Sunday 30 November 2014

Ebola Story - Abu K

This article was written by one of the students who regularly hang out in my office:

By Abu

"First the headline, the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 when an outbreak of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever occurred in Zaire and another later in the same year in Sudan. Each outbreak had about 300 victims, but did not spread much larger than that because of the remoteness of the areas in which they occurred. The Zaire Ebola virus has one of the highest fatality rates of any pathogenic virus affecting humans.

On the 25th March the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the Guinea Ministry Of Heath had reported an outbreak of the Ebola virus in four (4)  of their southern districts, there were also suspected cases in the neighbouring countries Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In March 2014 when the outbreak started in Sierra Leone it first stated in one (1) district called Kailahun District. During that time when the disease enter in to the country people did not believe in the disease because there are so many information about the disease. Some were saying the disease is not real, they are taking the influence that the government of the nation is finding somewhere to raise money, some are taking the disease as politics, others are saying  the disease is from cows not rom human beings.

In August and September when high rate of deaths started occurring 70% of Sierra Leoneans believed and 30% still did not believe, some were saying during these months we were experiencing a disease called cholera and typhoid fever that was the main reason why some were not believing in the Ebola virus. The signs shown for Ebola virus is similar to the signs of cholera and typhoid fever. During the same month the government of Sierra Leone, UNICEF WHO and some other organisations in Sierra Leone and the world came together to fight against the Ebola virus.

Really, the Ebola outbreak has made things difficult in our country Sierra Leone. The disease has made business places, and companies not to function well and even affect educational  institutions like schools and universities. The education background in our country is not too good as compared to the olden days, the virus has stopped children going to school, like me, I'm supposed to be now at SSS4, I should have been now preparing to sit my WASSCE examinations.

Thank God my life is still existing, lets pray that the Ebola virus will leave our country Sierra Leone and the world as a whole."

Saturday 29 November 2014

Ebola Story - Ibrahim B

I asked some students to write an article or story about Ebola and how it affected them and their country, it could be factual or fictional, statistical or about life. With their permission I am going to share some of their stories........
This one is written by Ibrahim B
By Ibrahim
"At first it was just a rumour, our people could not believe it because they have never seen or heard anything about Ebola. Some say it is a curse, for others it's a witch sign. As for me, anything is possible.
Ebola entered Sierra Leone in the early month of March but was not taken seriously. It then spreads gradually until it becomes a national concern, seeing our politicians action it was of no serious concern. It then turns into an international issue.
Unluckily for us, the school going pupils, it is a big blow because school wouldn't reopen until further notice. Being at home doing nothing is the same as babysitting, it was really boring missing the fun you get at school. But it all became worse when our President decided to close all social activities. During this period life sucks and it was like being in jail.
The worst part of it was hearing the number of confirmed cases increasing drastically. My face was full of pain.
One day I was home listening to the radio as usual when I saw an ambulance passing and park just a few meter (40m) from our house. At first I thought they were out of fuel or something, but suddenly I saw four men dressed up like astronaut ready to enter a rocket. They entered the compound and bought out a sick man, entered the ambulance and left. It was agonies I was in my house for four days without stepping my feet outside, I was panicked and cannot trust anyone. The compound was later quarantined for 21 days and then everything was ok. Just imagine how much days I was indoors, four plus twenty one days, that's twenty five days indoors and my only friend was my family which I can't trust hundred percent because they go out there and return in the evening. But really the month of Ebola was a sad month and it's still a sad month because Ebola is still killing people out there, lets just hope it gets better."

Friday 28 November 2014

RIP Zainabu

Sadly King George have lost another resident - Zainabu.
She was a lovely, friendly lady who loved a good natter.......but she didn't like having her photo taken so I have no photo to remember her by.
She wasn't a lover of crowds, preferring to get to know people one to one, so she rarely joined in with group activities. If you visited the ladies ward, she was in the corner bed on the right hand side and I'm sure you will remember her. She had limited mobility and rarely left the ward.......but when there were visitors to the ward she would always call them over to say hello.
May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Thursday 27 November 2014

RIP Mr Dore

Ah, I'm so old friend Mr Charles Dore has passed away. He was a long term resident at the King George VI Home for the Elderly. If you have ever visited the home with me I'm sure you will remember him.
In the old days when the home was based in Kissy and we had our team house in their compound he and his friend and sparring partner Mr Roberts would come and talk to our teams about their lives and later he would play his guitar and Mr Roberts would play his harmonica and they would sing to us.....we joined in where we could. He never seemed to have the right number of strings on his guitar, but he could still get a tune out of it - I've lost count of the number of times people sent new strings for him.
Mr Dore had been sick in recent times - it was thought he had prostate cancer and he was hospitalised numerous times in 2013. Many times we thought we were going to lose him, even the doctor was amazed when he kept bouncing back.
More recently he had seemed well and he passed away peacefully.
Even though he was well into his 80's he quite enjoyed his stays in the hospital as it gave him the chance to flirt with the nurses.....who all loved him of course.
He would tell people I was his daughter. He was a great talker and I loved our chats, he had a great sense of humour too and he could always make me laugh. He was such an interesting man who'd lived  long and varied life. I'm going to miss him. Rest in peace my old friend. Goodnight my Sierra Leonean Papa xxx

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Mr K is Ebola Free!

I recently posted about Mr K, the father of one of our sponsored students.  Mr K was quite sick and had been tested for Ebola.

Thank heavens the test result was negative! Mr K was treated for his ailment and he's been discharged from hospital. He's still a little weak, but he's recovering at home.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Access Criteria

Here's the access criteria for the 12 Bed Ebola Facility at Kerry Town for heathcare workers and foreigners:

The good news is that if I get Ebola I can be treated there. The bad news is most of the Sierra Leonean medical people that I know are not working in UK funded centres so they won't be able to be treated there.
This is going to be a disappointment to healthcare workers not working in UK funded centres.
**This only relates to the 12  bed facility in Kerry Town intended specifically for healthcare workers and international staff.......not the main 80 bed treatment centre at the same location.

Ebola Statistics - More Info Needed

I read the daily Ebola statistics for Sierra Leone released by the Ministry of Heath and Sanitation, and I appreciate the information they are sharing on a daily basis.
Like many others I watch the number of confirmed cases each day rise and fall and rise again. Yesterday it dawned on me that these numbers really aren't informative unless we also know the number of samples that are tested or the number of negative results each day also.
Yesterday there were 39 new confirmed cases - which is lower than it has been for some time.......but what I would really like to know is how many people were tested, or how many negative results were received for the same period. 39 sounds like an improvement......but what if it was a slow day in the labs and only 39 tests were performed......that would be a 100% infection rate on the samples tested........on the other hand if 400 tests were performed we would be looking at a less than 10% infection rate.
On the days we have 90 or more new confirmed cases, our hearts sink because the number is so high........but how many are tested on those days 100? 200? 1000? It could be that on those days there are more tests carried out making the infection rate seem higher.......perhaps the number of tests that return negative results is higher still........
We need more information so we can see the whole picture.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Student D and Mr K

Up until now Ebola has felt quite remote from me, I've made adjustments in my day to day life such as avoiding body contact, continuously washing and sanitising my hands, not visiting hospitals, taking the temperature of people who I spend time with etc.....but the only people that I knew personally who had contracted it were medical health workers who had treated a patient with Ebola and a local Imam who had performed burial rights........that has changed now, I suppose with the high number of cases being confirmed each day it is inevitable that more people I know will be affected
Student D
One of our students 'D' went to visit family upline - his Aunt was due to give birth and he was excited to see his family, who he hadn't seen for some time, and to meet the newest addition to the family.

When he arrived his aunt was in labour, she was also quite poorly. The baby died during childbirth and the mother died the next day. The authorities were called and they suspected Ebola, the bodies were quickly taken away and buried.

The family house was quarantined for 21 days. For 21 days they had to stay in the house and rely on people bringing them food in order to survive. Fortunately no-one else in the family got sick and D is now back in Freetown.

Mr K
One of our sponsored boys came to see me to ask for help - he was tying to raise some money to send for his father in the provinces who is sick.

Another family member had arrived yesterday morning with the news that Mr K was sick, he had been vomiting blood. He's been admitted to hospital and we're waiting for his test results.
The visiting family member was going to sleep in his car last night - just in case - and he returned to the provinces this morning with a little money that I was able to give them
Please pray for Mr K and student D and their families

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Numbers 6:24-26

"The Lord bless you and keep you,
  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you,
 The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26
If we are friends on Facebook you will know that I'm having a tough week. Three people that I know have passed away......a child, a man in the prime of his life, and an older person. None of them had Ebola, although if it were not for Ebola they may not have died - many hospitals are closed, those that are open some people are scared to go to in case they are mistaken for an Ebola patient or in case they are exposed to Ebola. People are dying because they are unable to get medical treatment. I don't know if they would have survived if there was no Ebola here - but I do believe they would at least have had a fighting chance.
I was pondering all this tonight when this passage came to me - it feels almost as if it were written just for me. When I go to bed tonight I will still be sad, desperately sad.......but I will also be surrounded with Gods love and filled with His peace.

Sunday 16 November 2014

New Ebola Holding/Treatment Centre - Waterloo

Back in September the AHS Hospital at Waterloo was closed and quarantined for 21 days after admitting a patient who later tested positive for Ebola. The patient later died. Three of the hospital staff who had close contact with the patient contracted Ebola from her......2 nurses passed away and the other, a lab technician, survived.
Since the end of the quarantine the hospital has remained closed. The Government ordered that it should be opened as a holding centre for Ebola patients. There was an unfinished ward in the compound (started by Mission Direct) and the government decided they would complete the building to increase the hospital capacity as a holding centre.
As the work to ready the hospital progressed it was decided that it would also serve as a treatment centre for Ebola.
I was invited to pay a visit to the centre before it opens - I hardly recognised the place! They now have solar lighting, plenty of water tanks and a new well - so no more water shortages, and two big generators that I'm told were donated by the British.
It was quite eerie being inside the hospital with no staff or patients (when I visited during quarantine the staff were all there)
Here are some photos:

The main entrance is now in the 'Red Zone'

Each of the existing wards will accommodate 6 patients (Red Zone)

Outside area for Ebola patients

The new ward (Red Zone)

A single room with toilet in the new building (Red Zone)

This is where patients will await their diagnosis (all air conditioned!!)

Newly built offices

Newly built offices

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Remembrance Day Service 2014

I felt honoured to be invited to the Remembrance Day Service held on Sunday 9th November at the Cenotaph in Freetown.

Due to the National State of Emergency that Sierra Leone is currently under public gatherings are banned, but the President gave special permission for the Service to go ahead to show his respect and support of the armed forces. It was a very good service, as well as paying respect to people lost in WW1 and WW2, respects were also paid to people lost during the Rebel War and during this current ebola crisis.

During the 2 minutes silence the only sound was the distant wail of ebola ambulances - a stark reminder of the current problems the country is facing.

His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma - President of SL

My Experience of Ebola

Since the Ebola outbreak I've read quite a few blogs by people here in Sierra Leone - my experience differs quite a lot to what I am reading in other people blogs. I've also seen and read a lot in the media and what I'm seeing here is vastly different to what people are seeing on TV and in newspapers in the UK.

A lot of the blogs I'm reading are by medical people - so that's a major difference for a start, they are here to help people affected with Ebola.....while part of the reason I'm here it to help people not to get it.

I've not really had any first hand experience of Ebola, four people that I know have contracted it - two survived and two passed away, but I had no contact with them while they had the virus.

I've read in some blogs that all bars and restaurants are closed - that's not true, some have closed yes, but by no means all of them. I don't know if organisations are telling their people that the bars and restaurants are closed to prevent them from venturing out....but these places that have remained open could really do with some support and customers!

The news I was seeing while I was in the UK would have people believe that there are dead bodies on every street corner.......well I live on the east side of the capital, Freetown, and I've not seen one dead body abandoned in the street - I pray it stays that way.

Obviously a lot of the media coverage is showing the Ebola centres and I have no experience of them whatsoever - what I see is everyday life, family life, people trying to get by - life for a lot of the families I work with was a struggle before Ebola - now it's almost impossible.

For me the biggest change and challenge is the no touching rule - it's so difficult to get used to the ABC rule.....Avoid Body Contact - it's not natural and it feels very isolating.  I quickly got used to the continuous hand washing....and I always smell of either chlorine or dettol.

For me just feeling slightly off colour is enough to make me go over and over any possible contact I might have had with people which could have unwittingly exposed me to the virus - I'm sure this is the same for a lot of people. I have a headache today - most probably because I'm a little dehydrated, or because I've been working on the computer and I've not fully admitted to myself yet that I need glasses. In normal times I would just take some tablets and brush it of, but now I'm checking my temperature every couple of hours just in case.
I know that I've not been exposed to EVD......I don't touch people, I'm always washing my hands with chlorinated water and using hand sanitiser, I've not been around anyone who is sick, I've defiantly not had contact with a corpse........but all the same I'll be relieved when this headache is gone.

When I ask people what is the worst thing for them personally about the Ebola outbreak the main answers I get is lack of money for food and the schools and colleges being closed. The worst thing for me about it is seeing people I care about struggle and knowing that I can't help them all.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Ebola Ambulances

There's a new thing in Sierra Leone - the Ebola Ambulance......
It used to be that the only time a siren was heard was if a vehicle was carrying a corpse........nowadays if you hear a siren you know it's an Ebola Ambulance
It gave me quite a jolt the first time I saw one......the driver and passenger both wearing white hooded suits and masks.......unfortunately now it's become an everyday occurrence.

When  a siren is heard people stop for a second to try to judge how close it is........then say 'Ebola' then carry on with what they were doing. If you happen to be driving and hear a siren you give way quick! I have seen a few parked outside residences, picking up patients or corpses.....they always draw a crowd - who stand and watch the proceedings from what they consider to be a safe distance.
During the 2 minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday the only sound to be heard was the Ebola ambulance sirens in the background - it was quite chilling.

Imagine how scary it must be if you or someone you love is sick and one of these ambulances comes - these strange looking people turn up covered head to toe with hooded suits, masks, gloves, goggles. The sick are put in the back of one of these ambulances and whizzed off - that could be the last time the family see the person who is sick if they succumb to the virus.
A couple of months ago we might hear one or two of these ambulances a it's many many more - there are more ambulances in the country now - but there is also more Ebola
Where I was in the UK recently for a few weeks it took me a while to get used to hearing sirens again without saying to myself "Ebola" 

Monday 10 November 2014

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is discord, harmony
Where there is error, truth
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

This is one of my favourite prayers and I was so pleased to see these words in the program for the Remembrance Day Service in Sierra Leone....I was also very moved when the military band played the music for the hymn 'Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace'

Saturday 8 November 2014

Children of the Blind

These children are all guides for blind family members, their days are spent leading their family member and begging on the streets of Freetown - they don't have the opportunity to go to school because looking after their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle is a fulltime job.
Look at their faces, look at their eyes.....there must be something we can do to help them. Please join me in prayer that the Lord will guide us in finding a way to help them.


** Apologies if you are looking at this one a phone - I just can't get the photos to line up correctly for the mobile version.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"
Jeremiah 29:11

I love this passage, one of the Mission Direct volunteers shared it in devotions way back in 2010 and I've gone back to it many times since then (Thank you J if you are reading!!)
I think God every day that the plans He has for me have bought me to Sierra Leone.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Rice Distribution for the Blind

We have recently started distributing rice to some of the blind beggars of Freetown. They are really struggling at the moment as most people just don't have any spare money to give to them. They have no way of earning any money and so rely on whatever little is given to them.
We started with just a few, but it has grown quite quickly - last Friday we shared rice with 49 of the blind beggars and their families. We had shared out all the rice for the day - 600kg-  with the 48 that turned up, about 5 minutes after sharing the last of the rice a straggler wandered in.......oh dear, we felt so sorry for him but what could we do, all the rice had gone. He went away quite happy with the remains of our compound rice!!
We plan to continue with the rice distribution until this crisis is over.
If you feel this is something you are able to help with, donations can be made using the donate button at the top of this page.
Here are some of our blind friends: