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Sierra Leone: "They named him after me"
I decided to study medicine because of an incident that happened to my family when I was a teenager.
My six-year-old niece was unwell. My sister took her to a doctor and she was informed that a surgical intervention was required. As a single parent, the cost was too high for her to bear. My niece’s condition deteriorated.
Frustrated and worried for my sister and her baby, I shared what I was going through with my schoolmates. It just happened that my classmate’s brother intervened and assisted my sister with the money to enable the surgery. My niece was saved because of the passion, care and love from this person.
"The Ebola outbreak traumatised us, I was not infected but I lost someone very close to me"
I was enthused and my passion to help others was kindled. I knew I wanted to help children access timely, cost-effective healthcare.
The fee associated with access to care, especially for under-fives, pregnant women, and lactating mothers, is strenuous for families and this can have a negative impact on the health seeking behaviour on anyone.
In my time as a medic in Sierra Leone, we are confronted with tremendous challenges including a population’s limited access to healthcare due to lack of proper infrastructure.
In Ebola's wake
There is a dire lack of equipped health staff, compounded by close to 10 percent deaths of the country medics during the Ebola epidemic in 2014.
Areas like Gorama, Mende and Wandor (GMW) Chiefdom, where I am presently working, are further disadvantaged due to their remoteness.
And with a struggling health system recuperating from the Ebola outbreak, it is no wonder that the country has among the world’s highest maternal and child mortality.
The Ebola outbreak traumatised us, I was not infected but I lost someone very close to me. My best friend contacted the virus and later died of Ebola in November 2016.
On top of being sad, I was terrified. I was confused. I deliberated whether I should resign or stay on the job. Was it a suicide mission? But I hung in there; I came to this job to save lives despite the grave risks.
Advocating for quality healthcare
Since I started working for MSF, my life has changed in diverse ways. I have not only improved my skills, I have gained respect and confidence in my home area and in the community I am currently working.
As a clinical health officer, we aim to provide essential healthcare services with the objective to reduce the number of deaths.
Working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and sanitation, among other activities, we offer free healthcare services to under-fives and pregnant women.
I recall one day in 2018 I was on a field visit to a community health post in Falla, about one hour from GMW. We came across a woman in breech labour. With my heightened skills and handiness in breech delivery maneuver, I delivered the baby successfully. But, the baby was not breathing.
I called for help. My colleague rushed in and we resuscitated the baby. The parents were so happy that they named him after me. They did not have to, I still feel very humbled and importantly honored to have saved that mother and child’s life.
Coming across such experiences, I want to further contribute to the development and strengthening of the healthcare system in GMW, in Bo, but also across the entire country by becoming an advocate for access to quality healthcare and timely access in remote areas.
I am very encouraged that, with the newly opened MSF hospital in Kenema, more lives will be saved and that the medical activities and the dedication of the team will curtail the high number of child deaths.
As a medic, working day-to-day with often very sick children, it is important to balance work and one’s personal life, which can immensely contribute to stress reduction.
I find this balance by playing and watching football and I am always happy to be with my family; my two children, my wife and friends; a constant reminder of why I should care in bringing wellbeing and healing to my patients.