Phebe Hospital Journal Reports #21-23
Reports #1 - 4
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #21
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Saturday, February 21, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Too much news and there are people wanting to use the machine.
Response to messages:
Rick Lagace: I'll get in touch with you after I return. Yes, you can surely communicate with Scott Lien. Things that U.S. hospitals think of as outdated are excellent for here: high tech things don't make it here.
Notes from the notebook yesterday and today:
These have been two tense days, but we are still OK. More things were taken from the nursing warehouse while we are working there. Dr. G sent for his things that had been in the container, indicating that he is not ready to move to Phebe at this time but is assembling his things in Monrovia .
Friday morning we were advised by radiotelephone that a container was to arrive in a matter of a few hours! Who knew?! We did not have a way to close the iron-door warehouse into which we unload containers. So Jim and some carpenters made a way to nail the door shut. We moved the stuff that had been in the warehouse out, so that it would be ready.
Of course the container didn't come. That story continues in a moment.
The ground here is covered with used shell casings and condoms. The former are from the LURD AK-47s; the latter from a warehouse where they had been stored in conjunction with an anti-AIDS program. When people burn their fields in preparation for planting gardens or farms, many unexploded rounds are set off by the fires. This is very unnerving.
Many people ask us every day when the hospital will open. On Friday there were people waiting in the OPD waiting area, thinking that it would soon be open. But security conditions here are not very conducive to running a hospital, and when the head nurse was here earlier in the week she said it is definitely not the time to return to Suakoko - - even though she very much wants to get back to her own home.
A mirror that had somehow survived the war was stolen out of an eye clinic bathroom on Friday - - possibly by our own workers.
Joseph Kollie, a wonderful Liberian who is "clerk of the works" for Gary in charge of issuing and collecting tools and materials, is afraid to go to his own house near Cuttington. He has asked permission to sleep in Brown Hall with the truck drivers. The last guests we had there, from Lutheran World Service, made off with one of our galvanized buckets.
Mike has been working with Jusu, the county water management man. They have been going around to the hand-pumped wells on the hospital compound, putting in chlorine and measuring the water chemistry every day. Jusu is afraid to go off the compound into the nearby villages because of the security situation, but Mike is happy with his interest and his willingness to learn.
The rest of the container story:
The container finally arrived around 10 p.m. on Friday. It had taken 12 hours to make the 120 miles from Monrovia . The crew of five were not happy campers. Around 11 they came bursting into House 5, breaking the porch door and rushing in, demanding money, food, and a place to stay. Usually Dr. Elaine would have been the only one awake, but Carl happened to be there, working on documents. They somehow managed to keep the four ruffians at bay, and to back them out of the house. After a lot of hollering the thugs went on their way, very dissatisfied with their lot.
This morning we were ready to start unloading the container, but the truck was broken. It had a dead battery, and there was no engine oil. The truck was parked in front of the hospital, in the "loop" driveway at the main entrance. The ruffians, all LURD fighters and led by a really nasty, obnoxious fellow with biceps the size of watermelons, were back to us to demand that we give them batteries and engine oil. We managed to put up a united front in denying these things, so they sent their dead battery to Gbarnga to be charged.
After what seemed like a long, tense time the truck crew said that it was apparent that the battery would not be back in any hurry, so they wanted to begin unloading the container on the ground in front of the hospital. We ruled against this idea, which we felt constituted a poor security risk.
After some more long, tense time, the truck crew was back. Now they would carry the stuff from the back of the container across the former big parking area between the morgue and the powerhouse, and deliver it by hand to the warehouse. We agreed to that, since they would be delivering it to the warehouse the same as if the truck was working and could deliver it to the loading dock. By this time it was about 10:30 .
I have recovered my old " Mobile 13" garden cart from Salala, and Prince had assembled the new one that went in the container, so we had two of them. We lent those to the LURD ruffians to speed up the process a bit, but it was still hopelessly slow. They felt that they would be done by 2 p.m. , but by that time they were not yet halfway finished. One of the fighters was actually quite good- natured and cooperative; the ringleader was unfortunately pushing one of the carts, and he was trouble all day long.
In the afternoon a Phebe truck came from Salala. We were glad to see some reinforcements, and the truck crew offered to help unload by shuttling stuff from the container to the warehouse. That speeded up the process a whole lot, but unfortunately they were only present for three trips, and then we were back to the garden carts. By 4:30 , only six hours after we had started, the container was empty. But of course the truck was still dead.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had been using the emergency satellite telephone to call Bill with blow-by-blow reports and questions. He called the trucking company, which sent a truck out with a battery, oil, and a mechanic. (Now let's think about this: the container truck had a dead battery and no oil, and took 12 hours to make the 120 mile trip from Monrovia . What faith do we have in the service truck?)
The service truck arrived about 6:30 this evening, and it seems that the truck is in condition to travel. But nobody travels after dark -- not even the LURD truck crew -- so they will go in the morning.
Another crisis: there was a lot of stuff in the container for Bette McCrandall, who is recovering after a bad case of malaria, Elizabeth Mulbah, and about five other individuals in Monrovia . The original deal was that the container dudes would haul this stuff back to Monrovia for $100 USD. But we sat and thought about this. The ringleader had been relieved of a large hospital laundry sack full of booty that he had taken from the container while unloading. If we sent them off to Monrovia with all these cases of goodies - - maybe about a third of the whole load - - what would be left when they arrived? It costs about $50 worth of Diesel fuel to bring a big Lutheran World Service truck up here from Monrovia . So we figured that two LWS trucks could move the stuff for the same price that the trucking firm was to get. Would we rather trust the stuff to the LWS drivers who are on the church payroll, or to the trucking company? So this evening Bill, who arrived right after dinner tonight, advised the trucking firm that their services would no longer be required, and they would be free to depart at sunrise. (If the truck will start.)
In other action, I have greatly reinforced the front door, and Bill brought two rolls of razor wire to help in securing our houses. He is deploying it around the house as I write. We are less than jubilant about the presence of the fighters on the compound, but we have advised the Bangladesh troops. They have been wonderful to us! Last night when Carl and Elaine had dealt with the ruffians, they went over to the Bangladeshis to tell their story. Because not many of them speak English, and they were unsure of what our people were saying, the officer of the watch took two armed soldiers and accompanied Carl and Elaine back to the house to check the situation. That was a good move: they could have shrugged their shoulders and said "we don't know what they're saying," but they took the aggressive way and went right off to assess the situation. Thank you, United Nations!
Gary came from Totota today. He is making good progress there with the reconstruction of the school roof.
Paul came back with Bill this evening. :-) He is in excellent spirits and health, and ate a huge meal of rice and potato greens - - and some wonderful no-bake cookies that Marlene made out of oatmeal and goodness knows what else. There had been a great pile of cookies on the plate when we started, and we demolished it!
Those are the news. There is a line. Maybe I can do another in the morning before church, or after lunch. Bill will be returning to Monrovia tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, and I expect that we will not see him again. He departs on Son of Sabena on Wednesday evening. I have no idea whether we will be able to do any e-mail after that, as this is his personal computer which he will take home with him.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #22
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Sunday, February 22, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Bill is getting ready to return to Monrovia , but there is a short time to write before his departure. We do not anticipate getting any further opportunities for e-mail, although there is always the possibility that Dr. Sandoe might show up with a computer and satellite phone at some time during the next ten days.
Carrie, Ruth and Dr. John are in Monrovia now. Bill, Carol and Carl are leaving in a few minutes. Dr. Elaine is leaving for Monrovia and will depart on Tuesday for Accra and then to the U.S. Gary will be dropped off in Totota today to resume his work there on reconstructing the roof of a Lutheran school.
So Butch and Jim, Marlene, Paul (who is in excellent shape now!) Mike and I are here to hold the fort. Although we do not anticipate e-mail capability, we always have the satellite telephone. It is on from noon to 12:30 and from 8 to 8:30 p.m. every day for incoming calls, and we can make outgoing calls at any time of day or night.
I have remedied my lack of malaria prophylactic with Dr. Elaine's help: she gave me a bottle of doxycyclene, as Dr. Ruth had suggested for when my Paludrine runs out in another week. So that crisis is past.
We had a big security meeting this morning, and all agreed that now that the awful people on the container truck are gone our security position is acceptable. We have decided to deploy the razor wire only when we feel threatened. Dr. Elaine rightly said that the razor wire -- even if it is too little too late -- is an excellent demonstration of our determination to stand fast here and not to run away.
The present plan is for the March 3 group to travel directly from Phebe to the airport, going through the Firestone plantation and saving an hour on the road. So we do not plan to be in Monrovia again before departure from the country. We have the Phebe bus here on the compound, and Bill brought some extra Diesel fuel this weekend so we are in good shape for travel.
Everyone is in excellent health and spirits. I spent the early afternoon writing grant applications with Bill. Butch provides such amazing meals that we are all getting fat! Keep praying for us, and for our safety and health in particular.
I have been asked to preach at St. Luke's Church (held in the OPD waiting area) next Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent. The pastor was amazed to learn that next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday! Who knew?! There was a big farewell for Bill in church this morning, with lots of crying and praying.
In the absence of any other communication, I'll deal with e-mail to my church address when I get back; the first day of work in Madison will be Friday, March 5.
Nothing else strange. Kit \
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #23
BYLINE: Bill Martin
DATE: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 05:00 GMT Monrovia
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Bette McCandall is driving to the Phebe compound today to pick up her things that came in the Iowa / Ruth Ehrhardt container. This is the container that was delivered to Phebe on Friday night and unloaded on Saturday.
Carl Dierksheide and Carol Rasmusson will ride with her and deliver building supplies to Gary Winters for the roof replacement project for the LCL school in Totota. Then Bette will head up to Phebe to drop off the rest of the building materials for Phebe and pick up her boxes from the container. Carrie will also travel with the group today but will return to Monrovia with Bette in the afternoon.
Last night, the LCL guest house gang went to the Royal Hotel for dinner and said good bye to Dr. Elaine Reigle who will leave today for the USA . Dr. Sandoe and Bishop Harris will leave on Wednesday for a three day Lutheran partners' funding meeting in Denmark on the same flight that I will be traveling on to Brussels . Ruth Koble, Dr. John Payne and Carrie will continue to stay in Monrovia until the outpatient operations start up at Phebe within a week or so.
Kit reported at noon and 20:30 GMT yesterday via the Iridium satellite phone that everything was OK on the Phebe compound and the team was continuing their clean up projects.
EMAILS: Good news regarding email for the volunteers at Phebe. Today, Carl is take a desk top computer and a SAT phone with him to the Phebe compound so they will have email communications. The system should be set up by this evening, so expect lots of email soon. But, please remember that emails via SAT phones is very tricky, so please be patient.
More news soon. see ya, bill
William E. Martin, Administrator Phebe Hospital & School of Nursing Gbarnga, Suakoko District, Bong County, Liberia
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