The Most Difficult Commute

On Saturday, I got to put myself in the shoes of some of the commuters that reach the clinic. We were going to visit a few of our staff members that lived in a village about three hours away on foot. Babaa, Esau, and James make this commute almost every day and can get it done in a fraction of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s rain or shine, they still make it to work on time. Not to mention the patients who come from that area. Most of them are sick, hurt or sometimes even in labor. We did this hike perfectly healthy, and we were still struggling. Not just patients walk all this way, people that are in those communities also make the journey. Whenever they need things that they can’t make locally, they have to carry it. I couldn’t even begin to fathom doing it every day let alone being sick, or even carrying sheets of aluminum for a roof.

The hike consists of rugged terrain, wading through deep water and monkey bridges. These bridges are made up of one or two narrow tree trunks, that are tied together. For handles, sticks are placed in the water and are spaced out on the sides of the bridge. Throughout this hike there are a number of these monkey bridges, and some of them are more difficult than others. The hardest one is over a swamp, it is the longest and some of it is in the water. Last year, most of it wasn’t even built. Sometimes you were shoulder deep in a swamp. Now that the whole bridge is built, it is still very difficult to cross. When the current is strong, you feel like you are going to slip and fall. At some points, the bridge had no sticks to hold on to, you had to balance your way across. We were all holding on to each other like a preschool safety rope. Parts of the trail were flooded, and you had no idea where you were stepping. Sometimes when you took a step you would sink in the mud a few inches. Other times there were roots trying to trip you. On the way back, it was torrential rain beating on us the whole time. Which made the water even deeper and the bridges even slicker.

This is a very difficult way of getting to where you need to go. I have gained so much more respect for the staff and for the patients that do this. I had some trouble writing about this journey. Trying to explain something that pretty much no one else can relate to or understand is very difficult. I had no idea what some of these people went through, until I actually did it. I now have a better appreciation for easy transportation and paved roads. I don’t think I will ever complain about walking somewhere again.

Kasey (intern and bush hike survivor)

A Comfortable Expanded Lab

This week I got to interview the lab team. First, I asked Comfort, a lab technician, some questions on her experiences. Comfort just finished two years of schooling in order to learn more about being in the lab. There she learned about advanced lab equipment and how to use it. She hopes that this equipment will one day be in every health facility in Liberia. Comfort also learned things about blood chemistry, how to count a person’s electrolytes, and how to care for a patient. The reason she wanted to become a lab technician is because she wanted to make sure a patient is getting the right care. Without a lab, a clinician can’t always diagnose someone correctly. Most of the time they need to do blood work or other lab test in order to figure out what is wrong. It is really important that they get it right, especially here in Liberia where people are more susceptible to illness. With the help of the lab tests, the lab tech and the clinician can work together to figure out what is the best option for the patient. One of my favorite things she said was that if people from other countries can come and help her own country, then she can most definitely do it too. She really loves what she does, and she has a great mindset. Her attitude, and personality are great contributions to the clinic.

Before she left for school, she also trained two of our other lab techs, Sam and Jacob. They loved that Comfort taught them everything she knows. Not only did they learn how to be a lab aide, they learned how Comfort treats her patients. They learned that being nice to a patient is expected, and how important it is to make sure a patient knows the extent of their condition. They said that they are so grateful Liberia has a person like Comfort. I also asked them their thoughts about the new extension to the lab space. Before it was just a small room no bigger than broom closet. The window was placed facing the ocean, with the lab equipment right under it. The salty air would rust and damage the equipment, so much that they would often need replacing. Now the new lab space is bigger, and the window is away from the lab equipment. Also, now the room is more private and comfortable. Everyone agrees that this is a much better space than before.

In interviewing this team, I learned so much. They are all so good at what they do. It takes a lot to care for a patient in the ways that they do. Always having a positive attitude in this line of work, and to have it in a developing country, is very difficult. To have people this devoted to their jobs is really amazing. I give them all of the respect in the world. I had a great time hanging out with them and asking them so many questions. I can’t wait to learn more from them in the future.

Kasey (the intern)

New L&D Room Open For Business

This week, the clinic finished their new delivery room. This addition was well overdue, but definitely worth the wait! Before the new room, deliveries were done in one of the smaller rooms that was also used as a secondary exam room. The old delivery bed was rusting despite the multiple paint jobs. The darkness of the room made it difficult to see what was going on. Even before this room, the deliveries were done in a storage room. The room was detached from the rest of the clinic, it had poor lighting and a tile floor. Many night deliveries were done using flash lights and head lamps. Regardless of the quality of these two rooms, it was still a million times better than having the baby at home on a dirt floor. The new delivery room is much bigger and is well lit with ample light coming in from the two windows. We also replaced the delivery bed with an updated one, complete with leg stirrups and an IV pole to make deliveries a little bit more comfortable. A septic tank has also been put in place for the installment of a sink, which will be extremely beneficial for all upcoming deliveries. It is going to be a great place for the futures deliveries.

In fact, the next day, the new room housed its first delivery. The mother was in labor for many long hours. The room worked perfectly for the delivery of a healthy baby boy. Everyone that helped take part in process, actually fit comfortably in the room. The old room will be used as an additional patient room. We added three beds in case a patient needs to stay the night for any reason. We are all really thankful for the new room, and that it was completed in the time that it did. Within the next few days, the room saw two more deliveries, all mothers and babies are doing well!!!

Kasey (the intern)

Jumping Right In

Last week Shaz, the clinic’s new physician assistant, had her first day. And what a first day it was, because her first patient was Josephine. Josephine came into the clinic in a hammock, carried by her community. She had just recently given birth in the home; the baby was alright but Josephine was losing a tremendous amount of blood. When they checked her, it turns out that her placenta had not yet delivered. When giving birth, the placenta usually delivers shortly after. If not, it can cause serious problems for the mother. Handson, one of the clinic’s midwives, gave her a medication to try to induce contractions to help with the delivery. When that wasn’t working, Handson had to manually extract the placenta.

After all of that, she was still losing a ton of blood, and her blood pressure was still dangerously low. Josephine needed a blood transfusion. The clinic can’t do that so they did their best with what they had. They gave Josephine more fluids to help with the blood pressure. They knew that this was only a temporary fix, so they called some motorbikes to have her transferred across the river to St. Frances hospital. There she can get her blood properly transfused and be on her way to getting better.

Shaz had quite an eventful first day at the clinic, and more eventful days are yet to come. Her, Hanson and the rest of the team did their best that day, and will continue to do their best. As for Josephine, she is recovering at St. Frances, with her new baby boy Emmanuel.

Kasey (the intern)

Treating Patients with Dignity

The clinic has an amazing staff, and one of them is named Diana. Diana is a certified midwife, and was hired by the clinic, because she is really good at what she does. She was taking over for Jen, while Jen is back in the states, and she just recently went back to school to become a registered midwife. Diana is attending the United Methodist University in Monrovia for two years to learn more about a job she already loves.

I sat down with Diana and had a conversation about the medical field in this county. I learned that in Liberia, patients in a lot of facilities, are treated very poorly, and are not given the proper care that they need. For example, the staff yells at patients, and treat them with great animosity. One of the reasons that Diana wanted to go into nursing, was to change that. She wanted to treat patients fairly, and she wanted them to know that they matter. By getting the right training and the help from Jen, her wish came true. To Diana, nursing is more than just giving out medicine, it’s also about having a personal connection with the patients. She wants them to understand their condition, and she makes sure they leave confident on knowing how to get better.

I also talked to her about working in the clinic. I learned how much she loves her job, and is so grateful for the opportunity to give back to her community. Diana told me her favorite thing about working here was the cooperation between the staff. For example, if someone is absent that day, everyone pitches in to fill that spot. She loves how everyone cares for the patients as much as she does. She also likes how each day is different, and she said she will never get bored working here.

Diana is such a great asset to the clinic, she works hard every day to give the best care she can give. She can’t wait to finish school and come back with a better understanding on how to help patients even more. It’s so great to know that that she is helping her community, even when it’s one patient at a time.

Kasey (the intern)

A Mission to Help Everyone

The Pillar of Fire Mission site is a place of many talents. The site provides so many different things, as well as bringing together a community.

In the heart of the mission runs the Po River Medical Clinic. This clinic provides medicine and basic medical attention for people miles around. This is very important because in a place like Liberia, it is very hard to get treatment, for anything, anywhere. The clinic also provides jobs for the community. Also, a very scarce thing to get here. For most people that are employed on the mission this is the only place or opportunity to get a steady income. Here the employees work hard to get the patients what they need.

Also, on the mission there is a school. The school runs from 8am to 1pm on the weekdays. Besides giving the kids an education (kindergarten through 9thgrade), they learn social skills, and they learn routines. School helps them build a structure that they probably would not get at home.

The saying, “It takes a village.” Is very true in this case. In fact, this place was built by the community. It did not take just one person to make all of this happen. Each employee, each patient, each student, they all helped to make this place what is. Everyone is very grateful to be a part of the mission.

Kasey (the intern)