Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Meet the Second Team of Project HOPE Volunteers in Liberia

Project HOPE volunteers spent their first day in Liberia meeting a receptive group of professional counterparts at the JFK Hospital in Monrovia. The volunteers were taken on tours of the departments where they will be working for the next two weeks.

I followed our two nurse midwives, Margaret Canter and Nancy Ward along with their counterpart, Ms. Cooper to the maternity clinic and the labor and delivery ward. The conditions were far different from labor and delivery suites now available in the United States. These women labor together in a room with eight beds. There is no air conditioning to make them more comfortable in the humid heat of Liberia and no available pain medication to help them through their labor. The small size of the unprivate labor room does not allow the women to be supported through their labor by any family member. One young girl kneeled alone on the cool tile floor, trying to find the most comfortable position in which to continue her labor. I saw the discomfort and fear on her face. Remembering my own three labors, I wondered how I would go through the painful and often uncertain process without the comforting support of someone else.

Despite the stark surroundings, newborn babies always bring a feeling of hope and two were in the delivery room while we were there. The babies, both with heads full of beautiful black hair were wrapped in colorful Liberian material.

While we witnessed the miracle of newborn life, several of our other volunteers witnessed the death of a young man. While touring the emergency room, a 20-year-boy was wheeled in. He was hit by a car, a common occurrence in Liberia where people often walk on the the sides of crowded roads. The boy was bleeding, vomiting and convulsing, probably suffering from a head injury. The volunteers jumped into to help but the needed trauma equipment was not readily available. The boy died. I wasn't there with the volunteers, but even in their retelling of the story, I could tell even these experienced ER professionals were a bit shaken by their introduction to emergency medicine in Liberia.

While it's clear that the JFK Hospital is lacking almost every modern medical convenience and a lot of medical necessities needed to treat patients, the volunteers were very impressed with the moral, the eagerness and the willingness of the JFK staff to make health care better for their people. A full day of work is planned tomorrow, and everyone seems eager to share their skills with their counterparts, work with patients and learn more

Meet the volunteers...

Dianne Bennett is a Nurse Practitioner from Jackson Health System in Miami Beach, Florida. This is her second time volunteering for Project HOPE. Last year she volunteered on the 2007 Southeast Asia Oceania mission aboard the USS Peleliu. “The humbling experience brought me back to the grass roots of nursing care in its simplest form,” she said of her mission.” I was left with a deep impression of how fortunate we are as United States citizens, to have excellent medical care, equipment, medications and facilities to care for those who need it the most. Yet, how important it is to remember to always give back to those who need it the most.”

Amy Bream is a first-time volunteer for Project HOPE. She is currently employed as an Emergency Room nurse at the Swedish Medical Center, Englewood, Colorado. She is also pursuing an on-line Master of International Health program from Touro University International and anticipates graduating in 2009.

Margaret Canter, a clinical nurse midwife for Tallahassee Memorial Family Practice Residency Program in Tallahassee, Florida is on her second mission with Project HOPE. In 2007, she volunteered onboard the USNS Comfort Latin America mission where she was able to use her Spanish skills as well as her nursing experience.

Cherri Dobson, a first-time Project HOPE volunteer, is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse from Kaiser Foundation Hospital, Oakland, California. She also works as a Critical Care Transport Nurse for American Medical Response. She is a NRP Instructor. She is volunteering with Project Hope because she realizes how fortunate she has been to have nursing as a career—“nursing has been very good to me—now it’s time to give back.”

Mary Jo Doerr, a Nurse Educator from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan is a returning Project HOPE volunteer. She also works at the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) as the Continuing Education Approval Program coordinator. In the summer of 2007, she volunteered onboard the USS Peleliu on a health education mission to Southeast Asia Oceania.

Mary Kennedy also volunteered for Project HOPE onboard the USS Peleliu on a health education mission to Southeast Asia Oceania in 2007. She is a nurse educator from the Brigham & Women's Hospital in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

David Meador, Jr. is a biomedical repair technician from Edward Hines VA Medical Center in Hines, Illinois. This is his first volunteer experience with Project HOPE. David and his wife are currently hosting a Nigeria National in their home while the student attends college.

Nabil Messiah is a Physicians Assistant at the Southern Maryland Hospital Center
in Clinton,Maryland. He also has over 13 years experience as an ultrasound technician. He is a first time volunteer with Project HOPE.

Marina Rivera is a retired U.S. Army radiographer from Fountain, Colorado with over 20 years of experience in radiology. She is a first time volunteer for Project HOPE. She loves her profession and loves to make people smile with her trademark quote: "Have a radiating day."

Earl Rogers, a Pharmacist from Richmond, Va. is retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center after 35 years as the Director of Pharmacy Services, and recently retired from the U.S .Army Reserves after 23 years. Earl served onboard the SS HOPE in 1972 on a Voyage X to Natal, Brazil, 1992 HOPE volunteer to Russia & Lithuania, and a later mission in 1992 to Ukraine.

Gabrielle Seibel is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner from Children's Regional Hospital and Medical Center and lecturer at University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. She worked with Project HOPE in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

Joel Trinidad is on his fifth mission with Project HOPE. He is serving as the Chief Nursing Officer for the second team of volunteers on the West Africa mission. Joel currently works as a ICU Nurse at the Pennsylvania Hospital and an ER Nurse at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. His volunteer work with Project HOPE includes a 2005 mission to Indonesia aboard the USNS Comfort following the Tsunami, a mission to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. to help victims recovering from Hurricane Katrina, a mission on the USNS Mercy in 2006 to the Philippines and on the USS Peleliu in 2007 to Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and The Solomon Islands.

Nancy Ward, a clinical nurse midwife is also a first time volunteer for Project HOPE. She currently works at the Pregnancy Aid Center in College Park, Maryland.

Dr. Allen Webb is emergency ward physician from Interim Physicians in
Atlanta, Georgia. He will serve as the Chief Medical Officer while in Liberia. This is Dr. Webb’s first time volunteering with Project HOPE, but he has served as a volunteer primary care physician in mission hospitals in both Ghana and Liberia and spent three years in the Peace Corps as a Medical Officer in West Africa.

--Melanie Mullinax

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