Friday 29 August 2014

Quarantine Update from Dr Koroma

I received this update from Dr Koroma about the quarantine situation at Waterloo SDA Hospital:

Dear friends in the UK & Canada
As you are all aware that our hospital has been quarantine including all the staffs for 21 days, daily disinfection is going on to continue maintain our safety and also daily medical check up is on going especially the temperatures. We are doing this to keep a close monitor of everybody and know our status during this 21 days period. Attachment  shows how committed we are towards the fight of Ebola.
Thank you, remember us in your prayers.
Dr. David Koroma

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Bottle Attack

A young man I've been looking after for a few years, had some trouble today - he got into a fight and was attacked with a broken bottle.
He got a deep would to his arm,  so I sent him to the hospital for treatment - there are very few hospitals still open, but luckily he found one and they stitched him up.
He has been in some trouble himself with the police in the past, so he wasn't keen to report the incident.
Please pray that he will heal quickly and that he won't try to get revenge.


Monday 25 August 2014

More About The Hospital Quarantine

I have some more information about the closure and quarantine of the SDA Hospital at Waterloo.
I have spoken to Doctor Koroma and he told me that the government medical team supported by police and military have closed the hospital and are quarantining all hospital staff who were on duty while the Ebola patient was admitted there.

The staff will be quarantined at the hospital, they will not be allowed to leave the hospital until the end of the quarantine period, which is 21 days from when the patient was transferred to the isolation centre. Some food and supplies have been provided.

The Doctor is trying to reason with the government medical team that only those who had contact with the patient need to be quarantined, but at the moment they are insisting that everyone will be quarantined.

It sounds to be a very frightening time for all the staff - the hospital has been surrounded by police and military.
These are the doors to the isolation room that was prepared for suspected Ebola cases - the room that we'd prayed and prayed wouldn't be needed........

Hospital Closed and Quarantined

I've just received this message from the Waterloo SDA Hospital:
"As I am writing you this mail the government medical team with police and military officers have closed down the whole hospital. They brought us some food supplies and quarantining of the whole hospital will start tomorrow. The hospital is been surrounded by police and military officers. We are given till tomorrow to supply list of every staff that were working while the patient was admitted in the hospital"
It must be so frightening please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Confirmed Ebola Case

Well, this is news that I didn't want to have to of the suspected Ebola cases reported at Waterloo Hospital has tested positive.
All staff that had contact with the patient will be quarantined for 21 days.
The staff are very scared. Some staff will be relieved and a skeleton staff will remain to maintain the hospital until the crisis is over.
Apart from the risk of Ebola their other main worry is how they will manage to pay wages during this period. There were few enough patients already, but as news of this spreads there will be even fewer - no patients means there is no money to pay staff salaries.

Lets pray that all those quarantined remain healthy

Suspected Cases and a Note of Thanks

Last night I received this message and photo from the Doctor at the Adventist Hospital in Waterloo, he asked me to share it with the people that have so generously donated through us to help the hospital with their preparations for Ebola cases
The photo is of further supplies they have purchased for the fight against Ebola including a spraying machine, chlorine and gloves.

Dear friends from the UK & Canada,
I would like to render my sincere thanks and gratitude for your generous donations to our hospital on behalf of the general staff especially my medical staffs. We would like to assure you that we are very grateful to your timely gesture in this time of the Ebola crisis. Here are some of the items we bought. I will send the complete list later

The donations certainly came at the right time - I heard this morning that the hospital have received three suspected Ebola cases. The cases have been transferred to an isolation centre and the whole hospital has been disinfected. The spraying machine (shown boxed in the photo above and in use in the photo below) was purchased just two days ago with the donations we delivered to the hospital just 4 days ago - imagine how hard and hazardous it would have been for them to disinfect the hospital without it.

Photo from J Fobbie
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated for the Hospital at Waterloo.
I have been admitted to this hospital twice and it is where I always go for any treatment I need. Last year I had the privilege of watching the Doctor perform an emergency appendectomy. Over many years I have seen the care and respect that the doctor and staff give their patients - the work they do is amazing even though the conditions they work in are not easy.
I  have total respect for Doctor Koroma and the staff at the hospital.

Please remember Dr Koroma and his staff and patients in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Hands Off!!

One of the most difficult things for me to cope with at the moment is the no touching. Usually on greeting people here the first thing to do is shake hands, or hug if you are good friends - not any more, now that Ebola is here that's a no-no.

It's not until I tried not to do it that I realised just how much we all touch each other in the course of a normal day, it is strange not to have any human's doesn't feel's lonely.

I don't think of myself as a touchy person, I'm not one for hugging all and sundry - who'd have thought I'd miss human touch so much!

In Sierra Leone we usually shake hands a lot, from formal handshakes, to the three stage friends handshake to bumping fists.......all of that is gone for now. It feels like something is missing to greet someone and not shake their hand, it feels rude and the greeting feels incomplete.

Some people are bumping elbows as a way of greeting, but to me that feels really approach is to give a quick wave as I'm approaching then keep my hands firmly by my side. If someone comes into my office I keep my hands beneath the desk and just smile and welcome them until they are seated. Other people keep their hands in their pockets or clasped behind their back.

Most people are avoiding contact as much as possible, but some people come in for a handshake or hug and I have to deflect that - some people have got hold of me before I've realised they are going to and I have to extricate myself and tell them they shouldn't really do that, they need to keep themselves safe.

What makes it even harder is that because I'm a westerner a lot of people presume that I can't have Ebola - I've tried to explain that I'm just as much a possible threat to others as they are to me, but people just laugh and say 'oh no, you're safe'. So where perhaps people are being careful to avoid contact with their fellow countrymen, they see so reason to take the same care around me.

Are we being over careful? I don't really know.
I know it's very unlikely that I'll catch Ebola from a handshake or hug....but really, can I take the risk, small as it is? I don't think so.......I've seen what Ebola can do, I've read the stories of the suffering, I've seen the panic on peoples faces when an Ebola ambulance passes.

Try it and see, try not to touch anyone outside your own household. Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser whenever you inadvertently brush against someone or touch a door handle or borrow a pen.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Sposorship Woes

This is the time of year when the bulk of the sponsorship work is carried out in preparation for the new school year, that's not so easy this year though because all schools are closed indefinitely because of the Ebola outbreak.
The BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination), the exam that students sit at the end of their third year of Junior Secondary School, has been postponed indefinitely.
We are waiting for the NPSE (National Primary School Examination) results which will determine if the students will promote to the Junior Secondary School that they sat for.
I'm waiting to hear if the private WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Examination) will go ahead as scheduled in September.
We usually hire a tailor and send each student to the tailor to get measured for their uniforms, then buy the material, zips, button etc. in bulk.......we've decided not to do that this year. If I send someone to the tailor and they should later get sick, some might think they got sick because of where I sent them - I can't take that risk. Instead this year we are giving the guardians the funds to have 2 pairs of uniforms made for each student - when they come to me with the uniforms then they will receive their other school supplies.
No public gatherings are allowed, so I can't hold a parents/guardians meeting - instead I have to explain how we are doing things this year to each guardian and student individually.
Two of our sponsors were due to come to help with the preparations for the new school year, but sadly had to cancel because of the Ebola outbreak.
Everything is costing so much more than usual because traders are raising their prices as goods become harder to come by.
Whew! Sorry for all that moaning! It's not all bad, I've been collecting in school reports and so far we have one girl who came top of her class for the last school year and a boy who came in 2nd position!
Best of all, on the whole, they are all keeping healthy. We had one girl admitted last week with an asthma attack, she was treated and discharged and is doing fine at the moment and one of our boys is having treatment for a bad eye.

The Dreaded 'E' Word

Since I returned to Sierra Leone almost three weeks ago nearly every conversation turns to the 'E' word at some point.......of course I'm talking about Ebola - something that I don't think I'd even heard of a year ago, but which now is constantly in the back of my mind.
People mention it like it's a rude word....with a little chuckle almost as though they feel silly for taking it so seriously. There are chlorine hand washes at the entrance to most businesses, and shaking hands is a big no-no. Some people touch elbows as a way of greeting or bang fists, but most people just nod or raise a hand in greeting. Worryingly people don't see me as a threat - because I'm a westerner most people presume that I'm 'safe'.
There are many rumours flying around - one morning I was woken by a phone call at 4am and told I had to wash in hot salt water and pray to ward off ebola, the message spread like wildfire and most people complied. A Nigerian Pastor is sending over 4,000 vials of his special 'holy water' which will keep everyone safe - I wish he'd send 4,000 bottles of hand sanitiser instead.
It seems that every other day a new rule is imposed: no football, no public gatherings, cinema halls closed, clubs closed, Okada's not permitted from 7pm to 7am, banking hours restricted, local markets to close at 6pm.
Today for the first time I saw people dressed in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - an ambulance  passed me as I headed out of town and the occupants were wearing protective clothing. That made it all just a little bit more real. I heard later that there was a suspected case at the ferry terminal today so perhaps that's where they were going.
I woke up with a headache the other morning and straight away checked if I had a fever - I think I'll go into full panic mode if I get an upset tummy! I got a bit of heat rash and my first thought was....oh-oh, a rash is one of the symptoms.
Many private clinics have closed down now and this week the Ola During Children's Hospital was closed - all patients were sent home, even those that were critically ill. Pharmacies are no longer allowed to offer any treatment to customers. People are scared to go to the hospitals that are still open for fear of catching the virus. The danger is that many people will lose their lives through treatable illnesses either because they are too scared to get treatment or because there is nowhere to go to get treated.
There has been much in the press about an armed group attacking an ebola centre in Liberia. Although it is very tense in the city, so far thank God, it has been peaceful here in Freetown and I pray with all I have that it stays that way.

Waterloo Hospital
Dr Koroma at Waterloo told me about a patient who was admitted with vomiting and diarrhoea - he called all staff into an emergency meeting and went over the dos and don'ts for the umpteenth time on how to deal with the patient. It turned out to be a case of food poisoning, but it certainly put the wind up the staff. The next day the staff told the doctor they thought they should close the hospital - fortunately he was able to convince them to carry on working.
The hospital have prepared an isolation room in case of suspected Ebola patients - if they do get any Ebola patients then anything that goes into that room will have to be destroyed: medical equipment, bedding, BP machines, clothes etc etc. The only thing that will come out are the people.....hopefully.
I received a big donation from friends at Holy Trinity Calgary today which I took straight to the Doctor Koroma to allow them to continue with their preparations in case of Ebola patients. This donation, along with the one I took to the hospital a couple of weeks ago from friends in the UK,  means they are able to properly prepare for Ebola, if it weren't for the donations the hospital has received they would still be trying to cope without even gloves. Thank you doesn't seem enough.....but THANK YOU so much to everyone who has sent donations for the hospital.
Because of the Ebola threat patients are staying away from the hospital - when I visited today only 6 were admitted. No patients means no money for wages and Dr Koroma is very worried about how they will manage to pay the wages this month.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Empty Wards

Here's an update from Doctor Koroma that I received last night:
Hi Alison
How are you doing? 
The crisis is getting more tougher, patients are not coming to the hospital for the fear of the Ebola they only come when it is very critical, so we are having very difficult times in terms of salaries, for the last month salary we manage to pay on the 10th of this month, so my fear is this month since we are having less patients, (the whole hospital we are having 5 patients admitted) so therefore except we will have external help we will not be able to pay salaries. We pray the Lord will intervene for us which I believe He will.
Dr. David Koroma.
Empty Beds
If you feel you can help please let me know

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Hospital Supplies

I recently made an appeal on this blog on behalf of Dr Koroma for donations so that the Waterloo SDA hospital could make preparations in case of suspected Ebola patients. Thank you to the many people that have sent in donations for the hospital
The doctor has asked me to share a couple of photos that show the first lot of purchases made with the donations received so far.
The Doctor and the hospital are very thankful for the donations that have allowed them to begin to make the necessary preparations.
In the last couple of week prices in Sierra Leone have increased - even basic commodities cost more than before. The cost of items like gloves, chlorine, disinfectants and hand sanitizers have risen dramatically.
We are still collecting donations for the hospital as they prepare the hospital in case of Ebola patients - if you would like to make a donation please contact me either on facebook or email 

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Sponsorship Work

This is the time of year when most of the education sponsorship work is done........there is plenty to do all year round, but just before the new school year starts is the busiest time.

We have over 80 students in the scheme and we need them all to be ready to start school at the beginning of September.

For each student we need to have uniforms made, pay their fees, provide text books, provide a bag with school supplies including: ledgers/exercise books, ruler, pens, pencils, rubber, pencil sharpener etc etc.
We will also sit down with each student and their guardian to go over last years school report, to ensure they are attending regularly and identify any areas they might be struggling in.

The BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination) that the students sit at the end of their third year of Junior Secondary School has been postponed this year because schools in parts of the country hit by the health crisis have been closed.

At the moment the WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Examination) which the students take at the end of Senior Secondary school are due to go ahead in September.
We have a few students sitting the WASSCE this year and our hope is that, dependant on their results, we will be able to find them places in training centres......with a view that at the end of this they will be able to find employment. We very much hope that their sponsors will continue to sponsor the students though their training.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Thank You From Dr Koroma

Doctor Koroma asked me to pass on this thank you note for the donations received so far for the hospital to make preparations for the Ebola virus:

"Hello friends,
I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to you all for your great donations, indeed you have shown me that you love and care for me and that you want me to continue to work for God, may you be blessed all. For true the problem we have is a deadly one, many people have died especially in the east where the problem started, we have not got any case yet, but we are making proper preparation because our nearby hospitals have started having suspected cases, so we make sure that we put everything in place in case we might have any suspect.
Once more I would like to say thank you to you all, more update as we go by.
Dr. David Joefrey Koroma."

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated towards this. Please keep praying for the Doctor, his staff and everyone at the hospital.

Sunday 3 August 2014

First Day Back

I arrived back in Sierra Leone last night. The flight was the quietest I’ve ever been on with probably less than 40 passengers and some of them were carrying onto Liberia. The first change was obvious as soon as we got off the plane, we had to wash our hands in a chlorine solution and have our temperature taken, most airport staff were wearing gloves and some were wearing masks and suits.
The next big change is that people aren’t touching – no shaking hands, no hugging…..that is taking some getting used to, but it is good to know that most people are taking this thing seriously…….although I have spoken to a couple of people who think there is no such thing as Ebola, fortunately these are in the minority
I took some gloves to Dr Koroma at Waterloo Hospital today, a couple of days ago the Doctor emailed me to let me know they had run out of gloves at the hospital…..can you imagine trying to prepare a hospital for the possibility of Ebola with no gloves? I had bought a fair few with me so took some up to the hospital this afternoon, hopefully enough to keep the doctor going until he can buy some.
Thank you so much to everyone who has made a donation for the Waterloo Hospital as it prepares for Ebola. I took the first donations to the hospital today….. these will be used to buy gloves, disinfectants, drugs, IV’s etc. The doctor was going out straight away to try to source some gloves.
The hospital has prepared a room to be used as an isolation room if they receive any suspected Ebola cases… thanks to the generous donations we’ve received they can also purchase the items necessary to keep their staff safe and take care of the patients.
There are more donations pledged and still more needed – if you would like to make a donation please let me know.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Back to Freetown

I'm travelling back to Sierra Leone today. I know that a lot of people don't think I should go and won't understand my reasons for going while the country has declared a state of emergency......

I have prayed long and hard about this......Bob and I have spent hours and days talking this over and praying about it......we have decided together that I should go ahead.
My reasons for going are many and varied, but please be assured that this isn't a decision that we have taken lightly.

I am planning to do the most urgent work as quickly as possible then review the situation and decide whether to return to the UK or stay on until  my planned departure (I have to go back to the UK for my niece's wedding)

I know that people will be worried but at this time the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office aren't warning against travel to Sierra Leone in general, just to the areas where Ebola is most prevalent.
Also, in the most recent statement from the WHO (World Health Organisation) they do not recommend any travel or trade restrictions for Sierra Leone

I would, as always, appreciate prayer for myself, the people I work with, the sponsored students and their families,  Doctor Koroma and the hospital at Waterloo and for Sierra Leone as a nation.