Mercy Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. Aruna Stevens to the staff. Aruna is an original alumnus of the Child Reintegration Centre residential program who was rescued from the Bo street as a small child in the wake of the Sierra Leone civil war. Aruna graduated from the University of Sierra Leone College of Medical and Allied Health Sciences and completed his housemanship (residency) at the University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospital Complex.
"Today is a start of a childhood dream that I had to be a doctor to serve people, but specifically my people of Bo and its environs. I'm very humbled for this opportunity and grateful to Helping Children Worldwide, the Child Reintegration Centre, the United Methodist Church Sierra Leone Conference, and Mercy Hospital," Aruna says.
Cesarean section deliveries save lives
The busy Mercy staff continues to deliver babies, through normal deliveries and cesarean deliveries when necessary. Since the operating suite opened in 2018, the hospital has been able to provide life-saving emergency c-section procedures, saving the lives of mothers who are not able to deliver vaginally.
The need for cesarean sections can be aggravated by a range of issues such as delays in accessing the appropriate level of care, and transportation delays. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, with 11 mothers dying of pregnancy-related complications for every 1000 live born babies. The ability to perform c-section procedures at Mercy Hospital is a critical element of the global movement to reduce maternal mortality.
Simple hernia procedures save the lives of babies and toddlers
Two-year-old Saidu's family brought him to the hospital suffering from an inguinal hernia, a condition that Mercy sees very often, possibly due to premature birth. Untreated, inguinal hernia can lead to permanent intestinal damage.
Successful surgery was performed on Saidu to correct the hernia. His family couldn't afford to pay for the life-saving procedure for their son, and were grateful for Mercy's excellent care, which was provided for free.
Inguinal hernias look like a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum, and may be seen more easily when the baby cries. A hernia can develop in the first few months after a baby is born. It happens because of a weakness in the abdominal muscles. To correct the hernia, the surgeon puts the loop of intestine back into the abdominal area and stitches the muscles together.
The Mercy outreach team identified a toddler with inguinal hernia. Little Saidu was transported to Mercy Hospital where surgery was successfully performed by Lawrence Kargbo, surgical health officer, to correct the condition. Saidu made a full recovery under the care of Mercy staff and was released to his grateful mother.
About 3-5% of healthy, full-term babies may be born with an inguinal hernia and one third of infancy and childhood hernias appear in the first 6 months of life. In premature infants, the incidence of inguinal hernia is substantially increased, up to 30%. Children in Sierra Leone and other parts of the developing world may be more prone to conditions like inguinal hernia due to conditions that may be caused by inadequate maternal and infant care.
When Fatmata, age 22, came to her appointment at Mercy Hospital's prenatal clinic, she had a very high fever and was vomiting. Diagnosed with severe malaria, she was admitted and treated with anti-malarial injections. By the end of the day, Fatmata was much improved and was released from care.
Pregnant women are at high risk of dying from the complications of severe malaria. Malaria may also cause spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, or stillbirth, and is responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies.
Shortly after being discharged, Fatmata returned to the hospital in labor and delivered a healthy baby girl. "I especially appreciate the maternity staff for their hard work," Fatmata said. The patient says she chose Mercy because she had attended the hospital's prenatal clinic for her previous pregnancies.
Mariatu, age 37, collapsed into unconsciousness and was brought to the hospital by her family, where she was diagnosed with severe anemia caused by malaria. She received a blood transfusion of two whole units and antimalarial drugs. Mariatu made a full recovery and was released. "Words cannot express how happy I am," Mariatu says. "I really appreciate the team work."
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of malaria infection in the world. The country's entire population is at risk of the disease and it is one of the leading causes of death and illness. Young children are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death from malaria, which contributes to close to twenty percent of child mortality. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has committed to reducing new cases of the disease up to 40 percent by 2020, which will require dedicated action from government, partners, health workers, and communities.
On Friday, January 18, Mercy Hospital officially opened the doors of its long-awaited Surgical Wing. The celebration included remarks from various dignitaries and Mercy leadership, a welcome song performed by Mercy staff, the Act of Dedication performed by Bishop Yambasu, an official ribbon-cutting and tour of the new surgical wing, and refreshments. Bishop John K. Yambasu, District Medical Officer Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, UMC Health Coordinator Catherine Norman, UMC Bo District Superintendent Reverend Francis Charley, Chairman of the UMC Health Board Dr. Dennis Marke, and HCW Executive Director Melody Curtiss each shared remarks at the ceremony.
Reverend Charley opened the ceremony with prayer, stating that “this hospital is a state of the art hospital and is going to provide facilities and treatment for patients in the country and even beyond.” Bishop Yambasu shared that this day is the result of “the passion, dedication and commitment of our friends from the United States. Helping Children Worldwide has been involved in our work with the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital for more than 20 years.” Catherine Norman reflected on Mercy's history, saying “almost 13 years ago, a one-room health clinic with two health staff was established to provide first aid, nutrition and basic health care to the children of the CRC. In 2007, the building in front of us was transformed into Mercy Hospital. I am glad that today, the dream of a functional surgical building has come true. With this building, Mercy Hospital has now been empowered to provide quality care not only to the Bo, but the entire district, and even beyond.”
The Bishop performed the official Act of Dedication, asking God to “graciously accept this building which we now dedicate to thee, to thy service, and to thy glory, that in it skill and tenderness may unite to bring health and cure to those who come for aid…. Grant that those who come here in weakness may be made strong, that those who come in pain may find relief, and that those who come in sorrow may find joy and gladness.”
On behalf of HCW, Mrs. Curtiss recognized the contributions of all of its donors, particularly the large bequests of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford, VA, without whose generosity the wing would not have been built, and the Peterson Family Foundation, who sponsored the shipment of surgical supplies and equipment necessary for an operating theatre. Mrs. Curtiss also recognized the special contributions of Mercy Laboratory Technician, Joseph Lamin, who is heading up the launch of Mercy Hospital’s new Electronic Medical Information System (see story at bottom of newsletter).
Mercy’s surgical wing includes two operating theatres, a recovery room, decontamination room, sterilzation room, male and female changing rooms, medical supplies storage, reception and doctors’ consultation rooms. Second floor includes a private and semi-private wards, male and female wards, conference room and ICU. Mercy’s surgical program will operate on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank. Until this important piece of equipment arrives, Mercy will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Dr. Amara continues to work with Dr. Boima (a COMAHS professor and surgeon) to assist in surgeries beyond his current level of expertise, and now that those surgeries can be performed at Mercy, other staff will benefit in training opportunities as well.
Qualified surgeons who wish to perform surgeries at Mercy with Dr. Amara’s assistance, will be welcomed for the purpose of providing Mercy staff with teaching opportunities. This will include medical teams from overseas from time to time. Nonprofits utilizing Mercy OR for their own medical missions will do trainings as part of the privilege of performing surgeries at Mercy, and leave behind unused equipment and supplies for future use by Mercy.
Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care to Mercy staff this year, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February-March.