eye problems. News travels fast, and anyone with a bad eye attends, the queues have not become any shorter! We also screen patients for 3 other types of surgery apart from cataract, some of which require general anaesthetic.
Clinic days are still every day but Tuesday - on this day we fit artificial eyes for people who've had painful, blind eyes removed. Unfortunately, we're now running out of artificial eyes, so we can only remove the eye if the patient doesn't mind having an empty socket. I think I'd prefer that to a painful, blind eye.
Clinics run from 7.30am to when we finish, around 2 or 3pm. Translators have been trained in eye health care, and will go on to be trained as Community Health Educators next year, as per one of the Millenium Development Goals (World Health Organisation) which most Western governments have signed up to. Vision 2020's optiimistic goal is to drastically reduce world blindness by that year.
There have been changes in some clinic locations since I was last here; the New Kru Town clinic was at a local hospital, but corruption was present in the form of officials taking bribes to allow patients to queue. That clinic is now held in a local Church. I was there last Friday, and went along when we'd finished with the translators for a cooked lunch (costing 50p) in a little room just off the Church. I couldn't help being reminded of the WRVS counters in a UK hospital, though the fare was very different! I opted for 'fufu' - a VERY spicy fish soup with a 'mold' of pounded cassaver root. It had the unexpected effect of clearing my nasal passages, which I didn't know needed clearing!

Back to the clinics, which is where I'll be most of the time I'm here as I'm in the field team - 2 of the eyecare translators, trained in basic eye health 'see' patients, along with an eye technician from the States, and myself.
Prayer has been answered - THANK YOU-in that we do have someone in each clinic to pray with each person we can't help. Another service we offer is that Rosie, another US nurse, gives out reading and dark glasses to people requiring them.
Time for my supper, so signing off now!

Posted by liberiaeye 10:41 Comments (0)

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