Sooooooo... the big day was yesterday. "Without a doubt this was one of the best and most successful screenings ever!" This is not my comment (my track record up till yesterday was less than desirable). Dr Gary said this around 2pm yesterday as we were packing down; all of us ready to grab a cold cold shower and crash into bed. But let me give you a little background.
After that Monday we were all shaken; some angry, some hurt, many sad and even more of us confused. The leadership started evaluations and preparation for a possible future screening. Actually the word "screening" quickly became everybody's least favorite word around here. I spent many hours on debriefings... took much time to dwell on what happened if I am honest. :(
Besides the obvious the events of Monday raised other challenges, too. With a large number of new crew on board who was not used to "normal" operating procedures, it was an extremely challenging time. "Normal" (if it ever is normal haha) operations would have included the beginning of patients coming in to be operated on board for the hospital team. For our department it'd have meant that we can start focusing on a Civic and Media Reception, followed by a Hospital Reception for local medical personnel and other PR tasks on one hand. As for my other hat (leading the comms team as well) capturing patient stories and photos to provide fund raising material to the national offices seemed a bit hard since we missed the big screening.
The good thing is that we have now an eye-screening up and running every Monday in a local eye clinic, where our doctors book the (mostly cataract) patients. The dental screening is at the HOPE center just 5 min walk from the ship. The doctors and nurses are already in full swing - pulling, filling, cleaning and booking patients every Monday and Thursday.
In preparation for a new mass screening I wrote a radio jingle (click here to listen to it) that a famous local radio guy performed in Creole and was broadcasting it for a week in several radio stations. Just for fun, listen to it and tell me how much you understand... The jingle is about 2 min long!!! Imagine that in Europe! :) He talks about the type of problems that we do NOT treat and emphasizes the conditions that we are able to (benign tumors, goiters, cleft lip and palate, bowed legs, clubbed feet, cataracts, dental issues).
In addition to the jingle we were on radio a couple of times for interviews and I was also on TV. Their biggest channel SLBC had a 1 hour live TV show called Good Morning Sierra Leone where I was invited as a guest. During the screening day several people in line mentioned that they recognize me from TV. Yay.... :) It was kind of funny, how the other guest and presenters are so animated and they often talk with their hands. Those of you who know me, I often do the same, but compared to them I came across as a stiff wooden statue :)))
On Friday our security guys went to the site after lunch and most of them stayed there through the night. According to them the people started gathering in the afternoon. Unfortunately they had to turn away many people who came with conditions that we do not treat. And the line grew and grew as the night approached... more and more people joined the queue in hopes of a "YES" to the dreaded question of "Can you help me?"
To be continued... :)