Wills Eye Global Mission Sierra Leone (week two)
By John Anhalt MD
Wills Eye Global Mission, Sierra Leone (Week Two)
Week 2: “Blessed are the flexible for they do not get bent out of shape”
I had a mentor in medical school who taught me that phrase and over the years it has become the centerpiece to my limited repertoire of sage advice and mantras. This past year it has become increasingly relevant and, to say the least, no day here was routine. There was always something: the operating microscope falls down, the electricity goes out mid-case, slit-lamp bulbs burnout and the list of minor annoyances continues however there’s always a solution and by the end of the day each patient is evaluated.
This is in thanks to entire team based in Serabu who makes this clinic possible. The technicians, the nurses, the maintenance team, cooks and everyone who can contribute whatever they can to be of help. Sometimes this means running to the next town to pick up a lightbulb or taking turns fanning the fire for the pressurized sterilization canister. One individual who particularly stood out was 70+ year-old man from Serabu named Paul. He could fix anything from cars to phacoemulsification machines I’ve seen him take apart the most complex instruments and put it back together within hours. Nothing is thrown away or wasted, there no option to simply “buy another” when something is broken. The ingenuity and creativity arising from each challenge has been remarkable to observe.
Over the past two weeks, each day has been filled with ups and downs but no matter how challenging the day was it always ends and team walks home together. Evenings are filled with delicious meals prepared by our wonderful chef and family friend of Dr. Cathy and Tom, Bintu, and we share stories about our lives and past trips. On night, Tom even generously shared his never-fail-to-impress-a-crowd card trick which I’ve now practiced on my own several times. The next morning the cycle repeats starting with examining the post-operative patients from the previous day. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of the day. The eyepatches are removed and the results are unveiled. It’s difficult to summarize into words the joy and fulfillment this outreach brings to these patients and our team but perhaps a few of the attached photos will help (all pictures taken with permission of the patient). From here I move on to Kigali where I will spend several weeks working as a trainer with the residency program.