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Published: September 4th 2012
The lines extended around the block. Fortunately, it was a sunny day with no rain at all. I was told that there were 3500 people lined up around the block. There were about 500 crew members and day workers doing security, taking histories, doing vital signs, escorting, clean-up, etc.
Yesterday was screening day for Africa Mercy. It was held at a large building called the People’s Palace. A Palace it is not! There were three floors. We use a part of each floor. In the center was a large auditorium. There was a long narrow table in from of each row. It reminded me of a college classroom. We used several large open areas for the surgical screenings and we had tents outside for the dental and eye screenings. There are also offices and a large restaurant in the building. The People’s palace is located just the other side of the bottle neck separating the capital from the rest of Guinea.
There will be some official Mercy Ship pictures, interview, etc. at some point on their web site and more accurate information. Many people had to be turned away because we only do surgeries – and not on everything. It depends on what kind of surgeons we have on board. There are some who do general (goiters, hernias, etc.). Others: plastics (burn victims who have limited movement as a result), orthopedics (mostly for young children with club feet), facial/mouth (cleft pallet, growths), or GYN surgeries.
There were many days of preparation to organize this by a Mercy team. I left for the screening site at 6:30 in range rover 648 with 8 other escorts. Chris was the driver. Since I was in group 4, I reported to Tim. He was in uniform and easy to spot. I wore my Guinea t-shirt and sneakers as directed.
My first job was to escort people who came down to the ground floor (with paper work) to the appropriate station. Most were for pre-op appointments with x-ray, ortho, plastics, general, etc. A few were to have blood test. Most of the blood work is done later as part of the pre-op work-up and not at the screening. There was also a prayer station for some who were beyond surgery or for some reason the doctor determined they were not a candidate for surgery.
There were signs and arrows to help direct traffic flow. Later, I was moved up stairs to help with moving people through the history taking station. That station takes more time, so there is usually a back-up.
There were crew members who came to give us breaks. The night before, we made hundreds of peanut butter and/or jelly sandwiches. We had lots of bottled water. There were bathrooms more or less. I had to stand near one because it was at the bottom of the stairs where I was to meet and escort. The smell was pretty bad. One of the urinals was gushing like a fountain. Water was slowly seeping in the hallway. Eventually, three ladies wearing very nice dresses and sandals came with squeegees and began to push the water toward the toilet room and the drains. And there were two men directing them. I left about 18:00 but some other stations were still busy. We will get a briefing tomorrow morning.
If you are interested in joining or want to know more go to the official site: mercyships.org
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