Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Our 3 wise men were not alone this year....
they were joined by the 3 wise monkeys!

Hope you all had a jolly time with friends and family.
Keep enjoying the celebration of the birth of our wonderful Saviour, Jesus.

Hope to see some of you soon.

lots of love this Christmas time,


Friday, 21 December 2007

So it's Christmas!!

News from December 07
Vez’s Adventures in Sierra Leone

So it's Christmas!

We've had some fun over here singing carols in SL even though it totally doesn't feel like Christmas. It's still very hot, sunny, and sitting on the beach enjoying a dip in the warm sea isn't what I normally do the week before 25th December!
But the celebration of our Saviour's birth is still an important event for Christians all around the world.

I've managed to see all my patients one last time in the 3 weeks leading up to when I leave for UK for a holiday. It has been very busy, but also a joy to see so many of them doing so well.
Mohammed is starting to sit by himself. Baby Hawanatu has had further surgery on her club foot. Emmanuel is now walking alone. Minkalu can walk holding on. Ali is enjoying playing in his corner seat. Ola still smiles being around other people who love him. Amara is learning to move around by himself in his wheelchair on the ramps and bridges we made outside his house. Jeneba got new crutches. Santigie learnt how to do his own stretches on his hemiplegic arm.

All my little treasures are doing so well. Isn't God good?!

And still more new patients are being referred. I met a 3 year old girl Zainab who has Diplegic Cerebral Palsy. I look forward to working more with her next year, she looks like a beautiful sparkle waiting to get out. And baby Amos who was born with a foot deformity. Hawanatu who had TB of the Spine and is now partly paralysed in the legs. I have fun with them all!

At the beginning of this month I also helped out with a team that came from CMS (Church Mission Society) and the Big Intent Theatre Company. They came to do a schools programme that has travelled throughout the UK, on the slave trade abolition. Sierra Leone played a big part in the Slave trade, and it was a joy and a privilege to be involved in helping kids in schools here understand their history and their freedom now. The team was lovely and it was refreshing to spend time with so many English people! However my Crio speaking was really put to the test standing in front of a few 100 children and staff in the town of Bo, telling them the reasons behind the programme, how the day was going to work and helping to organise the children who were going to have speaking parts in the performance at the end of the day. Chaos always leads to smiles!

So since it is Christmas, I decided I wanted to do a bit of a party for one of the Orphanages I work in, Micheal's home actually. So I managed to rope in some friends from Mercy Ships, Sandra and Luzanne and with the help of many donated items we had a great time. Thank you all donors to MercyShips and my own work, your gifts are being well used!

After church we headed through the mountains to reach the orphanage and although a little early were warmly welcomed. WARM being the word – it was boiling! We started with a bit of colouring then decided we wanted to get even more sweaty so outside for games. Luzanne re-lived her childhood and we played egg and spoon and sack races, as well as balloons between the elbows and balls over the head and under the legs. The Greens won, but we all had lots of fun!!

After recovering we spent some time talking about why we celebrate Christmas and why birth of Jesus was a gift from God to us. Then the moment came when the kids shone like stars. One by one we called them up to receive their present. Off came the bows as they delved into the bags to see what they had got. It made me smile to see them carefully unfold the shirts, dresses and tops they each got, then counting all their sweets, trying to work out how the pencil sharpener worked, and frantically trying to draw on their sweaty hands with the big new pens to make sure they worked.

Huge bowls of food were gulped down by all, with the smallest of children eating a pile of rice and cassava sauce bigger than their own belly – I really don't know where they put it – incredible!! Then the soft drinks were handed round while we settled down to watch the film IceAge on my laptop. Some loved the film, though maybe puzzled by all the ice, while others unpacked thier gifts to have another look, repacked then, then unpacked them again, treasuring each moment as if opening it again for the first time!!

I really enjoyed the time we spent there that afternoon, and would swap all the superficial glitz and glamour of the Christmas season back in UK any day, to be sharing with those that really appreciate being given a gift – whatever it is.

Jesus truly is a gift to us. He brings life, light and hope to any situation, whether in need or in plenty. I am humbled by Jesus' life, and long to be more like Him.

“conformed to the likeness of his Son” Romans 8: 29

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinth 4 : 18

Have a wonderful Christmas with friends and family. Enjoy, share, love and laugh together as we celebrate the gift of Jesus to this world.

Hope to see some of you over the time I'm home in the UK, but I know 2 and ½ weeks will just fly by so if I don't get to you please don't be offended......

'Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la laaaa, la la la la!

Lots of love and hugs

x x x

Saturday, 15 December 2007

I've been doing patchwork!!

Do you like it?

Monday, 10 December 2007

My friend Amara...

As many of you will remember, Amara is a young lad I met who had broken his back while playing with friends, which has now resulted in a spinal cord injury.

Well, I've been visiting weekly since I met him about 6 weeks ago now, and in preparation for him being able to get up from bed rest, I had spent time assessing how he would be able to get around his local area including to school in a wheelchair. He lives where the ground is very rough and there are ditches with open gutters which he used to jump across to get to school.

Since he can no longer move his legs, he certianly initally will only be able to move around in a wheelchair, I thought we had better try to make his environment a little more w/ch friendly.

Working with his school, a local building contractor, Amara's dad and a man from the Epilepsy Centre across the road who I have links with, Amara now has ramps outside his house and into the school, and also bridges across 4 points of the gutters to get over those safely too.

And what is even more amazing is that a very kind Rotary team member who had met Amara (you know who you are - thanks!) agreed to fund it all and the answer to a few more prayers meant that is was all finsihed by the time Amara was first ready to come outside and try his new wheelchair (which wa supplied by Mercy Ships) for the first time.

Praise God for his timing and provision.

Now please keep praying for Amara - his emotions, physical healing and his family and friends.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Looking for a new home...

I had a vistor in my bathroom this week....

I think he was looking for a new home.....

He had a good look......

Changed his mind and slimmed off......

Then I chucked him out the door..... you know if you're not grateful for what you get and walk away, you never know what will happen next!!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Dad's Visit

We had a great time!

Beaches, waterfalls, kids, great food - many a meal out, oh and pancakes at home, off roading in Bertie the Landrover, church, a bit of work, late night drinks on the beach and of course sitting in the hammock on my balcony!!

Was lovely to have a great rest from 'normal' life, but also to have such good quality time with my lovely Dad. (Thanks for coming out Dad!)

Saturday, 1 December 2007

News from November 07

Vez’s Adventures in Sierra Leone
.....still loving it though getting a little tired.

This month has not been such a normal month for many reasons, but still it's been packed full of fun and smiles from both me and the kids!!

Alie is a little boy with Downs Syndrome I've been working with. Having taught his mum some exercises and ways to encourage play, Alie has been progressing, albeit slowly. So I decided to try and make a special corner seat for him to be supported upright and therefore have more of a chance to play and participate in feeding himself. With the help of Alf (a Rotarian) and Ibrahim (a local carpenter) you can see just how comfortable a chair we made Alie. Hopefully with time he will work as well as sleep in this chair that suits his needs perfectly!!
The Rotary teams all had a great but challenging time out here for many different reasons for each one. It was lovely to have them around but I hope they have been able to settle back to life as 'normal' now they have all returned home. Not only did they bring many useful toys and bits of equipment (which I am still sorting through), it was great to have their friendship and support of my work.

Bertie (my Landrover) helps out again by transporting a load of the SOS kids out to a place called Waterloo where the MercyShips NewSteps Rehab Centre is based. The kids were very happy to be receiving either new wheelchairs, crutches or leg braces. THANK YOU NEW STEPS. And now they zoom around the compound without a thought for safety!!
What has been the most amazing is for 3 children – Soree, Hassan and Baindu, who were all fitted with leg braces which has enable them to be upright on their feet. They all suffered from Polio affecting both their legs, leaving them unable to control or stand on their legs. The leg braces support their legs straight and allow them to stand and walk, albeit with crutches, but they are over the moon! Poor old Soree was so eager to get using them that twice in the first 30 mins he lost his balance and fell flat on his face sending his crutches flying! Having tired to slow him down a bit and work on his gait pattern, he now looks much more of a pro and loves proudly walking into school as opposed to pushing himself in a wheelchair.

This month also saw my Dad visiting Sierra Leone for the first time. It was lovely to have him here, even though it meant having to cook him pancakes for breakfast on many a morning!! Pancakes are easy to make here and short of many other breakfast options, they make one of my favorite treats, Dad loves them too!! So I took the time to take a bit of a break with Dad, which included visiting the chimps, swimming in waterfalls and of course a few days staying at the beach (which I won't show you or you'll think I'm on a paradise beach holiday!!). But of course if anyone wants to visit, just let me know :o)

Let me tell you about Amara. He is a 12 year old boy who sadly has recently had an awful accident. He was innocently playing with his friends when he fell down a hole, a big hole. Not realizing he had broken his back he didn't tell anyone about the pain he was in and continued to walk around as normal. Unfortunately 2 weeks later his unstable fracture had turned into an incomplete spinal cord injury and he could no longer walk. It was at this point I met Amara. He had been carried to me in probably the worst position he could be in, but his family knew nothing of his broken back either. Having liased with an NGO orthopaedic hospital, we decided it was too risky to take him on the bad roads to get him to the hospital. The last thing we wanted to do was further the spinal cord damage. So instead, I taught the family how to nurse him at home. This meant lying still for another 4 weeks, only being turned very carefully for washing, eating and to prevent pressure sores. This is the same treatment he would have had in the hospital. He left me to be taken home on a plank of wood. The Grandmother is his main carer and an excellent learner. I visited as often as I could, and before long the 4 weeks were up and slowly we were able to sit him up and get him in a wheelchair. Amara has a lot to come to terms with and although he is smiling in the photo it was only the 2nd time I'd been able to get him to smile. He is very tearful as you can imagine, and what makes it even harder is to have an audience watch as you try to learn how to maneuver a wheelchair over rough mud ground for the first time, nothing can be done in private here. To enable him to get back to school as soon as possible I have been working on getting some ramps and bridges over gutters made. A local contractor has been working on it along with Amara's father, being overseen by another local man who lives nearby from an Epilepsy organization I've been working with, and we have even had advice from Mercy Ships New Steps worker who has built ramps in other places. The funding for this has been provided by one of the Rotarians and both Amara and I are very grateful. Watch this space..pictures will follow.

And of course my work with the ladies at the Mercy Ships Fistula Hospital has also continued. These beautiful ladies suffer from multiple problems after obstructed labors, resulting in their child dying. They are incontinent which in a hot humid climate is not good combination, and they sometimes loose the ability to lift their foot and feel a severe neural pain, which both cause a problem with walking. They work hard on their exercises with me, I only hope they continue to do them when I'm not there...the reputation of physio-terrorists goes throughout the world you know!!

So thats about it for this month. I'm pretty tired at the moment and look forward to getting back into a normal routine for a few weeks up to Christmas. Then, the most special Christmas gift has been given to me by a very kind person...flights back home! We got a real good deal and since I didn't plan to go home till next July, it's come as an amazing surprise and I'm VERY excited about it!!

So Merry Christmas to you all, hope you get as amazing a surprise as I did!!

Lots of love and hugs,

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”. 2 Corinthians 1:3+4

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Sorry for the quietness....

So you might have been wondering what I've been up to since October....... well I've just been a little busy thats all. SORRY for lack of updates...I'll try to make up for it now.
Freetown is still here and I'm still alive you will be pleased to hear!

October and November were very bust months full of Rotary teams. They were full of fun, hard work and a lot of enthusiasm. The teams were all such a blessing to me with gifts of toys, kids equipment, kind words of encouragement and of course decent coffee and CHOCOLATE!!

This is Alf, he worked with a local carpenter Ibrahim, to make a special corner seat for Ali, a baby with Downs Syndrome. As you can see, we were very pleased with it and Ali was obviously so comfortable in it that falling asleep was the thing to do!!!

You might recognise Aminata, an amazing 11 yr old full of attitude, but lovely and bubbly with it...she is wearing some Piedro stability boots brought out by the Rotary teams. I continue to work with Ami and she is always full of joy and cheekiness!!

Musu, at the SOS home is continuing on and is happy with the other children around really accepting her for who she is, not some cursed child as would be believed by others in SL. She really enjoyed the trips to the beach she had with the teams, and it was amazing to see her in an environment she rarely gets to visit. Smiles all round.

The trips to the beach have continued with each of the 3 Rotary teams taking kids from 2 different organisations, and were enjoyed by not only the kids, but the big kids too! I loved it, even though chaos ruled!

More ladies have passed through the doors of the MercyShips Fistula Hospital and through my hands literally. Here are a few of my lovely ladies who unfortunately suffer from neural damage from their prolonged obstructed labours causing very painful feet and ankles and drop foot whilst walking. They graduate from sessions with 'Kadiatu' (my local name) with exercises, foot splints, better walking and plenty of freshly served smiles. Not to mention the fact that they've had life changing surgery which has taken them from a position of rejection in the community because they are incontinent and smelly, to being clean and dry again. PRAISE GOD for this miraculous surgery.

I do get a chance every now and again to take some time out with friends, this is Sandra, a Doctor with MercyShips, she's been a great support and friend to me. I'm glad we can share many of our SL expereinces together.

Breakdowns continue, but life goes on..... always good to know a good mechanic - thanks Abu!
And of course the rugby didn't go amiss.....Lausanne my South African friend (another MercyShips Dr) was loving it! I enjoyed the atmosphere!

So I think that has updated you a fair bit.
Now, having reached exaustion levels I'm taking a bit of time out with my Dad :o) He has come to visit for 10 days and we're off to stay at a beautiful beach tomorrow.

Thanks for your interest in my life, work, joys and sorrows.
I miss you all.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

News from October 07 - Jungle Physio swings through another month....

October has continued to be another very busy month. It's been great, but I have to admit I'm feeling slightly exhausted at the end of it, and was forced to take a little rest when I had my first tummy upset since I arrived. I'm still trying to take it a bit slower, but with the new referrals rolling in it's hard to say no.

This month has brought visitors from Rotary clubs all over UK. They have been such a blessing, not only
because they brought chocolate, stability boots and loads of toys I can use in my treatment sessions with the kids, but also because they gave me a great opportunity to bring big smiles to loads of my kids faces. How? A trip to the beach, something they don't often get the chance to do despite living so close to the beautiful ocean. But I can tell you it sure was a sight; 30 disabled kids all running, hopping, crawling into the sea, some cautiously, some head first, others not really sure how, but through the arms and legs I tried to make sure everyone was surfacing for air!

Right at the beginning of the month my LandRover, Bertie, arrived outside my house. I have already traveled many miles in this wonderful gift. Thank you to all who have helped to make this happen. I've been zooming around and it has made visiting kids in their own homes so much more viable. It has also been used to transport patients to other organizations to receive equipment, callipers and receive medical help.
Just this week I stumbled across a very sick 1 month old baby at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and to cut a very long story short, thanks to Bertie, I was able to take the baby and mother to a hospital for treatment, a 2 hour drive across the mountains. I can honestly say, that baby's life was certainly saved because of Bertie.

Aminata is a 10 year old, with Cerebral Palsy affecting her arms, legs and trunk. She is so clever and cheeky that she has been a joy to treat. She was referred to me from Mercy Ships and when I saw her address was on the same road that I live on I was surprised that I had not seen her around (lets say it's very easy to get to know your neighbors when you stick out like a bright white light everywhere you go!). So I sought her out, and found her with about 6 adults squatting in a house that was in the process of being built. It was not their house, and the 2nd time I went to find her they'd been kicked out. Asking around a bit I was taken to another place, near the market, tucked behind a corner, a tiny little one bedroomed hut, packed in amongst many of the same, where many families were all living together. I haven't been able to work out who Aminata's real family is, but she's never alone, I always seem to get a crowd of 15 or so people wanting to watch the 'white man' (in Crio they don't separate gender)
work. So after I've tried to get rid of as many spectators as possible, I've been able to teach one old woman some stretches, and have spent a lot of time with Aminata working on the co-ordination of her upper limbs and function of her hands. She loves the stacking cups (thanks Emma), but isn't so good at the number playing cards!! Aminata has never been to school and probably never will. So we're learning numbers together.

So, life continues to be colourful! Many more homes have been visited, kids treated, parents supported, roads (and some tracks pretending to be roads) driven on! I thank God for giving me the strength to keep going, but I sure need more!

Please also note my change of email address if you didn't know already: vez@junglephysio.co.uk

If you'd like to pray with me, heres a few pointers:

# Thanks for Bertie!
# Pray for strength and good health
# Peaceful sleep, not thinking about patients and circumstances all the time
# For Aminata, Mariatu and Zainab (the baby and mum), Ola, Michael, Musu and all my other kids I've not had a chance to tell you about
# For Wilehmina (Mina) who I've not had a chance to tell you about either but is mum of one of my patients who started working 1 day a week with me – more info to come
# For continued safety as I move around in Bertie and by foot still to the real hard places to get to
# For rest and fun when I take some time off when my dad comes to visit 16th Nov for 10 days (very excited!)

“Where can go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.”

Psalm 139:7-10