2013 – November

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Dr. Maggi asked to share a report of our recent trip to Bo in October, and some of you may know this was my third trip with WAFF this year, so I am honored to feel like a real part of the team. As usual we arrived to a joyful greeting of song and dance, illustrating to me the hope that our visits bring to these women who have been counting the days until our arrival. Many of them were cured on this trip but some were not, and I could feel the weight of their prayer to be one of the lucky ones on that first day. The joy in the ward is something that is hard to explain amidst all the suffering, and the hopeful and faithful spirit of these women is truly amazing.

We were excited to bring along a professional photographer on this trip. Kathi Beasley is an incredibly talented photographer/videographer in Houston and volunteered her time and talent to capture images of the WAFF mission to help us raising awareness and funds. You can click on a link to her amazing video at the bottom of this newsletter.

We are happy to report that there were fewer fistula cases on this trip than usual, hopefully confirming that the trend towards more accessible obstetric care is a real one. In all we did 15 fistula repairs as well as several other gynecologic cases. Dr. Maggi is patiently training me in fistula repair, which is a surgery we never do in the Western world, and I was excited to perform some of our easier cases with his skilled assistance.

As usual, on this trip we witnessed a number of deaths from things that should never have happened, highlighting the urgency of getting this hospital built. We were asked to see a young woman around 20 years old who had delivered at home the previous day and was in septic shock. We attempted to treat her with fluids and antibiotics but it was too late and she died that same day. Another young patient had arrived several weeks earlier with a spinal cord injury from a car accident, and was 30 weeks pregnant. Prior to our arrival she had not seen a doctor, and had not even had an x-ray. We did all we could for her but unfortunately she and her baby both died. These events are all too common and are part of normal daily life for these people, which is why the new hospital will hopefully offer not only fistula repair but general medical and surgical care as well.As someone quite new to the experience of practicing medicine in the developing world, each trip is still a roller coaster of emotions. The prevalent emotion is joy, at being part of a team that is literally restoring the hope of a normal life to these young women and girls, and at elevating healthcare in general for this incredibly needy country. The other prevalent emotion is the immense gratitude that I now have for all the things that we have in our wonderful country.  Thank you all so much for your continued support.Please look at the video below made with loving care by Kathi Beasley.



Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith
West Africa Fistula Foundation
West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

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waff-1Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith and Dr. Darius Maggi working together on a fistula surgery.
Fanta, age 16, was admitted a few days prior to our arrival, unable to walk due to nerve damage and close to death from infection. After some simple treatment with antibiotics and some loving care including a teddy bear donated by my daughter, she is smiling again and will have surgery on our next trip. As a mother myself, it’s hard to escape the reality that these girls are just children themselves.
WAFF_2Several of our patients, as usual, were teenagers. Gitta, age 15, had a second surgery on this trip, which thank goodness this time was successful.
waff-4One of the highlights of each trip for me is “ice cream day”, when each patient is served some ice cream which is an expensive delicacy in a country where electricity is a luxury The hospital continues to have no running water, which is hard to imagine, and electricity was spotty and unreliable.
As in our past trips this year, we spent some time in Bandejuma just east of Bo, at the site of our new planned hospital. Dr. Maggi’s vision of a new hospital with western quality healthcare for the people of Sierra Leone will hopefully soon be a reality, and our focus back at home is on planning and fundraising for this project.

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