Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A day with Michelle

My roommate Michelle is a part of the Mercy Ship palliative care program. She is writing an article for a magazine and asked if I would come with her for the day to take some pictures. Yesterday I spent a day in the life of Michelle.

Working on the ward you sometimes forget that you are in a war-torn, unstable, poverty stricken country. The ship is a western box. The hospital is a hospital. A little smaller, a little more crowded than at home, but it's a hospital.

Yesterday I was reminded that I am in Liberia.

Our day started by visiting Levi, a ten year old boy I had cared for on the ward, who has a large tumor and will be starting chemotherapy treatments at St. Josephs Hospital, a local private medical facility. Mercy Ships has an agreement that allows us to send patients that need chemotherapy to receive treatments.

We were going to Levi's house to drop off supplies he would need for his chemotherapy treatment, like IV's, tubing, and bags of fluid, as well as give instructions to where and when he should go to the hospital. The discussion in the car was about Survivor, another patient who needed to receive chemotherapy, that had been admitted to the hospital on Thursday. Hospitals in Liberia are not like hospitals in the US. You pay for treatment as you go.

For example, in order to receive a blood transfusion several steps needed to occur. First, the family would have to pay for a test to cross match the blood. Then, they would pay 400 LD (about 6 dollars) for a bag to store blood in. They would then have various family members come to the hospital to be cross matched to see if they were donor's. If no family member was a match, they could pay 20 US dollars (a unaffordable price) and have the hospital locate a donor.

When we arrived at Levi's house, we found him covered in green flecks. He had the chicken pox and this green stuff was suppose to reduce the itch. He looked very uncomfortable.

We took his mother to St. Joseph's hospital to give her a walk through of taking Levi for his treatments. We also visited Survivor, who after being in the hospital for five days, had not gotten his needed blood transfusion. He didn't even have an IV.

Jean, the head of the palliative care program, had the same blood type as Survivor, so she donated her own blood in the hospital's lab to give to Survivor. Things are done a bit differently in Africa.

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