S: Mercy Ships, Sierra Leone - May 19 - June 27, 2011
1: Africa Mercy Freetown Sierra Leone May 19 - June 27 | 31 and a 1/2 hours of traveling!!! I left Oshawa at 12pm on ThursdayJune 19 Canada time and arrived at the ship Friday June 20 night at 11:30pm Sierra Leone time (which is 4 hours ahead... so 7:30pm in Canada). | All My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready To Go!
2: Leaving on a jet plane!!! May 19 - 20 I left Pearson at 6:30 pm and had an overnight flight to London, England. The flight was nice and uneventful. I arrived at Heathrow at 6:20 am (1:20 am Canada time). It was a weird feeling because I had not slept on the plane and I was tired, but the sun was shining and I felt as though I should be awake. I went through customs hoping that I could find some grass to sit on and get some fresh air during my 6 hour layover... To my disappointment there was just a lot of construction and concrete. I could have ventured out on a bus to the city, but since I had not done my research and didn't know where to go or how to get back I figured it would be best if I just stayed at Heathrow. My second flight departed at 1:15 England time and was with British Midland International. We had a 3 hour flight to Marrakesh where we made a 'technical stop' to refuel and get water and then had a 3 hour flight the rest of the way to Lungi airport in Sierra Leone. One of the best surprises was that another lady named Chris (who was coming from the US) had been delayed and ended up on my flight with me. It was really nice to know that I had someone else to go through the rest of my travels with! The landing into Sierra Leone was very interesting. First of all it was pitch black. Usually you can see the city as you approach, but there were just 1 or 2 scattered lights here and there. The second interesting thing was that we landed in a thunderstorm. The lightening was striking right outside of our plane! When we landed we walked onto the runway and through the rain to the 'airport' which was basically one room for customs and one room for luggage claim. We had to go through customs and show our proof of yellow fever and then wait for our luggage. I am not sure how the security works in the airport, but there were tons of people milling about and calling to us saying they would take our luggage. Luckily Bridget (a woman from Mercy Ships) found us and helped us gather our belongings. Bridget's son and a paster from one of the nearby churches carried our bags on their heads to the car and drove us down to the ferry.
3: My first experience driving in Africa was quite interesting as well! It was about a half hour drive to the ferry docks on a dirt road with no lights, and it was raining and lightening! There were many people on motorbikes as well as people walking on the road. The general rule is that the bigger vehicles win so when the cars and trucks honk, everyone else moves out of the way! When we arrived at the ferry we had to go through security again and were able to get onto the the boat. | The ferry ride took about an hour because of the bad weather. There was a big crash as we came into Freetown, I thought it was maybe just a rough landing but apparently we hit the wharf! Everyone was okay though and we made it to the shore! The Mercy Ships welcome crew were there to meet us when we arrived and we hopped into their vehicle to drive to the ship! | The drive through Freetown was quite interesting as there are many hills and the road is very narrow and full of people as well as vehicles. Once again the horn and size of our truck worked wonders! Finally we made it to the dock and were able to get onto the ship. | First View of the ship | Bridget's son and friend helping us with our bags | Sunset over the Atlantic
6: We decided to take it easy and spend the afternoon at the pool. The pool is tiny but great! It almost feels like you are in a mini ocean because as the boat rocks so does the pool water. We caught some sun and had a very nice afternoon. As this is the beginning of the rainy season in Sierra Leone, there have been big storms every night. Last night was no exception. Hannah and I were in our room and we could feel the boat swaying back and forth. We went outside to see sheets of rain pouring down along with massive bolts of lightening. A dance party had been scheduled for that evening on one of the outside decks. Instead it was moved inside. We had a great time and it felt almost like home listening to Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga! | Saturday morning after breakfast I had a tour of the ship and then unpacked and organized my stuff. I met another one of my roommates, Hannah from England. She is a dental assistant and arrived last week. Her first week was spent off ship in a remote community where they slept in local hospital, so she had some very interesting stories! | May 21 | Hannah
7: Today started bright and early with a quick breakfast and then a ship meeting at 7:45. As of today there are 409 crew on board the ship, and pretty much everyone gathers for Monday morning devotions and any important announcements. After this the OR staff meets around 8:15 at the whiteboard for an overview of the days cases and any changes a quick prayer and then its off to the races. | Due to staffing and available nurses/surgeons there are only 5 of the 6 ORs running right now. The 6th room was an orthopedic room but because the Ortho surgeon has just finished, there will be no more ortho surgeries until another arrives. While I am on the ship we will be doing opthalmology, plastics, maxillofacial, and general surgery. | May 23 | Anne Marie and Dr. Mark Shrime
8: I had my orientation for most of the morning and then I spent some time this afternoon in the opthamology OR's learning the routine and speaking with Glynnis, a nurse who leads the service. Most of the opthamology cases are done under local anesthesia. The surgeon who is here this week can do about 8 cases in a day. He has only been here for 2 weeks and goes home on Friday. One of the more regular surgeons will be back next week and he apparently can do anywhere from 15-20 patients in a day! It will be interesting trying to keep up with him! Apparently he can do a cataract surgery in anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Before even working with the patients I have noticed that there are a lot of similarities and differences between the ORs here and the ORs at Sick Kids. Through donation, Mercy Ships has acquired same equipment that we have at Sick Kids. There are a lot of differences as well. There are many simple things that we take for granted living in Canada. A simple example is the garbage here. All of our sharps (ie. needles, blades, etc) and bio hazard garbage (ie. anything disposable that has touched the patient especially if it has blood or bodily fluids on it) is put in a special bag and then into a paper bag... it is then stapled shut and taken to an incinerator on the ship to be burned. The reason for this is that all of the ship's regular garbage is taken to the dump where the locals (including many kids) come and cut open every bag and sift through them. | Aimee and I | Fellow Canadian Joan | Locals searching through our garbage | " the Sterile Core" | Morning OR meeting | Annilee putting her feet up
9: A trip up the mountain May 24 | This afternoon I decided that it was finally time to go and see the city! A couple of the anesthetists were heading out for a walk so I decided to join them. As we were getting ready to leave the ship I found out that our walk was actually a semi hike up the mountain! I was pretty much prepared except that I was wearing my birkenstocks sandals and not running shoes... but I thought how rough can the path actually be? Well I was wrong the path was very rough... next time I will wear runners!!! We signed out from the ship and headed up the dock. When we left the dockyard, we headed up a road that is called "Bad Boy Lane". It has been named this because in the afternoon and evening there are lots of men out on the street selling everything legal and illegal right in plain sight. We crossed 2 busy streets and headed up hill. It was really sad and eye opening to see the way that the people from Sierra Leone live. Little kids are running around in the street almost naked (and sometimes completely naked) with no shoes on. There is garbage and broken glass everywhere. I would have liked to take a picture to show you but I didn't bring my camera this time. We have also been warned that the people of Sierra Leone generally do not like to have their picture taken and have been known to steal cameras from Mercy Ships volunteers. I didn't want to loose my new camera yet so I played it safe. We continued our trek up the hill... there were huge holes in the pavement, and as we continued the pavement turned into brick and then dirt road. The incline became steeper and steeper as well. Soon we were climbing steps that had been carved into the rock face and at many points there were no steps, only rocks to climb up. It was really interesting because as we continued to climb the huts still continued along with us. The children called out to us as we climbed and they waved yelling hello and "white man" over and over again. The little ones were sooo cute because they would run up to us and just grab our hands and walk with us. At one point a little girl who must have been around 4 ran up to me and just hugged my legs. She was so cute and kept saying hello hello. After her little hug she ran off again waving to me as she left.
11: Because there are so many huts and space on the rockcliff is limited we ended up having to walk through the front yards/areas of people's houses. Aedzer, one of the guys who was leading our group (an anesthestist from Holland) would just ask the people how to go up and they would lead us right through their hanging laundry and around their burning fires! After about an hour of climbing up we made it to a university that is almost at the top of the mountain. The amount of garbage on the hill was really sad. I can't believe how much garbage there was everywhere! The view was amazing though! You could see the Africa Mercy as well as all of Destruction Bay (haha yes that is the name of the bay that the ship is docked in). The trek down the mountain was just as interesting as we tried to go a different route... we ended up walking right through the university`s pick-up soccer game, oops! We had thought we found a trail going back down the mountain but it turned out to be one of the older garbage pits from the university... lets just say there was a lot of garbage and we had to walk very carefully. On our route down the kids followed us and yelled hello. Some of the kids even helped us find our way through yards and down little trails! One really funny thing was while the 6 of us were struggling our way down the mountain... 5 kids who were probably around 6 years old, caught up to and passed us while balancing huge containers full of water on their heads (about one and a half times as big as the blue camping jugs). We finally made it back to the ship! After 2 hours out in the heat we were all dirty and tired. We cleaned up and made it back to the international lounge just in time to hear a United Nations representative speak on Sierra Leone. It was a very interesting talk! After that we played a few games and now I am ready to go to bed!
12: Oh No! No Water May 25 | As we were working away in the OR this morning we had our first overhead announcement from the captain ... everyone stopped what they were doing to listen as these are infrequent and usually don’t bring good news. The captain informed us that something has happened to the water supply in Freetown. Apparently the a major water main within the city broke. We get our water from Freetown’s supply (and then treated and filtered 2- 3 times depending on which tap you take your water from). To make matters worse, today was supposed to be the day that we topped up the ship’s water tanks. So we are officially on severe water shortage alert... this means that they have turned off all the hot water to encourage short showers and no more laundry, we have to eat with paper plates and utensils so they don't have to run the dishwasher. Anyway it could get interesting because our main water supply tank is pretty low (as today was fill up day) so we have to be very careful with our water! I think they are looking into other options for bringing water in for the time being since they have no idea how long this will take to fix. I met a wonderful patient today named Anne Marie. This lady was so sweet. She looked to be in her early 40s but she was actually 65! While waiting for the surgeon we chatted with her as her English was quite good. She told us about her life. Anne Marie had had 9 children, four of which have died (3 as babies and 1 during the civil war). She has had a very hard life but was so positive. At the end of her surgery she gave us all big hugs and even sang a song for us thanking Jesus for everything he has done for her! | Michel from Germany goofing around | Patient Anne Marie with Myself and Aimee
13: After work today I went for a walk with a few other girls. We walked through the shipping yard because someone had told us that there was a beautiful old college campus that is no longer used but is really nice to walk to at the end of the pier. We started our walk and as you can see from the pictures below, there were walls and walls of cargo boxes... which we shortly found out were in the process of being loaded onto a ship. After a quick assessment of the crooked cargo boxes piled 4 and 5 high as well as the trucks running back and forth carrying boxes we decided that it was probably not that safe to be walking about. On our way back to the boat, I saw an amazing picture of the back of some of the slums up Bad Boy Lane... so I pulled out my camera. Immediately a security guard came running up to me and asked me what I was doing. The way he was looking at me I thought he was going to take my camera, when I explained that I had not taken a picture he became friendlier and told me that I needed to ask before taking a picture because some of the workers in the yard might not be so friendly. He did allow me to take the picture in the end though. I have learned now first hand that the people of Sierra Leone can get very upset if you are taking pictures of them/where they live | Hannah
14: Today in the OR we did 7 more cases. I talked to a patient named Matthew while we were waiting for his local anesthetic to set in. He is a taxi driver and was very proud to tell me that he owned his own car! Matthew has pterygium in both eyes which makes it very difficult for him to see. The surgery that we did today will allow Matthew to continue to work as a taxi driver and provide for himself. | May 26 | This morning we received a wonderful announcement from the captain. The water main break was not as bad as originally thought and because the break had stopped all clean water flow to the city of Freetown it was a high priority and they were able to fix the break! Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers! I am washing a load of laundry as we speak so that I will be all set for the weekend!
15: Friday morning I was on a 10-7 shift in the OR. Anilee and I met up in the morning and headed over to the eye clinic. We met Matthew there and spoke with him to see how he was feeling. The surgery had gone well and Matthew was very excited to be able to drive his taxi again in a few days, especially wearing his new sunglasses! Mercy Ships does a lot of prevention teaching to patients. Because Pterygium is more prominent in places that are very sunny and dusty (both of which Sierra Leone is), there is a lot of emphasis on preventing re-occurrence of this condition. | We had a special guest in the afternoon on Friday. The president of Sierra Leone came to the ship to address the people on board Mercy Ships and to thank us for the work that we were doing for the people. | May 27
16: We made it safely to Mama Beach after 1 minor detour. The Poda Poda drivers originally thought we were going to Kent to take a boat to Banana Island (which is a little further away from Freetown). The beach was beautiful and we had a relaxing overnight stay at Eden Park Resort. It was very clean and safe. | On Saturday morning early 15 Mercy Ships crew members gathered together and jammed into a Poda Poda along the driver and 2 friends. The drive was about an hour and half through the town of Waterloo and many other small villages. The horn of the Poda Poda would blare off and on as we passed through the village because people would try to race across the road in front of us and oncoming traffic would try to pass other cars as we were approaching. | Mama Beach May 28-29 | Sarah and I with our Poda Poda Drivers
17: We spent the day enjoying the sunshine! The village at Mama Beach is mainly a fishing village. While we were sun tanning we saw some of the villagers working to pull in a net. The villagers go out really early in the morning and put the nets way out in the ocean. Then during the morning they slowly pull the nets in from shore, draging them into a loop to trap the fish and bring them to shore (they have a rope at either side of the bay and pull the ends together ). | Karen, Sarah, Myself, Beth
18: Later in the afternoon, while Sarah and I were cooling off in the ocean 2 boys swam up to us. It was really funny because at first they kept their distance and just looked at us. I smiled and the smaller boy came up and quickly touched my hand and swam away. They eventually started to play with us in the water and talk to us. The bigger boy is Morris and the little boy is Ali. They spoke very good english (which they learned in school) and ended up staying with us for most of the weekend. Morris works at the resort that we stayed at. He sweeps the floors. The boys ended up being our tour guides for the weekend showing us different areas of Mama Beach! It was so cute to have a little 10 year old walking us up the beach and pointing out the sights. | My two friends Ali and Morris
20: In the evening we had a nice dinner in the open air looking out onto the sea. It was quite beautiful! We ended off the night with some star gazing on the beach. We saw the most vivid shooting start I have ever seen. It looked like fireworks in the middle of the sky! I shared a room with my friend Sarah. The room was very hot but it was comfortable and mosquito free! The next morning Morris and Ali returned and showed us the beach side of Mama Beach Village. We met a fisherman who allowed me to photograph him. Apparently in this village the men fish all week and on Sundays they go to church and then take time to repair their nets so they are ready for the next week! We had a great time at the resort. As it neared time to leave, the clouds came rolling in and it started to pour! Our trip home in the Poda Poda was a little bit more scary as most of these vans have no tread on their tires. Our driver was quite alert though and we had no accidents.
21: On Friday evening I worked until 7 and then quickly changed and met up with some friends to go out for dinner in Aberdeen. Juan from Dominican Republic who works in the surgical instrument sterilization area and is long term offered to drive a bunch of us who had to work late so we didn't have to wait for a poda poda. Traffic in Freetown is quite crazy. It took us almost 2 hours to make it to Aberdeen, we had to take many detours due to accidents and traffic jams. It was quite an experience. Finally we made it to the restaurant called Atlantic. It seemed like Mercy Ships was trying to take over the restaurant as there were 28 of us! The restaurant was quite nice and was open air, looking out onto the ocean. It was warm but with the breeze from the ocean we were quite comfortable. There seems to be a large Lebanese presence in Sierra Leone and I was able to try some Lebanese appetizers! After dinner we piled back into the Mercy Ships truck and made our way back to the ship through the dark streets. On the way back I sat in the back of the truck which was fun at first, but after a few speed bumps, pot holes, and sudden stops the excitement faded. Juan had to be very careful driving as there is minimal to no lighting on the streets and people tend to walk out in front of you, also many cars don't have working lights. | Dinner Out June 3 | Sarah, Juan, and I | Joe and I | Anouchka, a teacher, and Ville | Heading home in the back of the truck
22: River Number Two - June 4 | Saturday morning my cabin mates and I left the ship and headed out to River Number 2. There were 5 of us so we decided to see if we could hire a taxi for the day. We were going to walk up Bad Boy Lane to the main road and see if we could hail a cab, but as we were leaving the shipping yard a Mercy Ships truck pulled over and Lawrence (the dad of one of the long term families) told us to get in! He drove us through town and made sure that we had a "safe looking" taxi that would survive the trek on the back roads to River number 2. We paid the taxi driver 110,000 Leones to drive us to the beach, stay with us all day, and drive us home (which works out to about 26 American dollars). This would be considered a great day's earning for the taxi driver and he was really happy to take us! The drive to River Number 2 was about an hour and a half first climbing winding paved roads up the mountains surrounding Freetown and then onto dirt roads through the small villages of Goderich, Lakka, Hamilton, Sussex and finally arriving at River number 2. This beach is only accessible during the dry season as the roads are very rough and vehicles cannot drive on them when it gets wet. | Hyun Hee, Kate, Hannah, and Darby
23: When we made it to the beach we rented an umbrella and some chairs and settled in. This beach is my favorite so far, it was so clean and the sand so nice and white. One of my cabin mates has a guide book to Sierra Leone and we read that before the war, the French tourists would land in Lungi airport and take a helicopter to River Number 2 to spend the day. There is a little market in the village of River Number 2, so after spending some time in the sun we walked around the shops. I bought some fabric and had a shoulder bag made for me while I waited! It was really fun to spend some time with the villagers while they were working away. As the only power source to the village is a generator (which only services the fridge in the little cafe), it was really interesting to watch the men sew with foot powered machines.
26: Break Our Hearts by Vicky Beeching It's time for us to live the songs we sing And turn our good intentions into action To bring the kind of worship You desire And move beyond our self-absorbed distractions The mountains are shaking Could this be a great awakening Break our hearts With the things that break Yours Wake us up to see through Your eyes Break our hearts With the things that break Yours And send us out to shine in the darkness It's time to move outside our comfort zone To see beyond our churches and our homes To change the way we think and how we spend Until we look like Jesus again Here I am send me To be Your hands and feet Here I am send me I will go
27: Today I was in the general surgery OR with my friend Sarah. It was just the two of us as nurses so we worked non stop all day! The list consisted of 8 hernia cases with patients from 8 months old to 81 years old! We convinced the rest of the team to give us a 25 minute lunch break but other than that it was go go go until 6pm! This evening we had a farewell party for Aedzer Hellema, one of the Nurse Anesthestetists on the ship. It was nice to hang out with people from the OR, outside where the sun is shining! Tomorrow we have a full list again so I had better go get ready for another crazy day! | In the OR June 6 | working with Dr. Bruce Steffes & Dr. Philladelphie Dembele | Aedzer and Sarah | The OR gang
28: A Trip to Town - June 10 | Because today was a ship holiday, a group of us decided to walk into town. We started by going through the busy streets trying to make our way to the historic site of the Cotton Tree. Leaving the ship at 9:30 it was already hot and humid and the streets were packed with people and vehicles. For most of the trip we had to walk directly on the streets as the paths along side the road were either taken over by people trying to sell things or there were big holes in the concrete slabs which dropped 3 to 5 feet into what we guessed was the sewer system. Traffic in Freetown is very heavy during most of the day. Walking to the cotton tree took us somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour where as if we had driven the same route, it would have taken twice as long! | Suli | Me and Scott
29: On the trek to the cotton tree we passed by the clock tower which I have nicknamed times square of Freetown as it has this huge TV and seems to be one of the busiest places in Freetown. It seems so out of place to be walking by all of these little shacks where everything is so primitive and then seeing this massive TV in the middle of the street!
31: We finally made it to the Cotton Tree. This is one of Sierra Leone's historical sights. This tree is over 300 years old and was used as the auctioning grounds during the slave trade. We went to the Sierra Leone Peace and Cultural Monument where a man named Peter gave us a tour of the monuments explaining the some of the history of Sierra Leone
32: This picture shows the reconciliation that took place after the civil war in many small towns and villages. The man in light blue is one of the elders of the community. The man begging for forgiveness was a member of the community before the war. He cut off the limbs of many people from his own village, not recognizing them because of the drugs that he had been taking. Peter told us that this story happened the same way in too many villages. After the memorial we headed to the craft market to do some shopping. When we finished with all of our purchases, we headed to Crown Bakery for lunch. After a much needed break at the bakery, we continued our walk back home. It was very hot and muggy out but we made it back to the ship and had a nice relaxing evening :)
33: Suli | Enjoying Pizza with Monica | Paying the bill | Trying to get a good deal at the craft market
34: Visiting an Orphanage June 11
35: Today I went with 3 of the ward nurses to one of their day volunteer's house. Abdel and her husband Prince have started up an orphanage in their own home and Abdel invited us to come and visit the children. We took a public Poda Poda (usually we have just hired them privately) and it was interesting to see how many people we could fit inside. I think that at one point there were 20 people inside the van! While driving along, we were pulled over by the police. I am not really sure what happened because as the officer was writing what we assumed was a ticket the driver jumped back in the Poda Poda and drove off. Abdel asked the driver to pull over and we hiked up a dirt path through a small village down another street and then in between some buildings to arrive at the path to Abdel and Prince's house. When we arrived at the house all of the children ran out and started hugging us. We couldn't even walk through the front door because the kids were pushing out to deliver their hellos and hugs. After meeting each child we got a tour of the orphanage. Abdel and Prince take care of 10 children from ages 7 to 12. They would like to take more in but the cost is too much right now. The kids were so excited to show us their rooms and show us their individual beds! The orphanage consists of 3 bedrooms (one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for Abdel and Prince). There are also 2 "aunties" that work with Abdel and Prince and one of them is currently living in the orphanage. Prince told us the orphanage started in 2008. When the civil war ended many orphan children lived on the street together fending for themselves. He started working with an organization that went out and visited these groups of children who were traumatized by what they had seen during the war. They continued to visit these children and told them stories of happy times and showed them love to try and help them develop coping mechanisms and to try to begin new lives. Ever since then Prince has had a great heart for children. He has volunteered with different organizations and has even worked with Mercy Ships the past 2 times it came to visit Sierra Leone. Once he married Abdel they decided they needed to do more to help the orphan children in Freetown. He started out the process of becoming an official orphanage. With the help of a local pastor who had moved to Norway Prince and Abdel met some Norwegian people who were visiting in Sierra Leone. They partnered together with MAAO (my African Aid Organization) and were able to find an apartment to rent and take in 10 orphans.
36: Darby watching the rain | The girls showing their room | Prince and Abdel | Standing in the rain
37: June 12 - Local Church Service Today I went to one of the local churches with a few people from Mercy Ships. It made me laugh when the minister said that the hot hot worship team would be coming up to sing! After the service all of these little children came running up to me and wanted to hold my hand and for me to hold them. I love the children of Sierra Leone, they are so cute and friendly! | THe Church Pastor and John
38: We have been working hard again this week. I am again in the world of general surgery. The staffing has been a bit better this week as we are down one surgeon and have more nurses to go around... although there has also been a bug going around and we have had 2 people sick both yesterday and today. | We did have to do a mastectomy yesterday. It was a young woman and was very sad because the tumour was quite advanced (it was about the size of a golf ball). The prognosis does not look very good. This reminds me how blessed I am to live in a country where we have easy access to primary health care and early detection is much more the norm. Here in Africa the norm tends to be palliative due to the advanced stages of disease when they are diagnosed. | If you are wondering how we do our pathology here on the ship, the answer is... we don't. Some lucky person (ie. any crew member the lab can get a hold of as they leave the ship) gets asked to take the specimens with them in their suitcase to be dropped off in a lab (I believe they are usually taken to England). From there the specimens are taken to a lab and the results are forwarded back to the ship. | June 13 and 14 | Alison from Texas | Mel from New Zealand | Sarah displaying a lipoma
39: We had finished up in the general surgery room and I was cleaning up some supplies in the sink. One of the nurses from the Maxillo Facial room stuck her head out of their room and asked me if I was busy. I said no. She said "okay then scrub in and come here"! They had been waking up their patient who had had a huge neck tumor removed. As the patient woke up, her neck started getting bigger and bigger. Something was not right. We ended up putting her back to sleep and re-exploring the incision. In the time that had passed since the original surgery ended, enough blood clot had formed to fill an entire kidney dish! We removed all of the clot, found the bleeding vessel and tied it off, and then closed the wound again | In the evening, we attended the first of 3 trivia nights on the ship. I wasn't really looking forward to it, but it was actually really fun and a lot of people turned up to play. Unfortunately my team did not win... but there is always next week! Today was another hernia day in general surgery. We ended up finishing our list early today and so we were sent to one of the wards to help them assemble paperwork for their charts. | Dr. Arega Leta | Scott, Monica, Sarah, Tove, Myself and Gail | FIrst trivia night group
40: Dinner Out June 17 | Sarah, Karen, Myself, and Betty | Joe and I
41: After another full day in the operating room, we decided to treat ourselves and go out for dinner. One of my friends Lourens is able to drive the Mercy Ships land rovers. Going out for dinner is fun, but almost as fun is the adventure getting there. Because the restaurant we went to was on the other side of one of the mountains, we had a choice, go through the city and sit in evening traffic or go over the mountain on the "back roads". We decided it would be more fun to go off-roading and test out the land rovers capabilities. As we were driving up the mountain Lourens offered to drive us up to one of the highest points of the mountain to see the sunset. It was an amazing view; you can see for miles the city of Freetown. We had a great dinner at the Country Lodge and then took the regular streets to get back home. | Gay and Karen | Joe and I | Sarah and Betty | Lourens and Mona
42: On Saturday I went out with a group of 2 land rovers (18 people) to Bunce Island. Part of the adventure in Sierra Leone is getting to various locations. So we started the morning with a 4 hour off roading experience over the mountains and down random dirt roads. I got to ride in the front of the land rover with Chris a fellow Canadian driving. He made my day when he pulled out a tin of Tim Horton`s coffee (quick side note... the coffee is quite bad here). Chris had a french press and we managed quite well with the coffee mug and press while in the city. Once we started climbing the mountain... it was a different story. Somehow I ended up with coffee all over my pants. But it was okay because I had my first great cup of Tim Horton's since leaving Canada so I couldn't complain! | Bunce Island - June 18 | Chris and I post coffee spill | Becky | Becky, Kate, Myself, and Darby
43: After 2 hours we finally hit pavement... it was a very strange feeling to all of the sudden be driving on smooth road. It didn't last for long though. Bunce Island is listed as only being accessible by boat to tourists from Freetown. Tourists pay about $100 American to take a motor boat to the Island. Lourens and some friends enlisted the help of google earth to look at satellite pictures of the back country. they found that there was in fact a dirt road that led to the water right in front of Bunce Island. I believe that this was Lourens` 3rd time to the Island so we trusted his navigation skills! It was a fun experience driving on the dirt path for over an hour to get to the sea. we passed through many small villages that did not see vehicles very often. All of the children came running out to greet us and wave by the road. | Tove, Me, and Monica
44: When we finally arrived at the village, we got into canoes (which the villagers were quickly bailing out excess water from) to make the trek across the river. The boats were very tippy and there were multiple occasions during the crossing that I thought we were going to tip over. We made it safely across to Bunce Island and met an archaeologist from Syracuse who has been working at the site. He told us that he had been here in the late 1980`s surveying the site and was hoping to start a restoration project. When the civil war started, he had to delay, but has returned and has a large grant to start preserving the site. It was great running into this man because he gave us a quick overview of the buildings so that we would have some bearing as we explored.
46: This Island is very historical as it was home to one of 40 major European commercial forts on the coast of West Africa during the slave trade era. It was in operation from 1670 to 1807. This fort is of particular importance to the United States as large numbers of slaves were sent from this location to South Carolina and Georgia. Slaves from Sierra Leone were very valuable to the slave traders in the southern states because they were very skilled in rice planting. The Island itself was attacked twice by pirates and four times by the French. It was a very sobering experience to visit the Island.
48: In the afternoon four of us took a taxi to Aberdeen beach to get some food and walk along the beach. It was busy with soccer games. There must have been 8 separate games being played along the beach all at the same time. | June 19
49: We stopped at the Craft Market on the beach (Aberdeen and Lumley beach are the same place). It was a really neat experience because the people working there asked us right away if we were from Mercy Ships (I wonder what gave us away haha). When we told them that we were, they brought a little girl up to us. When she was little her arm got burned and he had a contracture. She had been on the ship 3 weeks ago and had surgery to release the contracture. One of the nurses who had come with us that day had actually been the little girl's nurse on the ward. It was really nice to see patients back in their homes after having successful surgery. The people from the craft market also brought us another child who had finger and toe syndactly (for non medical people it is like webbed fingers or toes but all the way up to the top of the finger, so the fingers look like they are fused together). Every time we go out, once people know we are from Mercy Ships, they bring us people who are in need of surgery. It really shows how great the need is here. Mercy Ships being here for 1 year is not even going to make a dent in the amount of surgeries needed. It is really hard to go out into the community as a medical professional and not be able to help people. We had to tell the family to listen to the radio for when the next screening is. After the craft market we were ready to head home (especially me as I was starting to feel sick). We took a taxi home and found out that the driver had also been helped by Mercy Ships. He had been to the dental clinic and had had some much needed dental work done!
50: June 20 You don't want to know about this day... sick in bed... enough said! I was glad to hear that I didn't miss anything in the OR though, as there was a problem with the oxygen concentrator and all surgeries were cancelled. We will try to do a few extra each day so that no one gets cancelled. | "Dr" Johnathon and his partner in crime | Emma | The Paparazzi
51: June 21 Today I was feeling better so I went back to work. This week I am in Maxillo facial and we did 3 cases. First we removed a neurofribroma, a non-cancerous tumor from a man's neck (although rarely they can become cancerous). This man had neurofibromas all over his body. from what I have read, they tend to only grow to a certain size and they do not tend to spread. Surgery is the only way to remove them in Africa (although they can be removed with a laser back home). The reason we only removed the neurofibroma on his neck was because if it grew any larger, it could obstruct his breathing. Our second case we removed what we thought was going to be a neck cyst but ended up being a neck lipoma (a big hunk of fat). We ended the day with a young man who spoke english very well. He told me he was in university taking developmental studies. His upper lip hemangioma was quite large and was ostracized for it. We did a debulking of his lip. We had a bit of a leak in the OR today. The air conditioner condenser was leaking. We had to tape blue pads to the ceiling and hope for the best!
52: June 22 Yesterday I was on late shift at work (10-7). I ended up helping out in the general surgery rooms. We had a great day and finished our lists in time to get some dinner! The ship gets most of its food shipped from the United States or The Netherlands (except for fruits and fresh veggies grown here...ie cucumbers and tomatoes...and sometimes lettuce), and you can tell that we are desperately waiting for the arrival of the next shipping container. Dinner for the last 4 days has consisted of rice, rice and more rice. Hopefully the container will come before I leave. Now that I am feeling better, I hope that I can try something other than rice! I have been on call for the last 2 days. Last night was my last night at the bible study that I have been attending, so after work I went and baked some brownies as a treat for everyone! As I walked into the cabin of the family that hosts the group, my pager went off, so I turned around and headed down to the OR. We ended up having to bring a patient back to the OR who had a large blood clot. We removed the clot, washed out the wound and then cauterized anything that looked like it might be bleeding and sewed him back up. By the time I left the OR and got back to my bible study, they were just finishing. I still had time to chat with people and have brownies of course!
53: June 23 Today I was back in maxillo facial surgery. We had an interesting day. I started off scrubbing for a case where a woman had a neurofibroma covering the right side of her upper face. In the past, she had had a surgery to debulk this tumor, but with neurofibroma tumors, if you can't remove them completely they will grow back. The location that this tumor prevented us from being able to remove all of it. It is sad to know that even though we did a good thing by removing the tumor, it will continue to grow back. We did another similar case after that and then had a quick bite to eat. After lunch we did a maxillary tumor. When I went to check in this lady she looked quite normal. Her right cheek was a little bit larger than her left but other than that you wouldn't be able to see her tumor, until she opened her mouth. The tumor had grown into her palate. It was a very interesting operation. The surgeons had to remove her palate along with some of her maxilla and half of her upper teeth. He then used a piece of the temporalis muscle from her head to create a new palate. It was an amazing surgery to be a part of.
54: Here is a picture for all of my anesthesia friends back at Sick Kids. During the surgery that I on the previous page, we noticed a gurgling noise coming from the airway. Wondering if the cuff had deflated, Gary (pictured) went under the drapes to check. He couldn't find the cuff! After searching around under the drapes, he managed to find it, completely separated from the endotrachial tube (as you can see him holding the balloon). The anesthetic machine wasn't reading a change in the leak at all and the patient was ventilating fine. We had placed a throat pack at the beginning of the case, so we just plugged onward... ha ha we couldn't decide whether to to blame sabotage from the surgical end or the endotracheal tube for being reused to many times! | Gary | Enjoying coffee time in the OR with Emma and Sarah
55: Last day of Work and Dinner out June 24 Today was my last shift at work. We had a good busy day in Maxillo facial. We had to do an enucleation (removal of an eye) and removal of a tumor. After work I went out for dinner with my cabin mates. We tried to go to a place called Mamba Point but the taxi driver and about 20 people who had gathered on the street around the cab to help us, did not know where it was. We ended up going back to Aberdeen beach which was really nice. The adventure getting there was quite interesting. Because we had 6 people in our group, the taxi driver agreed that we could have 2 in the front and squish 4 in the back seat. As we took off down the road, it was strange to not hear the driver honking at people. I asked him if he should use his horn as we were getting very close to hitting people and he laughed at me and told me that the horn was broken. Most of us agreed that even though we find the constant honking annoying, it is much better than no honking at all. The driver kept almost running into pedestrians and almost taking out dogs. He then decided to take a "short cut" to avoid traffic. We ended up going into a very poor area of town that was basically in a big valley where all of the rainwater runs, it was fine but we still got stuck in traffic. On the way out of the valley we had to go up a huge hill that was quite slippery as it had just rained. Of course the traffic forced the driver to stop midway up the hill. All of the vehicles here are standard and you can imagine how quickly we started to roll down the hill as soon as the driver took his foot off the brake! We ended up almost hitting the taxi behind us, and all of us offered to get out of the car and walk up to the top of the hill where the driver picked us up again. | Kate and I
56: As we neared the restaurant, it started to get dark. The driver put his lights on, but they must have been on their last legs because we just got a slight hue of light (with his brights on!). The beach street on Aberdeen has many speed bumps so we all had to look out for them and yell when we saw them because the driver didn't seem to notice and tried to take them at top speed! We were very excited to arrive alive at the restaurant and did not ask the driver to wait for us. We had a lovely dinner and then started the trek back home. | Juanita, Hyun Hee, Kate, Darby
57: John Obey Beach - June 25 On Saturday two of my friends Kate and Hyun Hee and I took a taxi to John Obey beach for the day. It was a beautiful beach to spend my last Saturday. I took lots of pictures of the scenery. We did have some rain during the day, but not enough to stop us from enjoying ourselves! We had a nice lobster lunch (which I did not eat, but I enjoyed watching the men cook it) as well as grilled pineapple and fried sweet potatoes. The beach area that we went to is run by a company called Tribe Wanted. The company works to create a sustainable working co-op within an existing community, that is eco friendly. We enjoyed another crazy cab drive to and from the beach. However this taxi driver did have a working horn and he really knew how to use it!
59: Tove, Sarah, Me, Kate, and Monica
64: (above)The little "power" shops for the villagers to charge their Cell phones (L) There was only one window crank in the taxi so when it started to rain we had to pass it around to close our windows
65: Packed and ready to go again - June 26 Yes, Sunday was my last full day on the ship. I had a busy morning cleaning my cabin and doing laundry. In the afternoon I went on one last trek through the city with my friend Joe. It seemed a bit quieter as many of the shops are closed on Sundays, but the road traffic was just as heavy. I almost got hit by a car on my last day, but luckily I was able to jump over a gutter just in time. We enjoyed Coca Cola on the street one last time and then headed back to the ship. I started to dis-assemble what was my little home for the last 6 weeks and pack it into my bags. In the evening we went for dinner with a large group of people to a restaurant called Mamba point. It was very good food and a great way to end my time in Sierra Leone. | Sarah | Joe | Anoushka | Mona | Mona
66: June 27 This morning, I had my last community meeting, where they say goodbye to all the people leaving. It was sad, but it has been a great adventure! I spent my last morning hanging out with one of my roommates, Kate. She made me a cross stitch bookmark with our cabin number and everyone's name on it. Saying goodbye while loading up the vehicles was hard. All of the ORs took a break so everyone could come out and wish us well. There were hugs and tears and then we were off.
67: After one last drive through Freetown's downtown traffic, we made it to the ferry. There was a man directing ferry traffic who had a microphone. He was so excited to see the Mercy Ships trucks, he sang for us and did a little dance. We watched our bags get loaded onto the ferry and then headed into one of the small restaurants for a drink while we waited. Jon had brought with him some cards so he taught us a few games while we drank our Coca Cola. We finally were able to board the ferry and were able to see the Africa Mercy one last time as we motored by on the ferry. We had a short wait at the airport, took one last look at Sierra Leone and then boarded Brussels Air to head home. | Playing cards while waiting for the ferry with Jon | Anne Marie and Monica | Last group shot with Scott, Anne Marie, and Monica