This is the final post about a medical mission to bring ob-gyn care to the women of Sierra Leone.
From Dr. Nina Seigelstein:
This recent trip to Sierra Leone has been my fourth GYN mission to West Africa and my third to Sierra Leone. From what I have been told, these missions have been the only trips made by a gynecologist to this region in Sierra Leone ... ever.
Each time I go I am filled with excitement, hope and optimism that we will be making a difference with our work and good will.
Each trip has become physically and mentally more arduous, to the extent that while I’m trapped in the endless, exhausting, hot, dusty, and cramped 30-hour journey, I promise myself this is the last time; it’s too hard to keep going back. I can’t do it anymore.
The abject poverty and its consequences in Sierra Leone are simply too overwhelming and present problems that are seemingly insurmountable even in 50 years' time.
From a surgical standpoint, the post op care is too poor and precarious at best; the staffing shortages are too severe and beyond precarious. The cultural divide too wide.
And yet, I keep going back.
Why? All it takes is one moment of connection with a patient whom we have helped.
I’m a big sucker … all they have to do is simply smile and say, “Thanks God,” and I know I’ll be back. Because without these mission trips, these women would keep on suffering as there is literally, no one else to tend to their GYN care.
Over a time period of about seven years, I have been developing One World Women’s Health with this concept foremost- the idea that we can make a positive, sustainable impact on women’s healthcare in Sierra Leone … even when we’re not there.
And how do we do this- by developing relationships with reliable partners like Dr. Patrick Turay, Tom Johnson, Francess Fornah (Midwifery School Director) and working 365 days a year to get people here in the U.S. to care about the women’s lives there in Sierra Leone.
One World Women’s Health, together with our partners in Sierra Leone, is building a maternity ward at Holy Spirit Hospital; it’s not just a dream anymore …. it’s really happening. We have definite plans in place to staff the ward with qualified midwives newly graduated from the Midwifery School in Makeni, just down the road. With improvements in Labor and Delivery, we should see not only a significant decrease in mothers’ lives lost in childbirth, but also a decrease in later sequelae such as prolapse and fistulae.
We are breaking ground on our maternity ward in the next few months.
So now as I slowly recover from our trip, I once again find myself renewed and more deeply invested both emotionally and practically in working to create sustainable change for women in Sierra Leone. I hope you’ll help me with this. Please visit my Web site, to learn more.
From Dr. Michael Karoly:
For me, past medical missions have been surgical strikes resulting in life-changing results for the patients.
Although similar, this mission to Sierra Leone has been different.
This mission is about Nina's relentless pursuit in changing how things are done in a third world country; her energy, determination and commitment to this project, beyond amazing.
One in eight pregnancies in Sierra Leone end in the mother’s death from an obstetric complication. Through fund raising, Nina's efforts will come to fruition in the building of a maternity ward for Holy Spirit Hospital.
Although the mission is still about changing women's lives, it is more about one woman, Dr. Nina Seigelstein, who is changing a city (Makeni), and possibly influencing a change in maternal mortality in a country (Sierra Leone).
For me, the essence of this mission is about Nina Seigelstein changing the world ... talk about making a difference.
From Inger Nielsen:
I thought I came prepared for the poverty of this country and the lack of basic amenities but there is nothing like being in the country and experiencing it to really understand how poor the country truly is. Yet the people of Sierra Leone speak of how much the country had changed for the better.
During my visit to a Community Health Post in Kagbanah, located in a truly rural area about an hour drive from Makeni, accompanied by two midwifery students, I saw women who were happy to come and receive prenatal care and mothers with young babies getting well check-ups.
Midwifery school graduates have the educational background to reduce the appalling maternal and childhood death rates, the Sierra Leone women are willing to get the help, but there’s practically nowhere with basic building structures for the midwives to go and use their skills.
The fund raising for the maternity ward through One World Women’s Health is so desperately needed. The midwives from the Midwifery School will be staffing the maternity ward. One World Women’s Health and its supporters have already made a huge difference in many women’s lives and their families and we are back from the trip with ideas for what more we can do.
The goal for our January trip was to do gynecological surgeries, to connect with the new Makeni Midwifery School, and to work on outreach. We did all that and more.
Last notes from Janine:
Picture this … you have no money and you really need an life-changing operation.
Picture this … the only person in the world that can help you makes a 30-hour journey to take care of you.
Picture this … you do not speak this doctor’s language.
Picture this … you place yourself in this person’s hands and trust everything will work out.
Picture this … You recover and get on with your life.
Pulling from a quote I used many years ago, I feel it is just as appropriate today, for and about this mission.
Will Smith was interviewed on the Oprah show following the debut of the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. Will said he felt especially connected to his character because he's a father himself. "It feels the same way that I felt with Nelson Mandela," Will says. "Like when I met Nelson Mandela and there's this weird thing that washes over you of how small you are. But at the same time, how big you could be."
How appropriate his words, “How small you are … how big you could be.”
This mission’s accomplishments may seem small in numbers, but the comfort, care and commitment to the Sierra Leones is just about as big as it gets.
Please visit oneworldwomenshealth.org. Your donations are appreciated.