Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Volunteers Busy at Work in Liberia

I can't believe we are already at Wednesday of our first week in Liberia. After a day in bed, because I was pretty ill and still am slightly, I woke up and went to breakfast in the hotel. Our breakfast at the hotel is complimentary. It was a pretty nice spread of eggs, toast, sausage, croissants and cinnamon buns. It was very American. Oh, and they have Tang. I love Tang but haven't had it since I was a kid. Just a quick side note, every time I come into the café to order food and sit at a table I get absolutely no service. I am not sure why but I don't. Maybe I don't look nice enough. Who knows but it's a bit annoying. Other than that the food is pretty good.

While we are in Liberia the nurse education teams are working at different hospitals and swapping so that they both work at both hospitals. This week the nurse educator team is at Redemption Hospital. From what I was told this is the charity hospital and is much worse off than JFK.

The midwifery team and the primary care team are now working out of JFK, so I too went to JFK. JFK is still a little of a maze to me so after a walking to the wrong building I finally asked someone where the midwifery training was going on. The midwifery class was now being held in a large hallway with plenty of ventilation because they have been getting over 70 students at day for each class. This class had actually been held in a much smaller space with only one AC working which was a bit much for everyone involved. Apparently there are two working ACs in the room but only one remote so when they would turn one AC on the other would go off so there was never enough air in the room. Because JFK cannot afford to send all the healthcare professionals who deliver babies down to the class at the same time some come in the morning and then a new batch arrives in the afternoon. In the class there are physician assistants, midwives, nurses and just about any other person in the hospital staff that works in the business of giving birth.

The primary care team is doing two things while at JFK. In the mornings they are doing rounds with the physician assistants and medical students. These rounds are providing the medical students, residents, interns and physician assistants with more hands on training, our primary care team is there to instruct but the staff at JFK actually does the work. In fact Dr. Polifka will be holding an EKG reading class because many don't know how to read the EKG. In the afternoon the primary care team sets off to outpatient clinic of the hospital to provide some care. There too they work side by side with the hospital staff.

Today some media stopped by the hospital because they were unable to make it yesterday. They interviewed Project HOPE's David Eddy, some midwifery students, the Cornel with the dentists and then Dr. Polifka. Everything went very well and they all seemed really interested in what we were doing. Throughout our time in Liberia media are expected to drop by a couple times. The military public affairs team and embassy public affairs team here have been very wonderful about getting the message about the whole mission out in Liberia and they know so much about what Project HOPE is doing.

Today I went by to visit Julia, a Project HOPE volunteer, a physical therapist who who joined us on the Liberia mission. Julia is working with Sam—one of the local therapists. Together, they were seeing an older gentleman with a ssing left leg. After visiting with the patient Julia and Sam taught the gentleman how to wrap his leg so that the shape is one that will mold and work better with the prosthetic he will be fitted for. Most, if not all, the patients she will see here will be patients who lost a limb or had an injury due to trauma.

Tonight after dinner Christella asked Julia how her day was and she replied "every day is a good day."

This environment is so different. The heat seems to be worse and so does the humidity than Ghana. The people are much more subdued. When I walk by a line at the clinic they don't tell me they are in a hurry or ask me questions they may just say hello or watch me walk by. In Ghana there is no way we would have been able to walk down the street in Accra without about 10 people trying to sell us stuff but today Christella and I walked home and were only asked to buy something when we got to the gate surrounding our hotel. We even crossed Tubman Street which reminds me a little bit of the game Frogger because you have no crosswalks or lights just people trying to cross the street and avoid traffic. There are people from all over the world here; maybe it seems that way because the UN is here and there is a lot of foreign investment going on in Liberia. However, their love of soccer seems to be the same.

CarolineTeeter from Project HOPE, who has been in Liberia since November, started a soccer league. Some of the kids play barefoot on a dirt field, but they still play. Yesterday, APS dentist team and environmental and preventive medicine team, veterinarians and Project HOPE volunteers went out to the field to play soccer with the kids in the league. While they played the dentists provided some dental screenings, a lesson on oral hygiene and also free tooth brushes and toothpaste to the kids as they rotated off the field. The game ended in a tie.

I haven't been in Liberia long but I can say that being at JFK is draining but people here are working really hard to make the hospital what it once. You walk around the campus and see ruins of what was once a great institution. Most halls in the buildings are dark and sinks don't work but the hospital is still open and the people continue to push through. The people in this country have been through a lot and it shows. People here lack not only the resources but also the training because the civil war made education so unstable—as I mentioned earlier it has taken many doctors 10 years to get through medical school because of the war. Project HOPE has already expressed an interest in developing long term programs at JFK and hopefully it happens.

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