I spent the day today at the hospital. Arrived around 8:40, after a few urgent emails this morning at home. I’m so excited about the new ultrasound machine that Dr. David McLaughlin got the Sonosite company to donate (and he also contributed several probes to make it operational). Dr. Ben Kanwee, one of my Liberian colleagues, did all the ultrasounds today but called me in a couple times to “consult”... mainly OB patients, a few gyn cases, one lady who probably has cancer in the uterus (but looks like it may be cured by surgery).
Dr. McLaughlin helped me in the office today, so after seeing a few outpatients, Sis Bee Mason from the Counseling Dept (the folks who take care of our PLWAs.... people living with AIDS) came by to let me know about a patient she wanted me to see. The lady had been getting sick over the last few years, off and on, and had been diagnosed with HIV infection at another clinic. But she decided to come to ELWA to get her long-term treatment. She had just started taking ARVs (Anti-Retrovirals—the “real” AIDS drugs that, if taken properly, can suppress the virus and restore the immune system) about a week ago. Over the last few days she had increasing rashes on her body and itching, and now for the last day she’d developed red, itchy eyes. She was reacting to one of the ARV drugs—a reaction that could have become life-threatening if she hadn’t come and reported it right away. The road to recovery and health for someone with AIDS isn’t easy, and requires lots of interactions to deal with side effects, drug reactions, and other infections like TB or diarrhea. After talking a while about her medications and what our plan would be for dealing with this drug reaction, I asked her a couple questions about her family and home situation. Unfortunately, she had informed a couple family members she is living with about her status, and they are thinking of moving out.... just when she needs their support! She started to choke up. Fear and Stigma are very real here, and our counselors have to work very hard with clients, helping them figure out who to inform about their disease, and how and when. I gave her some words of encouragement and told her to come back in 5 days for another visit.
I reviewed the statistics for the first couple months of this year—last year we diagnosed 222 new cases of HIV infection, including 20 children. So far in January and February, we have diagnosed 50 new cases ( if this 35% higher rate keeps up, we’ll diagnose over 300 cases in ’07). In addition, around New Year’s we started offering testing to the pregnant women in prenatal care, and we had 10 cases of HIV infection out of about 225 women tested. So this is quite sobering. We have 200 patients on ARVs now, up from 90 when we got back in June of 2005.
Seeing our PLWAs get the care they need, including real human touch, love, and support, is a big part of what motivates me to be here... thank God for such a great group of Liberian believers to work with on this ministry!
Just a nice boat going by at the end of the day to share with you a picture of the end of the day here in Liberia.......................................