If you asked me how the last month of life has been here in SL, I would say: 'Tell God Tenki', (I give thanks to God) - a Sierra Leonean way of describing just about anything from good thanks, to it's been challenging, or even it's been a disaster but I give God thanks anyway!!
You'll be pleased to hear that it has not been the latter, generally the first, but right now as I sit here writing having been unwell for 4 days and have just tweaked my back, I could say it's been somewhat challenging. I ask God why has it been one thing after the next??
It's a times like these that we get a chance to sit back and wonder....what am I really trying to do here? Well, one great comfort that I have is that even though I'm feeling rather useless to my patients, our work has still continued....Abu has been going out on his own and I have confidence that he has been doing a great job. It has been a growing time for him to use the skills he has been building on, and although he has worked without me to maintain treatment before, he now has more skills to clinically justify what is needed more independently and therefore provides a better service. So although I feel purposeless, I'm happy that Abu has this opportunity without me taking control. Maybe it was the only way to keep my big nose out!!
At the beginning of the month, I had two UK Physiotherapists come out to help. Jenny and Caroline are good friends of mine from a hospital I worked at in the UK. I often find myself very isolated with few other trained therapy professionals around, so it was refreshing to have others to bounce ideas off. They were a tremendous help giving ideas for some of my more complex patients who I had started to run out of ideas for. We also took some time off to enjoy old friendships and see more of this beautiful country. We camped on beaches, ate fresh fish, walked in jungles, and wandered through colourful markets. Sierra Leone could really be an amazing tourist destination, if only it's infrastructure was a little more solid. The new government are working on it.
From time to time people ask about individual patients that I have been working with for a while. It's hard to know who to update you all on since we work with so many families now. But this month let me give you an update about Amara.
The first 6 months went well and although Amara had to learn to move again, he had soon mastered rolling himself, sitting up on his own and even getting from the floor to a bench (which I challenge you to have a go at without using your legs to push). Due to a generous donation, we had also been able to make his hut wheelchair accessible, as well as the route to school. There were complications like dizziness and pressure sores, not having enough arm strength to push his wheelchair on the rough ground around his house, severe painful spasms in his legs and as you can imagine a very low mood. Then another terrible thing happened. He was getting a persistent cough and despite sending him to several doctors in local medical facilities, nothing appropriate was being done. This is when it gets very frustrating. Eventually, I decided that if drastic action was not taken, I was afraid we'd loose him altogether. So we took him on a 2 hour journey across the city to an NGO hospital, who after some X-rays and investigations diagnosed him with TB Spine. Due to his health vulnerability, and his crowded and unsanitary living conditions, Amara was an easy target for this rapidly spreading disease, and for him it was a double whammy, one spinal problem on top of another.
Treatment for TB is free in this country, but to see the Dr to prescribe it is not. So we delved down the depths of the government hospital systems to get the TB medicines, and despite the normal route being admission (another great expense), we worked out with them a way for a social worker to follow him up at home and eventually he is now on them. The course takes over 6 months daily, but we are really encouraging Amara's Grani (we have never seen his parents) to be diligent at going weekly to get them.
It has been a long rough road for Amara, but since January life does seem to be settling down for him. He has finally returned to school, which is the biggest achievement for him, his Grani and us. Now at last he has something to occupy his mind and time again. His friends come gladly in the morning to push him to school and he returns, tired, but I can't help but think happy and proud. And so he should be! Amara is my most sad story and clinically most difficult to manage patient. He still has bad spasms in his legs though they are no longer painful, and we have not been able to prevent him getting contractures. But we can say without doubt, that our support of this family has made a difference in his life, and although I think Amara used to feel like we were the enemy, now he can see that we are true friends after all.
Thank God for the honour it is to have the freedom to work in
faith for these disabled children (this is from Abu)
Thanks that Amara is doing so well and pray for continued progress
Thanks for Bertie the Landrover who's had a good month, only 2 problems!!
For Abu's continued learning and taking clinical leads
To cope with the heat in march, the hottest month
for my health to improve
Continued success (and patience) in our working with other organisations
For our new MercyShips home – we moved last weekend and
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
With Love, Vez