PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL
[While living in "temporary" exile at Grace Church in Madison , New Jersey , Kit Cone collected and edited the previous Phebe Hospital Journal and Soka Moses stories. He returned to Liberia on January 27th with a delegation to assist in restoring Phebe Hospital to full functionality.] Sending e-mail is hard this time, because the generator for the office, where the desk computer with the Pegasus and satellite phone programs is set up, only has current from about 9 or 9:30 until 5. That's the time when we're working. So Bill [Martin] has opened up his own personal computer to us in order to maintain communication.
Today was a long day, and tomorrow will be longer. We went to Salala and Totota today. At both places there are Sprung Structures - - big buildings looking rather like turtles. We spent some time at Salala at Phebe's field hospital. This is a very busy place! It was hard to believe that so much was going in this relatively little hospital. They have an operating room, lab, central supply, and lots of conventional hospital facilities, all packed into a little masonry building. The Sprung Structure is ward space, and there are two canvas tents in the back yard that are also bed space.
There has been a problem with the Sprung Structures: they get Very Hot. Like as in stifling. Suffocating. The nurses (I saw Jenneh working there!) said that often in the afternoon when the heat is worst those patients who can move will go outside. But this evening Bill returned from town with two small Diesel generators! These will be used to drive a big vent fan, which should make a nice difference for the patients.
They are having trouble with the "big" generator at Salala, which had a worn-out water pump and also was passing oil into the coolant water, which is not good. We got it a new pump, for $345!!, and this afternoon we delivered it and some of the mechanical support people were working on putting it in. But we don't know what to do about the oil in the coolant. That may mean a leaking gasket or it could even be a crack in the engine block.
Then we went on to Totota, where there is a big old Lutheran compound with a school, translation center, trauma healing unit, and lots of other facilities. I have been to this compound many times, but not in recent years. It has been nicely maintained and is well painted and tidy. Somebody is rehabilitating one of the buildings to be the base for the trauma healing center - - it has a new zinc roof and is getting cleaned up after IDPs lived in it and made cooking fires on the floors.
It was really nice to be able to ride on the "highway" and not see any guns! When we had to flee last March, every pickup truck that we saw along the way was loaded with young men holding automatic rifles. Now there are no guns in sight at all. The only people with guns are the U.N. troops manning the checkpoints, and they are polite and friendly. We were never stopped at any checkpoint: they see the Phebe bus coming and just wave us through with a smile and a wave. What a difference from the terrorist checkpoints manned by the various factional fighters.
We did have one sad news this evening: "They" are still looting at Phebe. We received a report that the whole circuit breaker panel that Ken Kahler and I installed three years ago at the Deanna Isaacson Center has been ripped out, and a lot of the wiring went with it. This had happened within the past two weeks. That's discouraging.
On the way back from Totota today we passed the container from USSELCA! It was at Salala, having a short visit before continuing on the way to Phebe. The container and some people will stay at Phebe tonight, and tomorrow at 6:30 we will be on the road to go and unload it. This will be my first visit to Phebe since we fled in March. We are also picking up three toilets to be installed in the houses to be occupied by the Bangladeshi officers, since every toilet on the compound has been taken.
We had an excellent dinner tonight, engineered by Dr. Ruth. She knows more ways to make fine food out of African ingredients than anybody I know. We had a Stroganoff kind of thing on flat noodles, with mixed vegetables and three-bean salad. Excellent! For tomorrow, Richard has already made a great pile of sandwiches for us to carry with us. We have a big picnic "cooler," which doesn't actually cool anything, and we will take that in the bus. We will also take the two generators for Salala and Totota, and drop them off on the way.
Don't get upset if the e-mail is erratic. The electricity is very erratic, and the water is downright aggravating. The water pump only runs from 9:30 to 5, and of course we're not "home" at that point to fill our water barrels and my shower bag. So we have to haul water from a hand pump. Phebe will be better, because we won't have to carry the bucket up the stairs. We don't have any target date for moving in at Phebe, but it seems like we need to be there to reduce the looting.
Nothing else strange - - from the land where everything is strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #6
31 January 2004
By: Kit Cone
On Saturday there is only current around lunchtime; on Sunday there is none. So doing e-mail is difficult.
Today we went to Phebe. I rode with Celina de Sola, from Dr. Kimmy's office. On the way we dropped off the little Diesel generator that AmeriCares bought to provide power for vent fans for the Sprung Structures. We'll probably get that hooked up on Tuesday and see how it works.
I also saw Jenneh. She had come in on her day off because she had a patient that she was worried about - - a small child who didn't look good at all.
And at Salala we found Mobile 13! This was my garden cart that I used to move materials around the Phebe compound. Somebody found it and rescued it! It was like finding an old friend still well and ready for work.
On the way to Phebe it was very good to see so many people making farms and houses. My theory is that people don't make farms and houses unless they plan to stay for a while. And no guns! In the past if you saw a pickup truck full of people, they would all have guns. Now trucks pass and they are carrying market produce, charcoal, and smiling people. It's a wonderful change!
Arriving at Phebe Hospital itself was really quite traumatic for me. All the pictures and videotape in the world can't really convey the image. The degree of devastation and destruction has to be seen in person to even begin to comprehend it. The smell of smoke is everywhere. Broken glass is everywhere. Litter and broken things and pieces of medical equipment and once-useful, expensive things are thrown everywhere on the ground.
In my New Phebe Workshop, there isn't anything left. Even the conduit for the electric wiring was ripped off the walls. Every tool is gone. The doors stand open, looking like ghost town. The grass has grown up high all over the compound, and the jungle is starting to take back the maintenance yard.
Evidently the clean-up crew that has been working in the hospital compound really felt the need of the little chapel. The place has been cleaned up. It doesn't have much in the way of benches, but the stained-glass windows over the altar were not smashed, and the diamond-wire screens are still in place. When we were there, a women's group was in the chapel singing African hymns. It was a real ray of hope for the whole place.
One of the saddest spectacles is the Deanna K. Isaacson Center , which the USSELCA volunteer work team from Pennsylvania had rehabilitated -- almost reconstructed -- three years ago. My own project there, with Ken Kahler, was to rewire the building. The whole circuit breaker panel was ripped out, and much of the wiring with it. Traci ng wires to redo all of that will take a lot of effort and time. This building had been a showplace; to see it all smashed is very discouraging.
The big project for the day was to unload the container that Bob Bradford's USSELCA volunteers had packed on December 13 in Mazeppa , Pennsylvania . We unloaded it into three containers so that we would have a little room to move around and hunt for specific boxes. Unloading containers is always rather like Christmas.
One of the things we found today was the big air compressor that was donated through Grace Church. I don't know where the workshop is going to be in the future - - the old one is really a wreck and it may not be worth salvaging the building. Bill [Martin] had the idea that maybe we could make a shop in a container. Another thought is to make it in my house - - whatever house I might live in. But wherever it is, we'll have compressed air to work with. :-)
I had the feeling that we spent a lot of time posting guards. We can't leave anything unattended, even for a few minutes, so we needed to post sentries at the containers when people went to eat lunch, and at the two missionary houses when there was nobody working there. It seems like a waste of manpower, but it's part of life here.
An interesting sidelight: The trailer that brought the container had two flat tires, but the driver didn't care and he just drove on them anyway. One was shredded, and the other was chunks of rubber.
Unfortunately LURD is still in the bush off the main road. Several people were telling us while we unloaded the container that market people are being held up on their way home and all their goods taken away from them.
We met some of the Bangladesh soldiers on the Phebe compound. They are a pleasant lot, and very professional and sharp looking. They have a big white armored personnel carrier that they park next to their house, and every now and then -- I guess on a schedule -- they fire it up and drive it around the compound to make an impression. So the hospital grounds seem relatively safe.
Bill has hired some men as security watchmen, and today he issued them some bright orange safety vests as identification, and gave them whistles to use in calling the Bangladeshi troops for help if they need it.
There are troops from Guinea Bissau along the the road from Monrovia . And then when we get into Bong County , the soldiers are from Bangladesh . An interesting switch as we get past Totota, is that the soldiers wear battle helmets, where the Guinea Bissau fellows have blue berets. That tells you something.
Two awards for Bob's volunteers: Hardest-working Volunteer: Butch Foster. She never stops. She fits in very well, and has so much experience in backward places that except for the military aspects this is all quite acceptable to her. Gets Along Best with Liberians: Mike Schmidt. He never turns away from any job, and he gets along very well with everybody. Today, for example, he was working for hours inside the roasing- hot container. And when the job was completed, he made a point of thanking each worker, and telling him that he did a good and helpful job.
Two bright signs at Phebe:
Dr. Elaine [Riegle] and Carl[Dierksheide] had installed -- several days ago -- a toilet in one of the two houses that we will use when we try to move there. Every toilet on the whole hospital compound has been stolen or smashed. Dr. Elaine doesn't claim any particular expertise in setting toilets, but she did a magnificent job! We made jokes about the best-educated (M.D., double board certified) toilet-setter in Liberia . Today we dumped a bucket of water in the toilet to test it, and it worked very well. So although we have to haul water from a yard pump, we can have a toilet!
And the other was a nice touch at the end of my walk around the campus, when I was feeling really sad and discouraged about the destruction. There was a real question in my mind as to whether it was realistic to think about trying to reconstruct this mess into a functioning hospital. I took Mike around for a tour of the first hospital building itself - - here is where the sick little children are; here is where the pregnant women are; over here is the intensive care unit; this is where we put soldiers to keep them in a kind of separate place from the rest of the patients. That comparison with what the hospital had been only a year ago and the wreckage that it is today really emphasized the question as to whether it is possible, even with a lot of money, to reconstruct this place. So I was feeling very traumatized and dejected. And then a brilliant purple butterfly fluttered past, and I took it as a kind of reminder that the life of the world goes on, despite the wreckage and death and destruction caused by human beings.
And then a dove called. Those who have been with me to Liberia or Cote d'Ivoire will remember the dove. They all know the same song, and they sit in the tree and call all day long: "Welcome to Africa . Welcome to Africa ."
We're thinking to move to Phebe on an experimental basis on Tuesday.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #7
2 February 2004
By: Kit Cone
[While living in "temporary" exile at Grace Church in Madison , New Jersey , Kit Cone collected and edited the previous Phebe Hospital Journal and Soka Moses stories. He returned to Liberia on January 27th with a delegation to assist in restoring Phebe Hospital to full functionality.]
Today was VERY long, and I think I'll be satisfied with a rather short report so I can go collapse in bed. We are preparing for the great exodus tomorrow to Phebe, with a giant 8-ton DAF truck, a bus, and a pickup truck in a convoy. So there was a whole lot of packing trucks, emptying containers, shopping, unpacking trucks, packing trucks again, and trying to get everything in the three vehicles. The weather is hot enough, but working inside the containers is brutal, and tonight Paul [Shaner]is getting rehydrated by Dr. Elaine [Riegle] after a rough day.
I was happy to find that the big red tool cabinet with my hand tools was saved! The tools are very rusty, and they'll never be quite the same again, but with a lot of naval jelly and steel wool most of them can be quite useful again. Sadly, all of the portable power tools are gone. The only one that got saved was the Bosch hammer-drill, which is my favorite portable tool and when we were escaping I carried it out on my lap in the Land-Rover. But all the battery-operated DeWalt tools -- something like $600 worth -- are gone. And the reciprocating saw, electric drills, saber saws, circular saws, etc., have all been taken. My generator is also gone, and my welder. Replacing all this stuff will be a big deal. The little drill press was saved, but the big one that Elizabeth Vandeveer gave me is a much better tool, even though it needs some restoration.
Also in the containers, rescued from Phebe when we ran on March 16, were some plastic chairs, mattresses, dishes, kitchen stuff, pots and pans, and electric fans. All of that went into the big truck. But then we found that while we were packing the truck, there were two smaller trucks out doing some more shopping. They came back with a lot of lumber for making beds, a pretend washing machine, some "diamond wire" screening, big bags of nails, and other treasures. So we had to do some unpacking and repacking of the big truck to get some it this stuff on board, and tomorrow morning we have to put a little fridge in the pickup truck that will be part of our convoy. This is the fridge that can run on batteries, and we found the batteries! I think we have the control box that is either a charger or an inverter. So we'll try to connect all this with the little portable generator.
Anyway most of the stuff is loaded on the trucks for the great exodus, and tonight we have to move some fridges and pack our belongings.
We weren't able to do laundry as we had planned today, because the main generator for the compound was suffering from plugged- up radiator syndrome. So the power didn't come on until about 4 p.m. Now ( 8:15 p.m. ) the generator is still on, providing power to pump water. As a result of the power failure, we are a bit behind on a lot of office work - -Tuesday, June 1, 2004 16:28e Foerster, a German Lutheran pastor, to the twice-weekly security briefing held for all the NGOs. Today is a Muslim holTuesday, June 1, 2004 16:28 the only negative news was that a U.N. truck had been fired upon, but nobody was hurt. And a U.S. man in charge of jails was asking for help because he said the prisoners had inadequate food and were living in terrible conditions. Other than that, everybody seemed satisfied with security and with conditions in general.
There is a lot of anticipation about the trip to Phebe tomorrow. This is what we came for, and we're actually getting started on it. Even though the living conditions will be little better than camping out, there is still the satisfaction of really getting to work on rebuilding the hospital compound. The first few days will be exploratory, and we'll spend most of our time taking care of ourselves -- setting up the two houses in which we will all live, making a little bit of electricity, carrying water, restocking the kitchen and pantry, and things like that. But as we fix one house, we can move on to another, and eventually we'll start on the medical facilities and make it back into a hospital again.
We're having a lot of "back at Tara " jokes relating to the return tomorrow, and even though it's not going to be a picnic there is a spirit of levity about this adventure.
I probably won't be able to do e-mail for quite a while, as we have no facilities at Phebe. Maybe we can let Bill know by local communications and have him send you a note that we are alive and thriving at Phebe. But don't worry about what happened to us. We will always have a vehicle there, in case we have to run, and we will have the Iridium satellite telephone. This phone can do normal vocal communication, but not e-mail.
And so to move some refrigerators, pack all my belongings, and prepare to move off smartly.
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #8
Byline: Bill Martin
5 February 2004
Source: Kit Cone
The second set of volunteers from the USS work team arrived safety last night (WED 04FEB04) about one hour behind schedule. Carrie, Carol and Marlene are staying at the LCL guest house in Monrovia for a few days and then will join the rest of the team at Phebe. There third set of team members is schedule for arrival next Wednesday on the weekly SN Brussels flight and includes Dr. Payne from the USA and Poul Bertelsen, a Danish architect.
Mr. Bertelsen is a Short-term consultant funded by DEM and a former missionary and has many years of experience from Africa and Asia with construction, rehabilitation and renovation of hospital buildings and other building and construction projects, including the renovation and rehabilitation of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Moshi, Tanzania, when this big hospital was turned back to the churches after having been nationalized and completely run down by the government. He has also worked with projects in Liberia before the civil wars broke out.
Today, the three new team members will visit the Salala field hospital operation (a 1.5 hour mission [trip] from Monrovia ). Gary Winters came down from Phebe on Wednesday morning to purchase supplies and will return to Phebe about noon today.
Gary reports that the USS team at Phebe is doing well and they are completing the repairs on House #6 and #5 to make them livable. They have no direct email service at the present but Bill Martin will take a lap top and SAT phone up to them this weekend for their use on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a more permanent email service arrangement at Phebe soon.
Dr. Ruth Goehle returned to the USA on the SN Brussels flight last night and will be missed by all. We are all waiting to hear some good news from the UN donors' conference taking place in New York City this week.
More news soon, see ya, bill
William E. Martin,
Direct questions or comments to: email@example.com
The Liberian Collections Project is part of the Archive of Traditional Music at Indiana University
Copyright Trustees of Indiana University
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 16:28