Thursday, November 15, 2007


My bunk mate, Michelle, is on our palliative care team. The palliative care team visits and assists patients and families who are terminally ill by supplying food, offering rides, performing wound care, and bringing patients to the ship for visits.

Often, they work with pediatric patients. Because she is out in the community, Michelle has really seen the profound effects of living in a country with no health care system in ways I don't appreciate on the ward. Many times her terminally ill patients are dying from illnesses that would be cured in the western world. Her stories can be heartbreaking, per usual in Liberia.

You can check out her stories on her blog at

Today, Michelle needed someone to ride with her to pick up Candi, an 11 year old girl who is dying of Burkett's Lymphoma, so she could come visit the ship and have the bulky dressing on her affected left eye changed.

Candi was wearing sparkly multicolored slippers (flip flops) and a cute little sundress. She smiled and laughed as if she didn't notice the bandage that swallowed her head, whispering her nose and obstructing her left ear. We brought her to the ships treatment room and I read her a story while Michelle collected dressing supplies and we waited for her pain medication to take effect. (We read a pop up version of Peter Pan and I performed all the voices and spoke in an English accent)

As Michelle redressed the bulky, necrotic, and stench filled tumor that took over the upper left quarter of her face, I held her hand and rubbed her back. It's so sad that this is Candi's life. A disfiguring mas is claiming her face and nothing can be done to stop it.

Candi is from the Ivory Coast. Michelle told me she does not want to go home because she is afraid she will die. She's 11 and she knows she is dying.

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