A Child's Life - Sierra Leone

Never did I think that one experience could inspire me every single day, break my heart into tiny peices every single day and challenge everything I have ever known every single day. 

I am Registered Nurse working on a project in Sierra Leone to implement changes in the hope of identifying the sickest children that enter the hospital before its too late and giving the required treatment as soon as possible. Ultimately we are aiming to reduce infant and child mortality in Sierra Leone. 

We are working at Lungi Government Hospital (LGH) where we have created an emergency resus area in the children's ward and for the past 3 months we have been providing ETAT training (Emergency, Triage, Assessment and Treatment). This training allows nursing staff to deliver immediate and appropriate treatment to all sick children and manage their condition effectively during the critical phase of the illness.

Today I was sitting at the hospital talking with some of the nursing staff and they were explaining to me that prior to ETAT training they would have children dying every single day due to lack of education and awareness of emergency protocols. They continued to explain to me that they now have the knowledge and understanding of how to treat even the most unwell children. One nurse explained to me that when she first arrived at LGH, she requested a transfer because on her night shifts she would lose at least 1 child every night. These nurses explained just how grateful they are for the implementation of our program and said that child mortality has most certainly reduced as a result.
- An absolute heartwarming moment in a country where I often feel the odds are against us.

While we are making progress there are still many barriers that prevent these children from recieving even the most basic health care. Children do not receive medications because the costs associated with health care are often the entirety of the family savings. Children are often taken for local rituals before being brought to the hospital, delaying access to treatment and in some cases they arrive with burns and internal complications from local healing practices and treatment. Children are not always referred appropriately due to lack of knowledge from rural health facilities or inability to cover financial costs associated with referral. Children do not receive blood, sometimes for up to 1-2 days, or they die waiting due to lack of reserve supply and the stigma and fear associated with donating blood. There is limited access to power and therefore limited access to oxygen, leaving many children who have an oxygen requirement to suffer sometimes for many hours.

In my opinion, this situation is dire and while I recognise changes will not occur overnight I have made a committment to this hospital beyond my stay here and I am determined to do what I can to improve the lives of these beautiful children. If you can help to support the hospital in any way at all, I would be eternally grateful.

So far we have successfully begun 3-monthly blood drives. This provides the hospital with emergency blood for children who need it immediately. We have also recently provided additional blood glucose strips for ongoing blood glucose testing. This is vital in the assessment and treatment of Malaria in particular and the pre-term and low birth weight babies that we regularly see with neonatal complications. Additionally we have purchased an extra pulse oximeter and additional nasal cannulas for the ward.

Some ideas I have for the future, dependent on funding, include;

- Purchasing additional pulse oximeters
- Purchasing additional blood glucose strips
- Providing once off financial assistance for families who need medication or transport
- Purchasing emergency medications
- Training for selected nurses to deliver therapeutic feeding to malnourished children
- Travel costs to allow us to visit remote public health units to provide training related to early referral

These are just some ideas that I have identified as a priority and one of my bigger ideas....is to install solar power!! I know this is incredibly costly but anyone with ideas of how we can make this happen please share!!!

We are making positive changes but the reality is that children die too often in this country. It is gut wrenching and heart warming at the same time to see the gratitude, to experience the tolerance and patience of this country and to witness such endurance however it seems inhumane to see these children and their families suffer every day. And to top it off the lack of access to investigations and equipment often means we have no real answers as to why these children die.

I remember too well each and every resusitation I have attended during my time here in Sierra Leone and the desperation I feel each time I see a patient deteriorating and the hope they seek as they look into my eyes. Sadly in some of these sitautions we know the resources are far too limited to ensure a positive outcome. However if we can provide skills and some additional resources that allow nurses to recognise these deteriorations early enough and provide treatment in an emergency setting, then I believe things will improve and the outcomes for children in Sierra Leone will be far greater than ever before.

I feel absoutely overwhelmed and blessed to have been given this opportunity and often feel as though this community is giving me far more than I can ever give back. I will continue to fight for the lives of these children and to keep people updated on the progress and changes that we achieve.

Ultimately my wish is not only to have this as a fundraising page but to also to have it as a kind of blog. I want to share stories and experiences that challenge people all around the world and remind people of whats important in life. My wish is to create positive change, show kindess to those around me and inspire others to do the same.


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Emily Young 
College Park SA
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