Volunteers have already returned home from the late summer Africa Partnership 2012 mission, but blogs continue to come in. Enjoy Nurse Cherri Dobson's blog from Benin.
The focus of Africa Partnership Station shifted back to patient care and education as the six volunteers continued their work in Benin. A makeshift clinic was set up on the grounds of an elementary school on the outskirts of Cotonou. During the time that APS was providing health care to residents, there was also a music festival ongoing across the yard, so we were serenaded by local musicians playing native tunes all day! As we had come to expect, there were hundreds of people anxious to receive services from the American providers.
HOPE volunteer physicians Keith Williams and Barry Finette stayed busy treating patients with a wide variety of ailments. The complaints ranged from patients seeking medication for body aches and pains to newly diagnosed high blood pressure to tropical diseases such as malaria and filariasis. In one heartbreaking example, a gentleman who was so crippled that he "walked" by propelling himself on his arms while seated came for care. The doctors were able to treat his pain, but had to inform him that there was nothing to be done for his wasted limbs. He was nonetheless grateful for what he was given and left happy with his painkillers and new sunglasses.
Nurse Practitioner Rosemary Joyce worked together with the Navy's OB/GYN physician to provide care for women's health issues. In many cases, education was needed as much as the actual care. For instance, many women who were concerned about hot flashes and other symptoms had never heard of menopause. Counseling was also provided in the areas of birth control and sexually-transmitted diseases.
The three Project HOPE volunteer nurses--Ann Marie Borden, Judy Knickerbocker and myself organized an educational station for patients to visit after seeing the doctors. We were assisted by Beninese military nurses and by the Department of Health, who provided valuable information about HIV/AIDS services in the country.
Judy was particularly focused on pediatric patients, whom she entertained with educational coloring books and pantomimes of proper dental hygiene. Each child left with his or her own new toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and colorful stickers on their faces, not to mention big smiles and giggles.
Ann Marie, on the other hand, concentrated on the elderly population. She demonstrated stretching exercises for those with joint pain, and counseled those with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. In a couple of instances, the patient was advised to go directly to the hospital because of dangerously high blood pressure.
As for myself, I manned the reproductive health station and provided culturally-appropriate information on pregnancy and disease prevention. All three of us were involved in medication teaching as well.
The week ended on a high note, with a Navy's Hospital Corpsman, Eddie Lopez, leading all the Beninese children present in cheers and a conga line that snaked all the way across the courtyard. It's safe to say that the APS volunteers and their contribution to the health of the population was greatly appreciated and will be remembered for years to come in that community!
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