Thursday, March 31, 2011

Screening Day Success

Here are the facts, as reported by our Hospital Projects Manager:
The Africa Mercy held the second main screening in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Saturday, 26 March 2011.  Setup of the venue was completed the afternoon prior to the event with a full security team present throughout the night to ensure order and to ensure the appropriate candidates were in the queue.  Many eye and dental patients were referred to the appropriate screenings.  Three hundred individuals were seen by Mercy Ships medical personnel.  Sixty-three of the 300 were scheduled for surgery, 96 were scheduled to return to the ship for a later surgeon screening, and 39 were waitlisted for surgery if a surgery slot becomes available.  Some were referred to the Ponseti program, physiotherapy, and X-rays, while others we were unable to help.  God provided a cloud cover to keep the day cool and the screening was peaceful without any disturbances.

Here are some of the images that accompany these details so you can experience what a screening day might look like:
Loading up at 4:45 am

The convoy began to our new screening location
Starting the day with prayer

The crowd was orderly, in a proper cue (this is un-American for "line"), and waited patiently.

Dan helped to escort potential patients into the facility.
Upon reviewal, potential patients were allowed into the area where they began the registration, physical, appointment card process.
We had plenty of crew members who helped escort patients from station to station.

Potential patients with many different conditions arrived to be screened, to see if they would qualify for our surgeries and treatment.  This girl had suffered from a major burn.

After being screened to see if they meet our surgical criteria, we registered the patients collecting important information so we can track them and locate them again in case that type of surgery is performed later on during this year.

This little girl has several extra digits on her left foot.

Part of the smoothness of this day was due to the fact that we had pre-pre-screeners out from midnight until the early morning with posters that indicated the types of conditions we are able and equipped to help.

Dr. Gary Parker (who has served the past 24 years with Mercy Ships) and Dr. Alan Reus (visiting for two weeks with Mercy Ships) perform an examination on this woman to see if her tumor is benign and can be removed.

Here is a potential orthopedic surgery candidate who has learned how to manuever very well, despite the extreme contorsion that has taken place in his legs.

This mother's face says it all.

We had dental and eye teams there as well to find patients who need dental work and/or have cataracts.

We saw many potential maxilo-facial patients with various sized growths and tumors that have developed due to lack of health care.  If you got a lump, you'd have it removed - because you have access to a doctor.  In Sierra Leone, there are 169 doctors for the nation of more than 5,600,000 (less than 0.03 for every 1000 people).  So, access to a doctor is limited, not to mention the price that it takes to be able to see one.  The average wage here is $2.00 a day, and when you visit the doctor or the hospital you must come prepared to pay.  So here a lump will grow and grow without treatment.
As mentioned in the numbers at the beginning, not everyone qualified for surgery.  Some were referred directly to our palliative care department (hospice), others had conditions that we are unequipped to help or surgery will not correct.
But here is the face of hope.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Port: Bird's Eye View

As I wait for pictures to come available from the Screening Day that was on Saturday (a great day that was very controlled and well-received), I thought I'd share these photos to show what exactly our surroundings are.
We are nestled among thousands of containers- almost all of them empty.  Because the cost of shipping empty outweighs the value, most of them that arrive with imports are abandoned to be unloaded and end up in this maze of a port. 

They use these giant machines (brand name TEREX - like the dinosaur) to lift and stack the containers.  (Google images photo)

Here we are, tucked away behind this wall of containers.  Lots of activity takes place near the front of this photo and further on, but in our area it is pretty quiet.

The current is very strong at port, causing a challenge for Dan and the other divers as they work to clean out the intake valves located under the boat.  But, this also keeps the port calm as there's not much chance of stowaways coming from the areas of the ship bordered by water.

So, we have our little refuge here in the harbor - a safe and secure location to be able to focus on helping the patients and seeing those beautiful lives changed and their gorgeous smiles beam even brighter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Second Screening Day to Take Place Saturday

This Saturday we will be holding another screening day in Freetown.  Freetown, as you may know, is the capitol of Sierra Leone.  Some members of the Advance Team (those that go into the host country before the ship arrives to set up preparations) had done screenings in some of the outer provinces of the country and had scheduled about half of the surgeries we can perform during the 10-stay in the port.  These were collected through screenings held in each of those provinces, and all together 7,000 people were seen.  These patients have already begun arriving at the ship and surgeries have begun. 

When we arrived in Freetown, advertising was taking place for our screening which was to be held on March 7th at the National Stadium.  On that day, we had a tragic event take place and had to cancel the screening just three hours after we began.  The enormous crowd became unmanageable- there were some agitating others, about 700 people had been let into the stadium before our teams had arrived, there was some corruption going on with selling places in line (this is, and always will be, a FREE event), and with all these events taking place at once, a mad push for the entrance began.  The steel gate posts were bent in the process as the pushing and shoving increased in intensity and one man was found dead under the layers of people crushed in the stampede. 

This was a sad, heart-breaking day.  The desperation of people wanting help, the corruption, the child soldiers now grown into a generation of young adults that will fight tooth-and-nail for what they want, being inadequately prepared for these circumstances- all brought us to our knees that day as we mourned for what was supposed to be a joyous day.  We sought God's forgiveness for any ways where we could have done things differently.  And we sought His direction for ways to improve and make a second screening happen where these precious lives aren't put into any danger.

After two weeks of working on details with the various government officials and departments, we are gearing up for another screening day. 

Here is the radio jingle which will go out on several stations.  It is in English/Krio, so you may not understand it all (I certainly don't).  One thing that it does, is it mentions several of the conditions that Mercy Ships does not treat: asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, reflux, etc.  Then it goes on to mention the conditions that we are equipped and staffed to provide help for:  benign tumors, goiters, cleft lip and palate, bowed legs, clubbed feet, cataracts, dental issues. 

Please join us in prayer that this Saturday our screening day will be:
  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Well attended by people who have conditions that we are able to help
  • Fruitful
  • A blessing to Sierra Leone

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Look Inside Our Cabin

Thanks to wonderful technology, you can get a panoramic view of our cabin – it’s quite spacious (though not as spacious as it looks courtesy of these photos):

our cabin stitched together
Here is our main room.  The girls are having a bit of snack here.  Straight behind them is the door to the corridor – on the right side is the door to our bedroom, behind Kylie to the right is the door to the bathroom, and the door that is open at the right side closest to the camera is their room.  Let’s have a look, shall we?
our bedroom stitched
Here is our bedroom.  As the shipping container that we packed our Suburban-sized load of personal belongings is still not open, everything that you see in the cabin either A) came with us in our seven pieces of checked luggage, or B) has been provided by the ship.  The couches, pillows, towels, curtains, comforters, etc.. are courtesy of Mercy Ships at this point, until our own arrive.
our bedroom stitched 2
Here’s the view from our room back into the main living area.
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Here is what our closets look like - the tall units have several shelves in each- each door measures 14.5”, so there’s not a lot of width, but they are quite deep so we can have double stacks of clothes inside.  The entire width of our bedroom is 7’4”, and the length is 16’4”.  So, lots of room in here! (actually these are the cabinets in the girls’ room, but they’re identical to what we have at the end of our room- we just don’t have a window, or more room on either of the sides)
The Bathroom

bathroom shower stitched
Our bathroom is not so roomy.  This is what you call a “wet unit,” meaning everything has the potential to get wet, and is waterproof.  The toilet is one unit that is fastened to the wall (making for easy cleaning around and under it).  It, along with all the plumbing, is operated on a vacuum system.  So, the noise of flushing has been something we’ve had to get used to.  There is a lip on the floor around the shower area that keeps most of the shower water in that corner.  Again, a vacuum system helps suck the moisture down the drain.  We have perfected “Ship Showers:” get wet.  turn off water.  lather up. turn on water to rinse.  turn off water.
bathroom stitched 2
We have a sink, mirrored cabinets that open, and a few hooks – nothing fancy.  The bathroom measures 5’8” deep, and 4’6” across.  Somehow all four of us fit in there to brush teeth in the morning.

The Girls’ Room
girls' bedroom stitched
The girls have great fun in their room.  Their bunks flip up against the wall, so sometimes they like to sleep with the bed tipped up, like they are in cocoons.  I’ve been asked by other moms on the ship not to share this information with their children because they don’t have to start another battle at bedtime…. (Sorry! Smile)
girls' bedroom stitched 2
Looking from their bed this is the view you see- we are on the starboard side of the ship, so our windows face shore.  They have another little wall cabinet and an extra cubby. 

And here’s the view we have from out of our windows.  The port has worked hard with their TeRex machines (T-Rex) that lift and stack the shipping containers to create this security wall for us.  It provides some privacy, safety for us and the vehicles, and a little noise barrier too from the rest of the happenings at this very busy port.  Nearly all of these containers are empty- there are a lot of imports arriving, but not very much being exported.  Because of this, companies don’t find it cost effective to pick up their empty containers so they sit here in what may be a container graveyard.
our view stitched
This is the running route for those that are ambitious enough to get up early and run before the sun and humidity have awoken and are competing to dehydrate your body.  At the far left side of this there is a perpendicular wall of containers too, to the far right is the end of the pier- if you kept running you’d run right into the ocean. 
Somewhere out there in the land of containers sits the container that we put our personal belongings on in January. 
Hopefully it will clear customs soon so we can start to make our cabin feel like home.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hospital Open House

In my previous post, I didn't include any photos of deck three, since this is the hospital, and I'll designate some entire entries just to that.  Generally deck three closed to the public since it will be an active, working 24-7 hospital with operating rooms, x-ray machines, a Nikon Coolscope (a computerized microscope which can send the images via computer to specialists around the world for further advice), a CT scanner, lab, pharmacy, and several wards. 

However, once a year they open up the hospital to the entire crew for an open house and a night of fun.  The nurses advertise during the day (some coming to lunch dressed up in bandages or as conjoined twins), and then the evening proves to be a night of fun and games on deck three to familiarize us with what goes on down there.  Here’s a look:
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The eye team had us do mazes blindfolded to see what it is like to be without sight.
Here the girls are thrilled to learn that they can blindfold their buddy John (“johnny john john joe joe” as they call him) to do the maze for them
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Seth does the tying of the mask
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Kylie and Savannah do the treacherous leading
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After they’ve made it to the “waiting room,” then the girls get to do a cataract removal surgery on this giant model of an eyeball.

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First Kylie gets a go at it,

Then Savannah.

Down the hall we go to the Bloody Mess room (not the official ward name!)
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In this room we learned all about drawing blood, finding good veins, and what it’s like to be a nurse.  Kylie is being practiced on- to see what the tourniquet does to help your veins be evident.

This is a model of finding a vein with an iv- they have foam on top of three tubes filled with liquid- Savannah is practicing a “good stick,” and seeing if she can draw out “blood” from the vein through the foam (“skin'”). 
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This room was in the Post-Op ward of the ship.  The title was something about Oozing, and that’s all you really need to know.  Here you could rinse out a fresh wound in the mouth.  Elliot would fill his mouth with a red like substance (ketchup maybe??), then you could practice squirting it with a syringe, and he’d spit out all the residue.
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If you look closely you might see some of the sputum.  Yuck.
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Here is the “Gotta Go” Race – a relay where you fill up cups with urine (lemonade, we hope), and race them to the other side of the room,
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Where you have to fill a urinal to the black line.  Kylie won this one by a few seconds.
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In this ward the nurses had some fun with us, as we became “Nurse For A Day.”  Our tasks?  Get our patient to take their medicine…,
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(Savannah had a nice, friendly, cooperative patient)

Help them go to the bathroom (in a bed pan, of course)….,
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(Ew! They would have to be cheeky and use coffee grounds and water and such)
me and bed pan

And change their dressings.
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Savannah wins this one (having a nice patient helps!).
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Next we looked at an eyeball through the microscope and saw the size of needle and thread used if it does require stitching (however, the procedure that Dr. Glen developed for the cataract surgery typically requires no stitching because the eye heals itself).  We also watched actual footage of the surgery on a dvd.
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Kylie loved this station where you can learn how to do actual sutures.  It was a little complicated teaching her since she’s left handed, but she got the hang of it.
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Foam makes for a really good practicing tool!
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In the next Operating Room the girls gowned up so they could perform their own surgery. 
The patient? 
Mr. Monkey.
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The case?
Brain surgery
(Kylie’s decision).
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Here Jenny assists as Kylie and Savannah slice, dice, extract and suction.
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The victim patient
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Kylie getting her blood type identified
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And lastly, they had adults sign up for blood donations.  With this many patients, times arise when they need a blood bank.  What better blood bank is there, than the 300 crew members already on board.  So, I filled out the paperwork in a different room, and this is where we could get our blood typed.  Kylie was very interested in doing this, despite the finger prick it cost, and she was happy to learn she is A positive, like her good buddy, Jess.  Savannah shied away from this activity, but did help herself to a candy in the jar.

That concluded our evening of fun in the hospital!

I think there may be a medical career in Kylie’s future – she was very keen on all these activities so it will be interesting to see what the future holds for her.