Mission Possible: Homeward Bound

Inger brought along a travel guide for Western Africa. Found a reference to Makeni that said, "Doesn't warrant a stop."

Janine Karoly of is blogging from Sierra Leone where she has accompanied her husband, an ob-gyn, as part of a medical mission to the West African country where the life expectancy is about 40 and women have a one-in-eight chance of not surviving a pregnancy.

(This is the last of a series of five blog posts from Africa.)

Jan. 14-15 (Saturday and Sunday)

Michael's residency director and mentor, Dr. James Breen, once said, "Until you've done something for nothing, you haven't done anything at all."

Our last day in Makeni.  Sunday we head to London for the friggin' long journey home.

Two surgeries are planned for Saturday morning. Three more patients show up that will not get care.

Random thoughts:

Inger brought along a travel guide for Western Africa. Found a reference to Makeni that said, "Doesn't warrant a stop."  

Danielle dropped her Purell on the floor of the OR and had to get a Purell to "Purell" her Purell.

Tom brings us cookies from the Makeni market called Kill-Drivers, very similar to shortbread.  Supposedly, a truck driver eating one while driving and was so overcome with the deliciousness that he drove off the road, hit a tree, and died.

The only time we've seen mosquitoes is in the OR.

We leave the hospital compound to walk around the community, escorted.  

Heard in the OR, "We're going to take the baby carriage and leave the playpen."

Overheard in the OR, "She's (patient) young, she still needs to do the business with the men."

Danielle has developed an excellent African accent that sounds just like Gianpiero.

Gianpiero:  I see a lot of blind people here.  Tom Johnson: They don't see you.

One last vignette: Marie is about 70 years old.  She delivered, by herself, 12 children … six are living.  She comes to Holy Spirit seeking surgical treatment for a complete prolapse … let me tell you, this is visually DRAMATIC.  (All week I'm doing kegels. Hahahahaha)  She has the most amazing character in her face.  One cannot imagine the mental obstacles to come for care.  In life, she is a class act.

One more:  Fanta seeks care for  a recto vaginal fistula.  She delivered her baby on the side of the road during the wars.  'nough said.

Shout out to my knitsters:  I brought knitting needles, yarn, and printed directions with the intention of teaching some children to knit.  The opportunity came to me via Amadu's daughter.  He brought her to our compound one day after school.  In less than one hour, she was able to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off her work !!!!!! She watched me knit for about one minute and literally, was reaching over to take the needles from my hand.  I asked her if she EVER had done this, the answer, "No." Later in the week, I asked Amadu if she is knitting, his answer, "Before school, after school, whenever she can. She has taught a friend and some aunts." Yippee!

Michael and I will spend two nights in London before our trip over the pond.  The rest of the team will be home by Monday.

Photos and videos when I return.

Thanks for all the e-mails … you have no idea how comforting it was/is to hear from home.

Huge thanks to Amy for her attention and time … xxoo.

See you stateside,


This is the fifth in a series of blog posts documenting the medical mission to Sierra Leone and the effort to bring a maternity ward to its northern region that is home to 1.7 million people and no ob-gyns. To make a donation to help One World Women's Health build a maternity ward in Sierra Leone, click here.

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