Mercy Hospital's mobile outreach team was scheduled to visit Fengehun village last Thursday to provide health care services such as malnutrition screening, prenatal examinations, malaria testing and treatment, and HIV testing. Unfortunately, the team was met with a road block, making it impossible to drive the ambulance all the way to the village. So they got out of the ambulance and walked, carrying all the equipment needed to provide care to the village. That's dedication!
Catherine, aged 50, came to the hospital with classic malaria symptoms of malaise, anorexia, headache, body pain, and vomiting. She was treated with intravenous drugs and rehydration, and discharged in satisfactory condition within a few days. Sierra Leone has one of the highest burdens of malaria in the world, according to UNICEF. The country's entire population is at risk of the disease and it is one of Sierra Leone’s leading causes of death and illness. Malaria is the reason behind nearly four in ten hospital consultations countrywide. Through in-hospital treatment and village outreach, Mercy Hospital treats hundreds of children and adults for severe malaria infection every month.
Sierra Leone ranks 21st in the world for deaths due to road accidents, so it's not surprising that many Mercy Hospital patients are victims of traffic injuries. The main mode of transportation are the ubiquitous "okadas" or hired motorcycles, which are often involved in serious and sometimes fatal accidents. Lansana was brought to Mercy Hospital by his family after the okada he hired collided with another. The bike rode over his ankle and he was bleeding profusely when he arrived. The surgical team repaired the damaged tissues and mobilized his foot. He was released to his family in satisfactory condition. "Words cannot express my gratitude to the team for saving my foot," Lansana said. "To God be all praises and honor."
Dr. Aruna Stevens says that the most prevalent condition he sees at Mercy is metabolic disease, which he believes is caused by poor diet and lack of health information among a predominantly poor and illiterate population (read more in our Summer 2020 Magazine.) Agnes, aged 60, had already been diagnosed with hypertension, but came to the hospital because of sudden weight loss, frequent urination, and increased thirst, indicating diabetes. Mercy's health education department prescribed medication, diet and exercise, and she was discharged with normal glucose. "I have always counted on the hospital for their professionalism," Agnes said.
Hawa was suffering from severe abdominal pain and distention, as well as difficulty breathing. She was diagnosed with hepatomegaly, or enlarged liver. She received medication to reduce liver toxicity, as well as a blood transfusion. She was discharged with instructions on lifestyle change to improve her health. Hepatomegaly is another metabolic disease that is commonly seen at Mercy Hospital, typically caused by severe malaria, chronic hepatitis or alcohol abuse.
Salamatu, aged 24 and in late term pregnancy, came to the hospital with a high fever. She was examined by the midwife on duty and admitted. She was diagnosed with a severe malaria infection and given drug treatment. Much improved, Salamatu was discharged to await the onset of labor, with the encouragement to always sleep under a treated mosquito net. "I'm pleased with the care I received and glad I entrusted myself to Mercy," Salamatu said.
Malaria is endemic in Sierra Leone and is one of the leading causes of maternal death. Children under five are also highly susceptible to infection, illness and death from malaria. The disease contributes to close to twenty percent of child mortality. Malaria is caused by five species of single-cell parasites that are transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes.
Sia was very late in her pregnancy when she came to the hospital with slight bleeding. An ultrasound scan revealed placenta previa (placenta covering the opening of the cervix) necessitating an emergency caesarian section. Sia's healthy baby boy was quickly delivered and she received a unit of blood. Mother and baby were fine at discharge. "Thank you for saving both of our lives, especially my precious baby," Sia told the Mercy surgical team.
Placenta previa is not that common in Sierra Leone, and the cause is not well known, but contributing factors can include maternal age over 35, more than four pregnancies, or a history of uterine surgery. Surgery was necessary to save both the life of Sia and her baby.
On outreach to Mahuama village, the Mercy team encountered Apea, a severely malnourished infant whose mother had died in labor. Having no money to provide for the child, the caregiver brought tiny Apea to the community health post where the CHO Ishmael diagnosed the child with malaria and malnutrition.
Apea was treated for malaria and enrolled in Mercy's nutrition program. Matron Augusta gave the caregiver baby clothes, diapers and blankets, and instructed her how to feed the baby "pikin mix," Mercy's prescribed nutritional supplementation, similar to Plumpy'nut. The caregiver was given a supply of pikin mix to feed the baby and a return date for the nutrition clinic.
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition, caused primarily by extreme poverty. Fighting early childhood malnutrition is one of Mercy Hospital's primary missions, graduating approximately 25 now-healthy infants and toddlers from the program each month.
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