Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflections from Rick's first week in Liberia

I’ve been here 10 days now, and spent last weekend on call at ELWA Hospital, the 55 bed facility that SIM runs just outside Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.  The news here is good – the Ebola epidemic really seems to be coming to an end.  But in the healthcare setting in particular, its effects will be felt for many months to come.  

Many outward changes have been made at ELWA due to the Ebola crisis.  All patients, staff and visitors now enter the hospital compound through a single gate where people must wash their hands with bleach and have their temperature checked before entry.  Bleach is everywhere throughout the hospital.  Staff members with sprayers wash down the floors multiple times per day and are on hand after surgeries or other exposures to blood or body fluids to decontaminate staff before “doffing” their gowns and gloves. Temporary buildings have been erected to house our outpatient clinic because our old clinic became part of the Ebola Treatment Unit, ELWA-2. But for the most part, ELWA Hospital is up and running, and most beds are full.  

The new screening entrance to the hospital.
For me personally the first week was about confronting the reality of death.  Many patients die in the hospital—this should not be a surprise, right?  But emotionally it is a challenge to face mortality so frequently. 

We counseled several patients about their metastatic cancer this week, presenting them with the hard information that the cancer had progressed beyond a stage where anything could be done from the medical point of view. We talk with these patients privately, off the busy ward; then, along with the hospital’s chaplain, we pray for them if they wish. The comfort and compassion we offer, along with an honest explanation in plain language, are important hallmarks of the work we do. 

To read about Rick's other patients over the weekend, please go to
Doctor's notes: American Ebola survivor back in Africa, dealing with loss

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Days Back

Here is an update from Rick, covering his first impressions and activities back in Liberia.  The post links to CNN for the rest of the blog.  We pray that through the publication of his blog, people will gain a greater understanding of the needs of West Africa in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis.
Wow!  It's 9:30 p.m. Sunday (January 18) and I am beat. Might fall asleep. Guess I will find out how the Patriots did in the AFC playoff tomorrow (the game would have started at 11:40 p.m. local time). I arrived here in Liberia Friday evening, January 16, after a 26 hour trip (three flights with a long layover in Brussels), with my seven pieces of luggage, filled mostly with donated drugs and supplies for ELWA Hospital, the ministry SIM runs just outside Monrovia.
I've spent some time catching up with our SIM Liberia country director, Will, who just got back here from the UK about five days ago, and Dr. John, my colleague who has been anchoring the hospital medical staff throughout the Ebola crisis.
Because I wasn't due to report for work until Monday, we decided to clean the apartment where I had stayed in August, as it had been unoccupied since I left.
Read the remainder of this blog post on the CNN website:
Keep on praying for Rick and the SIM-Liberia and ELWA team!  Many transitions ahead.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Off he goes!

After a couple days of publicity and packing, Rick boarded the plane on Thursday and arrived safely in Liberia on Friday evening.  He spent Saturday and Sunday catching up with our country director, Will Elphick and his wife Jenny, and with Dr. John Fankhauser who has been the primary missionary doctor at ELWA Hospital through most of the Ebola crisis. Tomorrow it's back to work. But he is hoping to find somewhere to watch the playoff game tonight, even though it might mean staying up most of the night....yea, not sure he is going to make it through that. Maybe the first quarter.

Here are some photos from the week.

Rick will be blogging from Liberia in the next three weeks.  His blogs will appear here, but will link to the CNN website for the last few paragraphs, so don't be thrown off.  We are praying that many people will read the blogs and continue to pray for the Ebola crisis to end in West Africa. We also hope that people will understand more about the ongoing needs for health care infrastructure in Liberia and other vulnerable parts of the world through Rick's story. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Getting Ready

5 days and counting.  The boxes of drugs and medical supplies have arrived.  Rick and Jared are making the most of the Patriots' game breaking down packaging to get as much as possible into Rick's bags.