Lynn Pelton Spent Four Months in an Ebola Treatment Center in Sierra Leone
Lynn said those four months were the most rewarding yet challenging experience of her life.
Halfway through her assignment, she woke with a fever and was assumed to have Ebola herself. During the three days spent as a patient, she learned firsthand the terror felt by thousands of Sierra Leoneans living in this dangerous time.
I just returned from an 8 week visit to our out-patient hospital, the Lady Deborah Berewa Hospital (LDBH) located in Lakka, Western Rural District of Sierra Leone.Traveling with me for the first 3 weeks was a 10 member team. Goals for the team surrounding this trip included the following:
- A water and sanitation randomized household survey in a 6 mile radius surrounding our outpatient hospital
- Introduction of a nonprofit organization called iRespond who were interested in discussing with the government of Sierra Leone several technological and biometric initiatives in partnership with Greatest Goal Ministries and the Ministry of Health.
- One team member was a film student from a local college who documented our activities. Her new documentary will be finished before the end of the summer and we look forward to sharing that with all of our donors.
I spent the next 6 weeks meeting with government and Ministry of Health personnel. The First Lady of Sierra Leone, Sia Koroma, has asked GGM to act in the capacity of technical pilots in moving forward on a five year plan for a cancer center and cancer program in Sierra Leone. I was called to the State House to meet with the President and present the 5 year initial timeline to him and receive his endorsement. I was introduced to the US Ambassador and shared with him the vision. From there with help from the First Lady and her policy advisor, Sam Bangura, meetings were held with the Minister of Health and various Sierra Leone medical staff. A cancer committee has been formed in Sierra Leone with Dr. Deen, a Sierra Leone physician, named as project manager. A SL cancer advisor committee is currently being formed in the USA to work with the SL cancer committee as plans move forward.
A cancer registry that was started in June 2012 with a small amount of funding from the WHO has now developed targets and direction with a culminating stakeholders conference scheduled in December 2013 with various US physicians speaking.
In addition to those meetings, time was spent at our new outpatient hospital. Our office in central Freetown has been moved to office space at our hospital and our first quarterly reports have been compiled. As an outpatient hospital we operate with a small laboratory and pharmacy. We believe we are the only outpatient facility that can offer both those services in all of Sierra Leone. And most importantly, other than a small registration fee of 1.00 USD or 4,000 le, the visit is free. We have over 50 patients being treated regularly for diabetes and hypertension. Our staff is all Sierra Leonean with the exception of our Laboratory Director and Operations Supervisor, Jerry Staples, an American and former director of a laboratory in a 350 bed hospital outside of Seattle, WA. He has been living in Sierra Leone full time for the past two years. Out of our 16 Sierra Leonean staff, 2 are polio victims, 2 are deaf and 1 is an amputee.
We hosted the second cruise ship from Zegrahm Expedition Cruises to make port in Sierra Leone. The 120 guests visited a chimpanzee sanctuary. From the chimpanzees they traveled by bus to our clinic where we had the opportunity to share our work with them. After the clinic we all proceeded to the beach to watch an exhibition match between the polio and amputees soccer players both teams under the new Disability Sports Association. We made many contacts with the cruise ship guests and also receive some funding from them. Another ship is scheduled for late September and two ships in the spring. Check out Zegrahm's field report here.