Today we witnessed a small miracle courtesy of a fantastic man called Robster. He and his team make wheelchairs and fit corner chairs for children, funded by Friends of Sick Children in Malawi. A mum brought in her little boy, only fifteen months, but due to cerebral palsy, he can’t sit up and has to be carried everywhere. This isn’t so much of a challenge whilst he is little but will cause problems for his mum as he gets bigger. It also stops her from working and earning any money. Older children with cerebral palsy are usually left at home, unable to play, and are a burden in every sense. With Robster’s help, the little one sat up for the very first time unaided by his mum but supported by a ‘corner chair’. It’s such a simple
Pharmacy is a new profession in Malawi, it celebrates its tenth anniversary next year when 8 students started their course here at the University of Blantyre. Unsurprisingly it has a long way to go but the students I’ve met and the interns (pre-registration students) are very enthusiastic about taking the role forward, they are fascinated that I have a qualification that allows me to prescribe, and that I advise GPs about their prescribing. The course is growing and this year there are 50 students. The role of the pharmacist in Malawi is nearer to the one I had nearly forty years ago i.e just one of supply. Stan, the main pharmacist at Queen’s only qualified in 2011, he was a technician before that. The pharmacy itself is a rabbit warren of rooms with stuff in boxes piled perilously high. Not only does Stan have to
Today we were taken round the wards, and, with permission from the parents, these are some of the photos we took just from one ward. The high dependency unit within the ward cares for children who need oxygen or IV drips. The rest of the ward is divided roughly between gastro-enterology and cardiac care. The floor is for the children for whom there are no beds for. We were advised that it is quite quiet at the moment, the busy season is when the rains come and there is more malaria. Remember all these children have just 2 nurses with no specialist sick children qualified nurses to support them.
I have been struggling to get my head round some of the facts and figures I’ve been given over the past two days. Today I’ve been taken on a tour round the paediatric hospital by Dr Neil Kennedy; sadly seeing is believing. The Children’s Hospital is part of Queens. Every year 100,000 children are seen in A&E and outpatients and 25,000 children are treated as inpatients on 7 wards. At any one time on average 75 children ( although it can be up to 100) can be cared for on just one of these wards. At busy times there may be two or even three children to a bed, some may even be cared for on the floor. Each ward is staffed by two nurses per shift. One nurse will have had basic training, the other a general nursing degree. There are currently NO specialist child health nurses. The hospital is hoping to get
Well we’ve arrived, a bit muddled and tired but all the hold luggage is safely with us which was one of my worries. We’ve been tested for Ebola (passed!) had our fingerprints and iris recognition taken so clearly we won’t be able to get away with any mischief! The guesthouse at the Beit Cure Hospital is very basic and rather reminds me of when I was a student. Everyone staying is very friendly but the kitchen cupboards need reorganising, the fridge badly needs sorting and cleaning and there are loads of empty beer bottles that need returning! Would I seem too bossy / motherly if I tidy it up over the weekend? There are 3 large plastic dustbins in the kitchen which I assumed was for recycling but no, they are full of tap water in case the supply goes again. Apparently recycling
It’s taken 9 months since conception of this Madventure in January, developing and forming its shape, to hopefully successful delivery. We’ve packed every inch of hold luggage full of medical equipment, colourful clothing and toys. Dave and I have proved that it’s certainly feasible to start two weeks in Malawi with just 7kg of cabin luggage plus my biggest handbag and his small rucksack. However I have a big ‘but’. It’s all very well taking out all the thermometers, urine testing strips, minor ops stuff, antibiotics and antiviral medicines – but if there are no nurses with the skills to care for sick children then it won’t have the impact on child mortality that it could. With the best will in the world, neither of us have any nursing skills, we are both pharmacists. Only training more Malawians to be nurses with this specialist expertise to care
Well one of us is happy. Dave is in his element working out how to fit all the medical supplies we’ve collected into the smallest space possible. I, who have no spatial awareness, and can’t do a jigsaw to save my life, take on the role of chief tea maker, cook and bottle washer. Team work! Surprisingly we can easily stay within the bag weight of 23kg, what is causing the most headaches is the sheer volume to pack. I even contact Ethiopian Airlines to ask if we could possibly be allowed an extra piece of luggage but as their normal allowance is already more generous than most airlines, sadly to no avail. Oh well, it doesn’t hurt to ask, thankfully Dave is a master at getting a quart into a pint sized pot. and we’ve still got to fit this into the 4 bags!
We go in less than 2 weeks time and I am surrounded by endless ‘to do’ lists. This is hilarious for as my husband will vouch, I HATE LISTS! However in order to keep my Madventure under control whilst holding down the day job I succumb. My lists are many and varied and include – personal lists; GPs to chase; lists of what other people have promised; contacts; provisional Malawi timetable; questions to ask when I’m there – I practically need a list of my lists. Just to impress my husband I’m keeping them altogether in one notebook instead of a flurry of scrappy bits of papers. Dave, to my mind, cheats with his lists by including things he’s already done – so on the grounds of what is good enough for him here goes! Flights booked Accommodation confirmed and yes they do provide towels
When I planned my day shadowing pharmacy staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital I was worried about my lack of knowledge about hospital pharmacy systems and my clinical skills regarding paediatric medication. What I don’t anticipate is my emotional reactions, especially as a Mum confronted by these seriously sick children and their families. The day is a real roller coaster of an experience. I meet a very mature teenager who knows all his medication and when his next injections are due, a couple with a baby of only a few months old that has never spent a day outside hospital. I see siblings play around the beds of very very sick children including those awaiting transplants. I can see those that have had transplants in isolation rooms. I suppose the children on the wards in Blantyre will be surrounded by family too but I know the
When I started this Madventure, I hadn’t realised that the tenets of Soroptimism – Educate, Enable and Empower were going to apply to me! Through my various contacts I manage to arrange a day’s work experience at Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), which has links to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Blantyre. The lovely admin staff there cut down half a tree to put the necessary paperwork in place all for me to spend a day shadowing the pharmacy staff. When I last worked in hospital pharmacy, we wore white coats and ward pharmacy had only just been born. In those days I proudly sported an array of spatulas in my lab coat pocket as we made various powders, lotions and potions. Now it’s smart casual but short sleeves to improve infection control, and I’m happy to say that not only has ward pharmacy grown up