Saturday, February 19, 2011

People at the junction have been weeping and crying this afternoon, having heard of the death of one of our young men who had been taken to Freetown for surgery. On my arrival here last Monday night, I was informed that the son of a friend was seriously ill and not expected to survive. He’d been treated with local herbs for some time and was taken to hospital after it appeared that the local medicine was not going to work. The first hospital had no x-ray machine to determine the problem. The second hospital was able to x-ray but did not have the required surgery tools. They recommended a third (known as a place of last resort from where people often do not return) or going all the way to Freetown to the emergency department. The young man was brought back to Mapaki where family and community members met to decide what to do, given the anticipated prohibitive cost of travel and surgery in Freetown. Fortunately, we had just received a generous donation to help with health problems and the cost of travel was covered. Our health officer accompanied the young man and was pleased to be asked to donate blood for surgery on his arrival, as this indicated that the hospital was willing to accept him at emergency (hopeless cases are often not accepted). Thank God the news from the junction was false. The chiefdom ambulance returned from Freetown just now, with the good news that the surgery was successful. A few more hours and he would have been dead, they said. This experience will have a long-lasting impact, I expect, as the hope is that it will encourage community members to seek medical assistance before they reach the same critical state.

This week I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with many of the junior and senior high students receiving scholarships and the teachers who have finished, are in the final or first year of distance education. Everyone sends thanks and shares stories of how this support has impacted themselves, their families and communities. Yesterday four junior high scholarship students came to visit. Most had lost either a father or both parents and consequently had no one else to pay their fees. When asked about future plans they shared dreams of becoming nurses, lawyers, office workers, the Minister of Health, all in order to support their extended families, the community or in the case of the prospective Minister of Health, to prevent diseases in the country as a whole. The senior high students, all of whom have had to leave the community to board or stay in the towns share stories of struggle and determination. As for me, I am still so humbled and grateful to be able to share in a tiny slice of life in this amazing place and thankful to all here who have invited and welcomed me into their community.