Five-year-old Joseph Lahai was brought to Mercy Hospital to be treated for malaria and a respiratory infection. “We came to Mercy because I had been before and had gotten good care here," his mother Baby Song says. "I am so happy that Mercy is in existence and always willing to help.” If not for Mercy, this mother would not have been able to afford treatment for her little boy, who survived and is well on his way to recovery.
Mohamed Khadar and Ismael Vandy, members of Mercy Hospital's outreach team, were on a community mapping exercise to understand the needs in some of the villages reached by Mercy when they intervened to save the life of a woman who had just given birth to a stillborn baby.
The woman had given birth in her village and was walking the four miles to Kassama to seek medical treatment at the Maternal Child Health Post (MCHP). As she was walking, the woman began hemorrhaging and sought shelter in a hut by the side of the road. When Mohamed and Ismael encountered her, she was lying in a pool of blood and quickly losing consciousness. Mohamed immediately began treatment to stop the uterine bleeding and sent for help, which certainly saved the woman's life.
This story is far from typical for women giving birth in villages without MCHPs. The Sierra Leone government mandates that each village should be within four miles of a MCHP where women can seek treatment for themselves and their babies; but four miles is nearly an impossible distance to walk for a woman who has just given birth, let alone a woman who has had a complicated birth.
Thanks to Mohamed and Ismael's intervention, this woman survived. Clearly, there is a desperate need for more MCHPs in the villages served by Mercy's outreach teams.
Mercy Hospital's HIV/AIDS team received high praise from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation for their impressive results with clients identified with HIV/AIDS.
"The National Secretariat of HIV/AIDS made a call lavishing praises on the Mercy Hospital HIV/AIDS Unit for their continuing follow-up with clients identified with the virus," Mercy Hospital Administrator Jinnah Lahai reported. "Out of 70 samples sent for viral load case definition, 35 have been reported 'target not-detected.' Meaning, these clients can no longer transfer the virus as long as they continue their treatment. Special bravo to Mercy Hospital's HIV/AIDS Counselor Mr. Mohamed Koroma and his team for their continuing follow-up on these clients," he added.
When an HIV/AIDS patient achieves an undetectable viral load, it means that the level of HIV in the blood is below the threshold needed for detection, and indicates that the antiretroviral treatment is working. It does not mean the patient is cured, but it should mean that they are no longer infectious and will not transfer the virus to their sexual partner, as long as they continue treatment.
HIV/AIDS is a life-long disease and cannot be cured. However, it is possible to delay the onset of AIDS, and many HIV positive people are now able to live a healthy and normal lifespan by adhering to the treatment regimen. If taken daily, AZT, the most common treatment, prevents HIV from progressing to AIDS (Acquired Immune Definiciency Syndrome), and brings the viral load down and "suppresses" it so that it is undetectable. The client is still HIV-positive (infected with the human immunodeficiency virus) but they are extremely unlikely to infect other people with HIV. This is especially good news for pregnant women and couples that are called "discordant" (one is HIV-positive and one is negative).
"It's wonderful Mercy is having these results," reported Medical Programs Field Director Specialist Kim Nabieu. "It means that the HIV unit is really good at following up with its clients and encouraging them to take their treatment. This is not an easy task, as many people live in denial and do not like to accept that they are positive."
Mercy Hospital HIV Counselor Mohamed Koroma, AHF representative Rosaline, and team conduct HIV/AIDS testing on village outreach. Mohamed's team received high praise from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health for their good results with clients.
17 month old Mohamed, admitted to Mercy Hospital with severe anemia caused by malaria, would die if he didn't receive a blood transfusion, but his O negative blood type is extremely rare and none of his family members could donate. Nurse Karen Hall, who was serving with the July UMVIM team, shares his blood type and gladly volunteered to donate. The family was so grateful to Karen, who truly saved their son's life. Read Karen's story:
"I was all set to go on our team's second medical outreach. I had some time on my hands, so I was visiting with (Medical Programs Field Director Specialist) Kim Sprout at the MTC. Gary, our team doctor walked in pointed at me and said, "what's your blood type?" I told him O negative and he looked like he had seen a ghost. He explained that there was a baby with severe malaria and needed a transfusion. It was virtually impossible to find O negative, and if they found it, it would not make it to Mercy in time to save the baby. Apparently only 7% of the world's population has 0 negative blood type. Gary was not expecting any of the team to be a match. Gary asked me if I was willing to donate, and of course I was. Anyone on our team would have been.
Gary said he would let Mercy know and let me know what they said. He must have run, because in no time he was back at the MTC. I went to the lab and George (the Mercy lab manager) did a type and screen on my blood and the next thing I knew the donation had begun. Before I knew it, the donation was complete. I went over to Mercy to let the CHO Deborah know I was finished. I started getting sick and she sent me upstairs to rest.
Over the next few hours, I found myself praying with all my heart that the baby would live, that the transfusion would be successful. Before I left the hospital I peeked in on the baby. The mom looked worried out of her mind. I know that look. The baby was receiving the transfusion at that time and was not looking so good. I prayed with all my heart that this would be a story of life. As we know HIs ways are not our ways and our hearts desires are not always the answer. The spirit continues to whisper the same familiar thing..."trust me."
That evening Gary had received a good report from Mercy and was very hopeful the transfusion was a success. Later that night there was a complete lunar eclipse, a blood moon. It was only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. I felt like I was in a living Bible story.
So often it is hard to see our purpose. To "know that we know that we know" that we are called to something or somewhere. This one time, God gave my heart a beautiful gift too. He gave me something that only I could do at that time. He used something that He gave me when He knit me together in my mother's womb. I think we all have times in our lives where we struggle with our purpose. I have been in that season for a while now. Not on that day or that night...and because of that beautiful gift, not today. I know my purpose, to follow HIS voice.
Sweet little Mohamed who was 17 months old went home the following Monday. His family was full of thanks. It was humbling to be thanked for something that had blessed our entire team. Mohamed's family is Muslim, and I love it that on that day we were all one. In it together. Saving each other."
Child: Mary, 14 months
Mother: Musu, a teacher
"My child was very sick when I brought her for treatment to the outreach team for the first time. She was having cold, severe fever and loss of appetite for three days. My child was treated free of cost and she was enrolled in the Nutrition program and supplied the pikin mix for the first time. Now she has received four packets before discharged from the program."
Aminata, 15 months
Mother: Mamie, a housewife
"My child was very sick and had loss weight in the previous months and we heard of the Mercy outreach team visiting our community last month and they treated my child and enrolled her in the nutrition program. The child`s health is very good and now my child is due for discharge because she is very healthy now with no complains of fever nor headache. I am very thankful for the free medications given to our children because the cost of drugs is expensive so therefore we appreciate the effort of both Mercy Hospital outreach team and partners that fund this program for us and our children."
Tenneh, 8 months
Mother: Isata, a farmer
"My child has taken the pikin mix supply (Benemix) three times and her body structure has increased as compared to the first months when the enrolled her in the nutrition program. She is very strong and her weight has also increased. When she is ill we get free treatment form the Mercy Hospital outreach team free of cost and this free treatment is really helping our children and us in this communities. I want to thank the Mercy Hospital outreach team and the partners that sponsors the various programs."
Osman, 16 months
Mother: Aminata, a housewife
"My child has received six packets of pikin mix since I was enrolled in the program. Now his weight is high and he is very strong and healthy. The outreach team and the Mercy Hospital have been very helpful in supplying the pikin mix and giving me health talks on personal hygiene and method of preparing the pikin mix for consumption by my child. We are very grateful for the free services rendered to us every month in our community."
Staff member donates blood to safe a life
Alice, age 6, was suffering from severe anemia caused by malaria and as a result needed a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, no relative was a match and the family could not afford to pay for a donor. Typically in Sierra Leone blood is donated by the family.
Mercy’s Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar, immediately offered to step in and donate blood to save Alice's life. “Really, I am very happy to donate," Mohamed says. "It is all about saving a life. Some people are afraid to donate blood but I know it is so important. It makes me glad to see her well again.” Alice is much improved and reunited with her family.
Mercy Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar donated blood to save the life of a young malaria patient.
Toddler treated for malnutrition and complications
Eustacia, nearly 18 months old, could easily pass for less than a year old. She came into Mercy suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea, and was so weak she couldn't walk.
Mercy diagnosed Eustacia with chronic malnutrition and enrolled her in the nutrition program. Hopefully she will soon achieve normal weight, thanks to Mercy's intervention. Malnutrition is common among poor babies and toddlers in Sierra Leone, and is a contributing factor in the high under-five mortality rate. One of Mercy's prime missions is to address chronic malnutrition and save babies' lives.
Eustacia would have died from malnutrition without Mercy's intervention.
Early intervention rescues toddler from deadly malaria and typhoid
Mohamed, aged 20 months, was brought into Mercy by his 18 year old mother, Mariatu. Mohamed was so weak he could not lift his head. The nurses described him as “completely helpless.” He was suffering from malaria and typhoid, debilitating diseases for an adult, but deadly for a young baby. The Mercy staff administered a blood transfusion to treat Mohamed's anemia, and medications to combat the typhoid, fever and constipation, and the listless baby quickly began to regain his strength.
All of these diseases, while serious, are curable when medical care is sought early. His mother brought him to Mercy because she had often encountered the Mercy staff when they came to her village on outreach and trusted them. Mariatu praised the Mercy staff for their compassionate care of her baby. “I just thank God. Yesterday I was seriously crying. I actually thought he was going to die. He is my only child. I am so happy he is well now!"
Mohamed's mother is so grateful that Mercy saved her son's life. "I actually thought he was going to die!"
Giving birth at the hospital saved this mother's baby
Princess had already given birth to two children in a peripheral health unit (PHU), small clinics in rural villages staffed by midwives and nurses. Sometimes PHUs have a Community Health Officer (CHO), but never a doctor.
Although Princess' other pregnancies were normal, her sister-in-law encouraged her to give birth to her third child at Mercy Hospital, a decision that would ultimately save the baby’s life. Princess’ baby was born underweight and not breathing, probably because her mother had an undiagnosed sexually transmitted infection, which can cause birth complications, low birth weight, or even stillbirth. The mother had attended Mercy’s antenatal care program, but out of embarrassment had not told the maternity staff about the STI symptoms.
Mercy’s maternity staff immediately went into action, spending almost 30 minutes resuscitating the baby, who finally began to breathe, although she was still not crying. Due to the STI, the baby had inhaled a large amount of mucus in the womb. It was a tense couple of hours as the treatment took effect. At last, the baby slowly gained coloring and tentatively start to cry.
The staff breathed a collective sigh of relief when it became clear that the baby would live. Princess was extremely relieved. “I am really happy and appreciate for what Mercy did for me and my baby. I know if I had gone to the PHU the baby would not have survived. I am so grateful for what Mercy did for us.”
The nurses also confirmed that the PHU would not have been able to manage the case, and the baby surely would have died.
Princess's baby most likely survived because she gave birth at Mercy Hospital, instead of in the village.
Salimatu Sungu is a 4 year old girl who was admitted to Mercy with severe vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea is extremely deadly in children under five, because their small body size makes them much more susceptible to dehydration than adults. Mercy was able to dehydrate Salimatu and within 12 hours of receiving the treatment, she was feeling much better, although extremely sleepy!
Dr. Amara conducted maternal mortality training for the nurses, maternity department, and CHOs of Mercy Hospital last Wednesday. It was recently announced that Bo district has the highest maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone. The district medical officer has called an emergency meeting this week to discuss this silent epidemic. Notably, Mercy Hospital has had no maternal deaths in 2018.
"This was more of a review for the staff on the basics that they already know," Dr. Amara explained. "Maternal mortality is very serious and we want to make sure that they are able to understand all of these principles offhand. We are going to give them an exam this Wednesday to see how much they have understood. From there, we will know what specific areas of training we need to review to make sure they are able to be most effective at their work."
Last month, the Mercy village outreach team encountered nine-month-old Mohamed Fofanah, desperately ill and deydrated. The team brought the child back to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe malaria and anemia. Mohamed received anti-malarial medicine and a blood transfusion, which could never have been done in the village. Without Mercy’s intervention, Mohamed would almost certainly have died.
Malaria--which Doctors Without Borders calls "the other epidemic"--is one of the greatest causes of under-five mortality in Sierra Leone, especially deadly when a child's immune system is already compromised by malnutrition or parasitic infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of malaria in the world. Children are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death from malaria, which contributes to an estimated twenty percent of child mortality.
Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces transmission of the disease and prevents deaths. In 2017 Mercy Hospital treated more than 8,000 people for malaria infection, both at the hospital and through village outreach, saving the lives of children and adults.
In pursuit of the mission to reduce maternal and infant mortality, Mercy Hospital encourages women to give birth at the hospital, which greatly improves the outcome for mothers and babies. Last week these beautiful identical twins were delivered at Mercy. Mother and babies are doing well!
Fatorma, a three-month old baby, had become severely dehydrated from a pneumonia infection, and was admitted to the hospital as a destitute because his parents had no means to pay for treatment. After three days of treatment and monitoring, little Fatorma was discharged and is doing well.
Midwife Mariama Bangali was very surprised and happy to receive Mercy’s quarterly staff recognition award in May. She is clearly a very dedicated worker, however, because she attended a training and the staff meeting one day, even though it was her day off. On top of that, she was sick and had a cannula inserted in her hand (what you connect to the IV). She even went on Outreach the next day with it still in! According to her co-workers, going above and beyond what is required is just what Mariama does.
About being selected for this award, Mariama said, “I am very excited and so happy. I think I won the award because I worked hard for it. I work in the maternity department and do the antenatal clinics and work in the labor ward. I started working at Mercy almost one year ago now. Mercy is so nice and I really like my colleagues and the management. Everyone works so hard. Mercy is quite different from other hospitals that I have worked at. The maternity department is trying our best and getting along so well. We work fast to make sure our patients are healthy and have safe deliveries.”
Christiana (her supervisor) had high praise for Mariama, sharing that ““she comes to work on time and she never leaves her duty. She is very diligent and committed. She is ready to do any duty at all. Mariama treats the patients very nicely, she knows how to talk to them and to encourage them. I feel very good that someone from our unit was chosen. She’s a hard worker."
- filed by Kim Nabieu, Medical Programs Field Director