Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mardis: Ganhi

On Tuesdays we have a clinic in Ganhi, approximately 2 km from the Port of Cotonou. Last Tuesday, we were accompanied by a photographer from the ship, Deb. Deb kindly took a great deal of photos, some of which I will share with you here. 

The crowd was quite feisty last Tuesday, but Robert knows what to say...

I have learned a few important phrases in the local dialect from Robert. "Ay-o" means "No", "Minotay" means "Wait"... the most important of all, "YI RA ME!!" means "Get in the back of the line!!"
Notice the hand going for my left arm... my mobile phone was stolen on this particular Tuesday... I need to keep keep my eyes open while distributing tickets in the crowd...

I distribute tickets to the elderly and blind because they are unable to wait in line like the rest of the patients. One thing I have noticed lately are people pretending to be either blind or extremely old and unable to walk. Robert and I have come up with a few little tricks to test the legitimacy of one's claim to blindness/age. I'll share the tricks with you when you get here. 

This is very serious buisness... :)

Does the megaphone help, you ask? No, not really...it's just there for looks.

Some of you may be wondering why I have chosen to post my pictures here in Black & White. I find that when I convert the pictures to black & white, and adjust the contrast... it is more difficult to see exactly who the people in the crowd are. I do this mainly because I do not have consent from these people to invade their privacy and post pictures of them all over the internet. Any portraits I post on this blog have been taken with consent, and I therefore have no qualms about sharing them with you.
For example, these two young gents waltzed into the clinic and were overjoyed to have their picture taken:

Africans treat the elderly with a great deal of respect. Words like Sir and Madam are seldom used, though. They prefer to address them as Papa or Mama. "Papacheh" (my father) and "Ee-Ach-eh" (my mother)... are two words I have grown accustomed to using.

I hope you enjoyed the photographs. Many thanks to Deb for the ones in which I am pictured... Until next time, Au revoir!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Porto Novo

On Thursdays, the Ophthalmic Field Team travels to Porto Novo Hospital. Porto Novo is about a 45 minute drive from Cotonou and is Benin's Capital city. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porto-Novo 
The crowd at our Porto Novo clinic is notorious for being a tad rowdy, and today was no exception. It is difficult to capture them all in one frame, but here is my attempt:
This Clinic is run in the same fashion as Godomey...children first, then the elderly and totally blind, then the general population. Pictured here is Robert (left), my right hand man and translator, trying to control the angry crowd:

For some reason, the women are much less compliant than the men. They push, shove, scream, slap, punch, and mob. The men are generally well-behaved, keeping themselves in nice straight lines.
 Here you see Robert in between the lines, distributing numbered tickets:

I met a young lady who claims to be 100 years of age. I am not sure whether or not this is true, but she was a sweetheart and was very happy to be scheduled for cataract surgery:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Godomey: Lundis

On Mondays, we run an ophthalmic clinic at Godomey. 
Here is the entrance:

The children are seen first, followed by the blind and elderly. Then numbered tickets are distributed in an attempt to maintain order....

Patients being registered by one of my Beninoise day volunteers:

After registration and a brief medical history, patients take a visual acuity test:

After the Visual Acuity exam, patients spend a few minutes with our Ophthalmic Specialist. Said specialist is a british man we shall call Bob. "Bob" doesn't like having his picture taken, and has therefore been omitted from the visual representations here. Regardless of said Bob's quirks, he does an excellent job at diagnosing, treating, and referring patients for a great many diseases and conditions. It is no lie to say that without Sir Bob, the Ophthalmic Field Team would cease to operate as we know it.

Glaucoma, cataracts, pterygia, and strabismus are the most common conditions we are routinely faced with. Some of these conditions require medical treatment and others require surgical intervention. The medical patients are given medicine, or referred to a capable local facility for further treatment. The surgical patients come to my table for scheduling.
The empty chair is where I sit:

I couldn't convince anyone at the time to take a picture with me in it, so I tried taking one of myself: (this actually provides you with a nice view of the scheduling table...my head is in the bottom right corner)
Many apologies for the delay in writing... I have been busy.

More later...