Monday, September 21, 2009

Volunteers Complete Liberia Mission

We're home! All safe and sound and with memories of a wonderful experience in Liberia.

The week of classroom instruction was fantastic. The morning and afternoon classes were well-attended -- more than 20 students each session every day -- and the discussion was lively. We presented 45 "certificates of training" to our students. We got to know many of our colleagues outside the classroom, as well, while working on the floors of the JFK Maternity Hospital.

Amanda was able to reinforce the classroom instruction on resuscitation by actually resuscitating a "preemie" who had been delivered by C-section a few hours before.

We also had several opportunities to teach the TNIMA students, who were very eager to have us visit their classrooms. Altogether we had nearly 400 teaching encounters in the short time we were on campus.

Everyone asked when we were coming back. We told them we hope it's soon!

On our last night aboard the Swift, there was a reception for the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The volunteers were thrilled to be introduced to her and spend a few minutes speaking with this remarkable leader. "It was the thrill of a lifetime," said Amanda, who is originally from Liberia.

The next morning, we disembarked at 0600 and watched the Swift sail away. Then we began our marathon journey home, starting with an overnight flight from Monrovia to Brussels, and from there some of us went to New York (JFK Airport, naturally) and Atlanta. We all brought home a piece of Liberia in our hearts.

Thanks for reading…Tom Stanton

Thursday, September 10, 2009

HOPE Volunteers Provide Education to Eager Students at JFK in Liberia

On Labor Day – a propos! – the “Hopies” began presenting a midwifery “training update” course at the JFK Memorial Medical Center. We have 45 “students” – 23 midwives, 17 nurses, and 5 nurse-midwives – with experience ranging from 3 to 27 years of practice. I’m going to call them students even though they are professionals in the truest sense and we have learned from them each day.

The group is split into morning and afternoon sections and meets in a well-ventilated conference room about 30 feet by 15 feet, located in the mental health resource center on the ground floor of the Memorial Hospital. Just down the hall, classes are held for the first-year midwife students of the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA). TNIMA was founded in 1945, and 30 of our students are alumna. Most of those 30 have 11 years or less experience, a handful have 20 or more years’ experience. Only two have between 11 and 20 years experience – that decade was a time when civil conflict was at its worst, when studying to save lives most difficult.

At the far end of the building is the School of Nursing. We walk past it every time we go to and from the Maternity Hospital. The faces of the students there reflect an atmosphere of learning and eagerness to progress. Of all the students we’ve met, none are more eager than 18 of the first-year TNIMA class. They waited for our afternoon session to end today (Wednesday) so that we could teach them the unit on newborn resuscitation. I have a feeling that isn’t the only class they’ll want us to teach them. I was touched by how several of them said to us, “God bless you for coming here to teach us.”

Speaking of units, here’s the curriculum the Project HOPE volunteers are teaching in addition to newborn resuscitation: determining gestational age, antepartum hemorrhaging, hypertensive disorders, Apgar scoring, partogram, shoulder dystocia, malaria in pregnancy, active management of the 3rd stage/postpartum hemorrhage, and more.

We had a guest speaker at today’s resuscitation sessions – Dr. Venee Tubman, a pediatrician from Boston Children’s. She’s the granddaughter of the T in TNIMA; he was the president of Liberia. She is here as a volunteer for two months and has a highly engaging personality. Everywhere I look, there are positive people here!

Thanks for reading…Tom Stanton

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor (and Delivery) Day Weekend in Monrovia

The Project HOPE team arrived at JFK bright and early on Friday morning. The first stop was a meeting with Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, the head of OB/GYN at the Maternity Hospital, and her nursing supervisors.

They are very happy to have us here. Dr. Jallah explained that the hospital will be undergoing a total renovation starting in a few months, courtesy of the Japanese government. The Japanese also carried out the original construction. The Chinese government is funding a renovation project in the Memorial Hospital, and there is a year-round Chinese medical presence as well.

After the meeting, the Hopies spent several hours working on the units. On the main floor there is an emergency room and an OB/GYN clinic, which were both very busy all day, as well as the labor and delivery room, which is one large room with 7 beds. On the second floor there is an operating room, where Kathleen observed a C-section that went perfectly, and the post-partum and NICU units.

The hospital has a spacious dining room for the doctors and nurses, and they graciously invited us to join them on weekdays for lunch. Chicken (not too spicy), eggplant parmesan, rice and beans (spicy) were on the menu on Friday. All very good!

After lunch, we went over to the Memorial Hospital for the APS (Africa Partnership Station) Donation Ceremony. There were 10 trucks lined up outside carrying the pallets of donated goods that had been transported on the Swift. There was a red carpet and a receiving line with Navy, U.S. Embassy and Liberian government officials awaiting the arrival of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. We walked the carpet, shook hands and went inside. The hall was decorated in the colors of the Liberian and American flags – red, white and blue. The Liberian flag has 6 red stripes and 5 white stripes, representing the 11 counties, and one large white star on a navy blue field. (As in Texas, there are many businesses and products called “lonestar” this or that.) There were balloons hanging from the ceiling and an entire wall was draped in crepe paper. A live band was playing local pop music. Reggae beat.
Some of it was English; some in a dialect that I still have to figure out. There was a press contingent of a dozen reporters and cameramen.

When Madame President entered, a man blew a horn painted red, white and blue. Mrs. Vera Cooper, the acting administrator of the medical center, gave the welcoming statement, then there were remarks by the U.S. Embassy ChargĂ© d’Affairs and the acting Minister of Health, followed by remarks from President Sirleaf and a ribbon cutting.

It’s clear from this level of attention that JFK is a high priority for the government. One can imagine the entire complex being restored to its former glory and becoming a beacon of hope for the population.

It’s very satisfying for us as Project HOPE volunteers to be part of the vanguard.

On Saturday, we spent some time in the morning preparing lectures and then we went to the Maternity Hospital after lunch. Amanda, Jen and Kathleen worked in the ER and on the wards; the clinic isn’t open on weekends. We got back to the ship around 4:30 and about an hour later the military medical team finally arrived. Their transport had been delayed 3 days, giving them “bonus” stays in Italy, Spain and Cape Verde. As fun as that sounds, we’re glad we took commercial flights from the States! It would have been hard getting ready for the course to begin on Monday had we lost all those days.

Sunday was a “cultural” day. The ladies went to church with Amanda and her family and the Navy provided a BBQ with a live band on the pier in the afternoon and evening.

Happy Labor Day! It will be labor and delivery day for us…Tom Stanton

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Greetings from Monrovia,Liberia!

A team of Project HOPE volunteers arrived here by airplane on Wednesday afternoon -- with all of their luggage! They will be supporting the Africa Partnership Station 2009 mission for the next two weeks.

Amanda is originally from Liberia and is excited to be coming back for the first time in more than 10 years and for the first time ever as a nurse here. Jen and Kathleen will be team-teaching a midwifery course. All will be helping write protocols for several departments in the maternity hospital at the JFK Medical Center. Read the volunteer bios!

JFK is a large campus -- at least 20 acres -- on the Atlantic coast on the south side of the city. There is a sign posted at the main gate expressing condolences to the Kennedy family on the passing of Senator Kennedy. The largest building is the Memorial Hospital -- four stories high with many windows that allow refreshing breezes to enter the wards. It opened in 1972,while the maternity hospital opened in 1981 and is about to undergo a major renovation in a few months. It's obvious all the facilities are still recovering from more than two decades of national conflict, which ended only a few years ago. The hospital's motto is "embracing the past and carving a new future." We hope our work here will help brighten that future.

The Hopies have settled in to their home away from home -- the HVS2 Swift, a "wave piercing catamaran". We won't be testing her capabilities, though, as we will be docked at the pier for the entire mission. The Swift has been deployed since July,delivering medical supplies to several West African countries. Liberia is the only port of call where medical services will be provided -- a team of about 25 military health care providers is joining us on Friday night. They will be working at other sites around the city and in the countryside.

We're looking forward to a ceremony tomorrow at which the president of Liberia will speak.

Stay tuned! Tom Stanton

Check back as we continue to document Project HOPE volunteers as they work around the world......and please support our dedicated medical volunteers.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Arrive In Liberia

Everything is in place for an excellent two week mission here at the JFK. The Navy has been very welcoming and the JFK administration is familiar with HOPE and is very excited to have us back.

Our midwifery team will be working at the Maternity Hospital within the JFK campus and have a solid plan in place for getting a lot of work done along with the capstone midwifery course. The team is very excited and this really does promise to be an excellent mission.

--Submitted by Matthew Peterson, Project HOPE Mission Coordinator

Volunteers Tom Stanton, Jennifer Oh, Amanda Cooper-Lawrence and Kathleen Martin stand out front of the HSV Swift docked in the port of Monrovia.

Volunteers Kathleen Martin, Jennifer Oh and Amanda Cooper-Lawrence meet their counterparts in the labor and delivery ward of the JFK Hospital in Monrovia.

Check back as we continue to document Project HOPE volunteers as they work around the world......and please support our dedicated medical volunteers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Meet the Project HOPE Volunteers in Liberia

As one set of Project HOPE volunteers continues work in the Oceania region of the world aboard the USNS Richard E. Byrd, four new volunteers from Project HOPE are joining the U.S. Navy aboard the HSV Swift on a health education and humanitarian assistance mission in Liberia.

The HOPE volunteers in Liberia are working at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia alongside their counterparts in the labor and delivery ward and offering health education classes to midwives at the hospital.

Amanda Cooper-Lawrence is a first time Project HOPE volunteer from New York Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, New York. She has worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 14 years. In Liberia, Amanda is volunteering as a labor and delivery nurse.

Kathleen Martin, a nurse midwife from Driggs, Idaho is a first-time Project HOPE volunteer. Her extensive experience includes work as a nurse practitioner, owner of a midwifery service, attorney at law, director of a midwife center and a midwife consultant in Afghanistan for USAID Reach. Currently she is a nurse midwife with an obstetrics and gynecology practice with hospital privileges at Madison Memorial Hospital in Idaho. In Liberia, Kathleen will be working as a midwife.

Jennifer Oh is a certified nurse midwife from Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to working as a midwife, Jen worked as a registered nurse in women's health and in pediatrics. Jen is participating in her second volunteer mission for Project HOPE. Earlier this year she volunteered in Ghana aboard the USS Nashville. In Liberia, she will be working as a midwife.

Tom Stanton, a former VP and Senior Counsel for Marriott International, Inc., is a on his second mission for Project HOPE. Earlier this year, he spent two months aboard the USNS Comfort, working closely with volunteers serving as HOPE’s public affairs officer and operations officer in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Antigua. In Liberia, Tom will be volunteering in the same capacity. Tom is from Kensington, Maryland.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Health Education, Kiribati Style

Originally uploaded by Pacific Partnership

Written by Stephen Creasy from the RXprojecthope Blog

Kiribati (August 29, 2009) On Saturday I attended a health fair confident I could lend some support based off previous experience with APhA health fairs at the school. What I wasn't counting on was this fair being Kiribati style. Instead of having patients walk through the various stations and be screened, the I-Kiribati prefer to educate through song and dance. This made for an interesting afternoon as the Navy and U.S. Public Health Service healthcare providers were forced to come up with skits on the fly.

Another important thing to note is the difference between the Navy's definition of time, if you're on time you're late, and the I-Kiribati definition of time, it'll happen when it happens.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Joshua Valcarcel

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Continue Work in Oceania Region

Originally uploaded by Pacific Partnership

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (August 16, 2009) Alla Marks, a pharmacist from Project HOPE, explains the medication prescribed to a patient during a Pacific Partnership 2009 Medical Civic Action Project held at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Pacific Partnership completed humanitarian and health education work in the Solomon Islands and volunteers and U.S. Navy counterparts are now working in Kiribati.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Joshua Valcarcel