Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Finally arrived

Just wanted to give a bit of an update...

first of all ... Oh my God - I love it so much on board here - it
really feels like home....

so I've been on the mercy ships boat in Togo - Lome, a week now and
its been pretty hectic but unbelievably awesome,
there always seems to be something going on here so when you get
some time to yourself it is priceless - so i am enjoying being able to
spend some time replying to some emails....

So I arrived last Monday and the first thing they did was take a photo
of me for my ID badge, which isn’t the best thing after a 16 hour
journey when your looking like a raccoon in head lights...
anyways they don’t waste anytime here, I had to get up at 5am to go to the
first of the screening days - now these are something else - its
basically working out who we can and can’t help... words really can’t
illustrate what goes on but what we have to do is screen heaps and
heaps and heaps of people as to whether or not we can help them on the ship -
...if you picture a “running of the bulls crowd” and
add about 35 - 40 degrees to the equation
and combine it with so many peoples last chance of ever being helped
then you are about half way there. One of the hardest things that I’ve
had to deal with so far is to see so many people turned away because
we couldn’t help them...

So the first week has mainly involved doing these screening days in
all different locations of Lome - football stadiums, hospitals and other
buildings (if you can call them that)
Now I’m quite lucky because this is something that everyone really wants
to be involved but they don’t always get the chance to do it... but I’m
just stoked that for the first two weeks this is what I will be

Now I’m slowly learning what exactly I will be doing on board - but basically I am the
hospital’s physio - so i will be doing some burns work, mainly kids
Ortho and some Maxillo-facial. I also found out that I will be
involved in rolling out this Ponseti program in Togo (never been done
before) - which is just a way of treating club foot with only a minor
Subcuntaneous Tenotomy and serial casting... Now I’m really excited
about this because I get to work quite closely with the surgeons and
get to go to all these meetings with them and with very high up people
in the medical profession in Togo (I feel completely out of place -
but I just smile a lot and go along with the flow - and it seems to be
working out) It’s funny when they introduce me as one of the phyios
who is one of the experts who will be helping roll out the program and
teach the Togolese how to do the technique – I’m not really worried
because my rehab team coordinator is a physio and has heaps of
experience with this so she is just going to help bring me up to speed.

So the weekend is just coming to an end and I have just come back from
Church with the locals - and boy was this something else - think of a
5 hour service in a really hot building with lots of singing and
dancing... its something else... I guess they really love God and
just don’t want to stop praising Jesus...

Anyways here are a few interesting things that I have found since arriving:

1. There are about 500 staff on board and most of them are female (we
are heavily out numbered - which has pros and cons :)
2. sleeping in a 4 bed dorm (which I have) is a good thing especially
when there are 10 bed dorms - this is where being a guy has its
advantages because we get more of the 4 bed dorms

Highlights (there are way too many stories to tell but I really like this one)

1. At one of the screening days we got there in the morning and before
we arrived there were way too many people so we had to close the gates
and only see the people who were already inside the gates except for a
few rare exceptions...
so what we had to do was set up an extra triage out the front of the
gates for only very high priority patients (i.e. either people with
severe orthopaedic problems or people who have tumours the size of
coconuts and we could only see these if they were having difficulty
swallowing. So the highlight was that I was out the front of the
gates and for say every 50th person, one person could come
through... and I got the privilege of helping a mother carry in her
little daughter who had really really really bad knock knees (I wish I
had a photo) to the point where she couldn’t walk... anyways we brought
her in and she got to see the surgeons.... I tell you what it’s soooo
exciting being right on the front line.... I look forward to seeing
her on the wards....

anyways so that’s about it ... my French is definitely coming along and
I reckon ill be speaking some form of French when I get back (not sure how good though)
oh  one more highlight - on Saturday night there was a disco party on
board the ship and I won Best Poser..... with a Wittchetty grub
impersonation followed by a worm impersonation.
Its funny the ship is starting to feel like home...