Thursday, July 30, 2009

Leaving Something Behind

Waiting for us in Porto Novo today was this:
It is completely impossible to work through the seemingly endless mass of patients. I have no idea where they keep coming from, but in the last few weeks the crowds in Porto Novo have been growing. 
So.  The schedule for eye surgery on the ship is completely booked for the duration of our stay in Benin. What happens to all these people after the ship leaves? Are we leaving ANYTHING behind?
Well, Yes. Let me tell you about it.
The bright green card pictured above is an appointment card for Cataract surgery at Porto Novo Hospital. The head of the Ophthalmologic Department there has spent some weeks onboard with our head eye surgeon receiving hands on training in a sort of mini surgical fellowship. She has become quite good at the procedure and will no doubt be the catalyst that the costal regions of Benin need to move forward in he realm of Eye Surgery. She has agreed to perform 200 Cataract surgeries on patients screened by us in our Porto Novo Clinic. 
All we have to do is screen them, and provide the equipment and supplies. What does this mean, you ask? This means that Benin now has a competent eye surgeon who the public can Trust. The 200 free surgeries are a start... and when the patients experience positive surgical outcomes... the public will hear about it... and then they will head to Gran Hospital de Porto-Novo for their surgery. Building confidence in local facilities means leaving behind something long term that is not dependent on external resources. I think this is probably the single most important thing that we have done here. This is what is going to count 1o years from now.
Entrance to Porto Novo Hospital:
This is the face people give me when the clinic s full and I can't receive any more patients:
Now, take this woman's face and multiply that by 300... and add a few crying babies like this:
And you will see why I am really excited to be LEAVING SOMETHING BEHIND THAT WILL LAST.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tragedy Strikes the Africa Mercy

Last week, something very serious happened onboard.

I ran out of Marmite.

You may think this is a joke, but this is no small matter. Marmite is a very critical part of my day. Without Marmite on toast for breakfast, the whole system breaks down. Nothing works the same, and the outlook of the day/week/month/year is very grim.
Miraculously the dining room has produced one container of Australian Vegemite. Though not Marmite, this container of Vegemite has been an appropriate substitute for the last few days and has prevented the deaths of many crew aboard the Africa Mercy. 

I received a much welcomed email yesterday from Mercy Ships New Zealand informing me that a certain young woman will be joining the ship in Cotonou at the end of the month and is more than happy to provide me with my very own supply of Marmite. That was a close call. I almost left early.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lunis et Vendredis a Maison du Peuple de Cotonou II

Today was our first day at a new location: Maison Du Peuple de Cotonou II. The need for this new location has become increasingly apparent due to the security issues at Ganhi, and the road conditions on the way to our Friday clinic at Avotrou in Akpakpa. 
Maison Du Peuple is just off of the main road in Cotonou and provides a safe and central location for the Eye Field Team to do their work.

It is a large facility with plenty of room to keep all of our patients inside and out of the rain.

Pictured here is the front door...with Willy and Moise getting the patients registered and ready for a Visual Acuity examination.
This kid showed up and wanted his picture taken...

Needs some smiling lessons I think :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Le Weekend. (Google it. That's really how you say "The Weekend" in French.)

Every six weeks, the crew are given a 3 day weekend. This time it fell on the 4th of July, and I decided to head over to Ghana for the weekend with some friends... We left Cotonou at about 3pm Friday in a taxi along with 3 random people. 
Our destination was just on the other side of the Volte River which you can see labeled just below the word GHANA in the center of the map above. It looks quite close on the map, but it took us about 9 hours of travels to get there...
...but worth it, don't you think?
We stayed in small bungalows on the beach...serenaded by the waves (and bothered by large lizards unfortnately) I watched this guy fishing for a while. See the bungalows in the background...
On the way back, we paddled across the Volte River. It took a little longer than we expected...
No one paddling looks very happy in this picture...I don't seem to mind though. 
In Togo we stayed at Le Galion Hotel in Lome...
Now Back to WORK! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sunset over the Port of Cotonou (Again)

Sometimes the sunsets are... like this.