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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Madagascar Screening

Where did December go? - sorry we've let the blog slip a little this past month, many reasons which we will share over a few posts/newsletters.

This last half of the year has been very different, after several location changes for our field of services, our advance team that goes ahead of us to prepare our visit had been very stretched.  This year they started making preparations for Guinea then Ebola hit and we knew there was no way we could cope with the scale that the outbreak became.  So they concentrated their efforts on Benin and just a month short of our arrival date, Ebola was starting to spread in the neighbouring country of Nigeria.  With that they packed up and un-did everything they had put together and flew over to Madagacar.  They are truly special people and had been through a lot.  Usually the team has about 4-5 months to get things ready, we gave them 6 weeks in Madagascar.  They did an amazing job but of course not everything could get done.  So these last months have been taken setting up things, renovating the buildings that will house our Hope Centre and Eye Clinic.  Waiting for container supplies to arrive that had been redirected from Benin.  On top of this we needed to get the patient selection process started.
Hope Centre Before Renovation
Hope Centre After Mercy Ships Renovation
Eye Clinic before
Eye Clinic After Mercy Ships Renovation
We aren't in the capital city, in fact all our crew that arrive at the airport have to be driven over to us on an 8 hour bus ride, so you can see the scale of the land we need to cover.  So we didn't want people walking for days only to be told we can't help you.  So Mercy Ships carried out several screening periods so many people had access.  We are also using technology by setting up a Facebook page and people can send their pictures in so we can assess if they are potentially suitable for surgery or sending info via cell phones.
In the first months we held screenings in Tamatave over several weeks, initially we were getting large numbers but only few were good candidates but gradually word starting getting around what we could and couldn't treat and so more numbers were accepted.
2 months on, things are now starting to flow, the Hope Centre container arrived at the end of December with all the patient beds (these had already travelled from Congo to Benin then to Madagascar!) and the wards are starting to fill up.  We also have screening teams reaching further out and have partnered with local cell phone companies to raise money through SMS to help pay for all the transport costs for these patients, some having to travel 2 days by bus.
We started off with Paediatric Orthopedic patients, dealing mainly with club feet & bowed legs.  Latex glove balloons were once again being tossed in the air to entertain them.  Before we know it these kids will be up and about running after a ball with a whole different life.

It's amazing what is possible when you apply a little bit of plaster, know-how and time to feet! For many babies throughout the world born with clubfoot, this has been the recipe for healing: the Ponseti method. Developed by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti in the 1950’s, doctors love the Ponseti method because it is cost-effective (especially useful in developing countries), non-invasive (allows great long-term outcomes) and has a 98 percent success rate (WHO). It is the best available treatment for clubfeet. 

So how does it work? The child’s foot is maneuvered into a more correct position and held there by a cast. This process is repeated until the foot is much improved. Often this is followed by a slight cut to the Achilles tendon to release tension. A brace is then used to maintain the foot or feet at the correct angle and prevent clubfoot from recurring. Thank you Dr. Ponseti for devising a way for us to help so many with clubfoot!

So you may be thinking, that's a lot of work for just 6 months.  Yes it is, but the great thing is:

1.  Many lives will be touched with the love of God
2.  Mercy Ships will return after the ship yard period in South Africa for another 10 months.

Well worth it!

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