Saturday, 31 May 2008

Rest In Peace Musu - 31/5/08

Sadly one of my patients at SOS passed away at the weekend. Musu was a lovely young lady who despite being severely disabled, beamed a huge smile for those she loved.

Musu had been abandoned years ago, and left for dead, owing probably to her obvious disability. SOS have taken care of her all her life, and she became one of my first patients a year ago. She was looked after by Auntie Hawa, a dedicated and loving woman, who treated Musu like her own daughter. Despite all the difficulties and hardships she faced, Auntie Hawa never gave up on Musu, as many others had, but instead fought to give her everything she could.

On first meeting I was unsure what we would be able to achieve. But she was able greet people (or those that she wanted to!) with a held out hand to shake, and could feed herself water from a cup. We had made a special chair for her to be supported in to be able to eat with the other children in the home. A wheelchair allowed her to sit outside and be part of what was going on, and a walking frame allowed her to be helped to walk – albeit slowly and very unsteadily. Musu often joined me in the physio room. She like to stand in the parallel bars and watch herself in the mirror, then turn to the happenings of the room, then of course turn back to look at herself again. She enjoyed when others sang songs for her. And she even made it to the beach twice with trips arranged by Rotary Teams who visited from UK.
Without a doubt, Musu's last year was full of opportunities, care, fun and unconditional love. Aunti Hawa did such a great job, and supported by Auntie Mammie the boss of the disabled children's home, Musu was well taken care of.

The biggest smile I saw from Musu was when Auntie Mammie told her “Jesus loves you” - her radiant smile only got bigger as we repeated the truth to her, it was something I will never forget.
I do know that she is now in Papa God's loving arms. May she rest and play and laugh now in His glorious warm freedom.

Musu - A girl that could do very little herself, but had some how grasped the joyous truth that someone cares.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


We had a lovely meal out last night with some guests we have over from US for a few weeks. We sat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from across the ocean, sat under the palm trees, and the evening rolled away to gentle music and fun conversation.

Then it came to going home - I searched my bag and couldn't find my keys....searched the area where we'd been sitting, searched my bag again, then the dreaded thought dawned that after 7 months I had finally locked my keys inside my car. This had been a regular happening when I worked in the community in UK - my excuse being if you are in and out of your car 12 times a day, the odds are more that at some point you will - and I was very good at it!! Got to know many RAC men!!

So, out we went out to investigate and as I shone my little torch in the window, sure enough were my keys shining in the light. :o(

I blame it on the distraction of the man supposedly 'helping' me back my car into a very tight space, stressing me out by telling me to come, stop, come, stop, come, stop until I got a friend who I trusted to take over after I nearly backed right into a palm tree. And I also blame it on the US visitors who had been teasing me about my driving earlier in the week, and the hunger pangs, the being so paranoid about making sure all the doors and windows were locked in the places where the visitors had been riding in my car. and of course many many more reasons which would have totally taken the blame off me!!

So options:
1. Break window - too expensive!
2. Get one of the dodgy guys hanging around to break in - I'm sure it would have been all too easy.
3. Ask Frans nicely to drive me home to get my spare keys (thank goodness I'm organised enough to know where they are!) then to drive me back to the car again.

Option 3 was what we did - and not only did I pick up my keys, but also some precious cocoa bean fruit to share alone the way. Frans was very happy with that, especially since it was fresh from Holland and he is Dutch!!

So the moral of the story is...don't lock your keys in the car or you WILL have to share your precious chocolate rations!!

Friday, 9 May 2008

I've got it!!

Praise the Lord!

- with very little work on my part,

I finally have my Residents Permit and Visa sorted to stay another year!!


Oh My! I've got no excuses now!!

Cant wait to see my little kiddies again next week, knowing I'll be seeing them a whole nother year!!


Thursday, 1 May 2008

Vez's Adventures in SL April 08

Dear Friends,
How is Spring for you? Here in Sierra Leone we have seen the beginnings of the rains with just a few nights with heavy storms. However the temps are still high as ever and the heat is unbearable at times. There has been many a day seeing patients in Freetown, literally dripping with sweat in the tiny cramped areas I'm trying to treat the kids in, competing with general noise of horns, goats, arguments, other excited kids while talking to parents, and head pounding while sitting in traffic surrounded by bad drivers with hot tempers. At the end of these days I can do nothing but come home and sleep off the feeling of being baked in an oven all day. Yesterday I tried to do this swinging gently in the breeze in my hammock – but to my shock and pain, after sleeping half an hour I was rudely awoken when I plummeted to the ground when the rope broke – I'm still hurting now!!
This past weekend saw Sierra Leone celebrate Independence Day. It was great to see flags on the streets and people enjoying their beautiful country on the beaches. When we arrived on Bureh town beach for a quiet few days, we soon realised we were in for a true African style experience with the huge sound systems blaring music, one competing against another. Many people of course all wanting to talk to the whites. We escaped across the river to a quieter spot, then as the evening drew in people started to go home. We however were sleeping out under the stars. It was awesome. I had borrowed a cool little mozzie-net tent from a friend, and as we set up camp and a log fire, the rest of the night was bliss, and the sunrise over the mountains, gently warming the sand and sea was just breathtaking. The next day I spent playing – literally like I was a little girl again! We had 4 kids from one of the shanty areas come with us and they had energy never ending – so water, chase, water, sand castles, water, rock climbing, and more water was loved all day!! I'm so please I went, I needed a good playtime!
So back to work, April has been a great month of training. I've led 2 training session about physio for drop foot in our ladies with fistula with the Mercy Ships nurses. These were great fun and involved the nurses practising the exercises on each other and trying on the foot splints we use, to see how hard it is to learn to walk in a new way.
Catching some shade under a Mango Tree

Deaf + Part Sighted Mary enjoys her new sitting positionAbu and Mina continued with our sessions. While Abu and I also attended a 'Children in Crisis' course run by another organisation 'Word Made Flesh'. It was a very useful insight into dealing with the traumas that many kids here in SL have been through. It is easy to forget that this country is fresh out of a 10 year civil war, but lurking just beneath the surface are many memories of killing, abuse, loss of family, forced child soldiering, drug taking, child labour, rape...the list goes on. Some of these things have stopped, but many continue on, not to mention the on-going trauma, abuse and neglect our kids undergo because of their disabilities. The course was a great 'time out' from normal work for Abu and I to take in a bit, and to think about how to improve how we are working.
Unfortunately some difficult news about Mina. She has stopped coming to work and I have not been able to contact her. She told me a few weeks ago that the phone I'd given her was stolen, and then her father died, so she had some time off then. But since then she seems to have disappeared! I was already feeling that she was loosing interest in this work, and there were several things that she needed to improve on, but it seems that she may have decided for herself to leave. I hope that she is ok, and would still like to be in touch with her – especially as her own child is one of my patients. She also has some notes of other families and some equipment, so please pray with me for her to come back at least to talk.
And it's not just Mina, a handful of my patients have gone AWOL too!! People have such few possessions that life is very mobile. Being just before the rainy season, many people travel up-line (out to the villages) to see family, take care of business and collect supplies to stock up for the rains. For about a month now I've not seen Medo, Zainab and Momoh, who all have severe quad Cerebral Palsy. They all have special postural equipment, but I really hope in their absence that the equipment has not been lost or used as firewood!
Michael proudly standing in his new Standing Frame
Despite 'loosing' some kids, I have to say others are flowing in. Especially in darkest Freetown, word of mouth is going round and light is being shone on these precious children. There seems to be little clusters that are hearing about me, going down to the Mercy Ships Clinic, then getting referred to me. And what is great is that they are coming when they are still so young so I can really talk to the family and support them, so these kids do not get abandoned or killed off. However it means much more work, more designing of equipment, more sitting in hot Freetown trying to find space outside their little shacks to work, and trying to find space in the diary to fit them all in. Sometimes I wish I could take a secret video camera to these homes I visit. I'm not sure you would believe how people have to live. Everywhere I turn there are people, and finding a space for a 2m mat to work on often means moving tables, cooking pots, water jars, or food preparation. Walking through these houses many a sight can be seen – babies being bathed in buckets by Grani, cows being chopped up, ladies pounding rice, girls braiding hair, tailors sewing, Granpa sleeping, toddlers on pans (potties), teenagers trying to do homework and younger kids dodging in and out with huge buckets of water on their heads. To describe the noise in words is impossible. This is everyday life for them, so who am I to complain when I'm too hot and can't find anywhere to concentrate on treating these kids. Somehow we all continue, and I just pray that some hope is being shone in these lives.

For those of you who pray, please join me in these areas:
- Thank God for more help from UK Rotary people – with donations of equipment and toys, chocolate and breakfast cereals (!) and taking the SOS kids to the beach again – a wonderful time had by all.
- Thank God for still entrusting me with these sparkling new children and families.
- Pray that Abu & I can continue to manage them all with patience + love.
- Thank God for Abu's commitment to this work as he has agreed to increase his hours with me – He truly is wonderful!
- Please pray for the car - few days have passed this month without a BIG problem. Without the car it is very hard for me to see so many patients, not to mention time for fixing and expense.
- My residents permit and visa which are being processed as I write this.
- Future direction - someone to share work with, local support, linking organisations
- Continued safety and protection and good health.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labour in vain...
behold, children are a heritage from the lord
Psalm 127: 1,3

many THANKS as always,

With Love Vez