WAFF – Tickets Booked. Bags Packed. Patients Waiting!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Just a quick note to let you know plane tickets have been purchased and surgeries will begin again in August.  We are so excited to return, get organized and get back to the business of helping the women of Sierra Leone.

Our facilities manager, Paul Robinson (from England), arrived several few weeks ago and is already hard at work getting things put in order.

Kathi Beasley, an incredibly talented photographer/videographer, created this lovely video to highlight the work we do at WAFF.  Please take a look and let us know what you think!  We would love to hear from you.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page to watch our progress!  Be sure to  “Follow” / “Like” our page and also share with others!
Sincerely,
Darius R. Maggi M.D.
West Africa Fistula Foundation

2015 – June WAFF News

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been several months since our last letter, and while I sincerely hope you and your families are doing well, I am sad to report the situation in Sierra Leone has continued to worsen. As most of you know, the Ebola scare dominated the news while there were infected patients here in the United States, but now it seems it has mostly passed as a just small blip on this country’s temporary news radar, almost forgotten by most. Unfortunately, the devastating effects of this disease are still being strongly felt in Western Africa, particularly in Sierra Leone. While the actual number of Ebola cases is decreasing, and the death tolls are not sky rocketing like they once were, the health care community of the country has been completely ravaged. We are VERY, VERY fortunate that we have not lost any of our direct staff, but there have been a catastrophic number of lives lost all across the medical workforce, including doctors, nurses, aids, and many others who had been participating in the care of these very sick people.

As you can imagine, the quality and availability of care has suffered tremendously just due to these losses alone, but even further, the psychological, mental, and emotional well-being of much of this country has been significantly altered, not only from the direct effects, but also due to the wide-spread changes implemented as a result of this epidemic. For instance, the government is trying to enforce a system for the handling of all bodies of people passing away at the hospitals. They are calling for specialized teams to come in, wrap the bodies in protective material, and haul them off to mass graves, so as to not allow for any family members or healthcare workers to be exposed to any potential contamination or spreading of the Ebola virus. This is regardless of whether or not the patient was diagnosed with Ebola-like symptoms. While I am not questioning these particular efforts of the government (as they have an enormous challenge in front of them), you can imagine the pain just this particular change is causing.

I am reluctant to confine this horrible situation to just one story, but below is just one brief account of one day, as experienced and told to me two days ago by Paul Robinson, our Director of the program, in Sierra Leone right now:

Good morning Dr. Maggi,

A child died on the maternity ward this morning (ward 6). Imagine the mother’s anguish at losing her baby and then having to suffer the indignity of seeing its lifeless body bundled into a plastic burial bag to be taken away to a mass burial ground. Ebola did not kill this child, yet the whole family were victims nonetheless. All dead persons are treated this way now, no matter what the cause of death.

Later today, I again heard the wails, shouts and screams of the same anguish – a young mother died shortly after giving birth. The child lived this time, but the mother is taken away in a burial bag to the same mass burial ground. Ebola is again not the killer, but the result is still the same, another family shattered!!!

The maternal care that is so badly needed is just not here. Midwives are in such short supply that maternal problems have increased dramatically. Nurses that could help to stem this increasing loss of young lives are just not here. Ebola has crippled these people in ways that you cannot begin to imagine. Can you imagine the pain of not tending to your sick child’s last needs, not having the last cuddle, hold, or touch? Then having to watch as it goes into a plastic burial bag and is hauled off, can you?

Another true story, one of our nurses, Vero, was ordered to go to Daru as part of the Ebola treatment team. She went, but she was the ONLY ONE of that entire medical team to leave that treatment centre alive.  All her colleagues died, every one DEAD! Thankfully she is back with us now amazingly, and as a skilled midwife, she will be invaluable to us and the people of Salone.

Paul

Again, this is just one tiny snapshot of the everyday reality the people of this country are facing. It is almost impossible for us to imagine, but it is so very real.

With that, you can see we have plenty of work to do. I am planning to go back over at the end of July or the beginning of August; meanwhile, Dr. Manna, Paul, and the entire team have done an incredible job keeping our program alive and relevant during this extremely challenging time. We have intentionally delayed as many non-life-threatening procedures as possible, but with your support, we have maintained our staff, maintained our patient flow, and maintained our facilities to enable us to stay in a position to help as many people as possible, as the situation permits.

Now, our patient load is enormous, and our needs are great. We have always been hesitant to directly ask for any donations or support in these “update letters”, as we have been amazingly blessed with the generosity of our supporters all these years. However, at this time, we would like to let you know your help is needed now as much as ever. There are three primary reasons we could use any extra support at this time. First and foremost, our operating costs are undoubtedly going to be higher for the foreseeable future – we have a very large number of patients awaiting surgeries, not to mention the increasing number of emergency cases that are showing up at our doors, looking for any help we can give them. So while our dollars can still do an enormous amount of good, the sheer volume of work is as high as ever. Second, the vast majority of our beds, fixtures, and supplies in our primary ward were sacrificed to help ease the burden of caring for all the Ebola patients at the hospital we share with the government. The influx of patients was incredible, and the space was very limited, so our ward was used as an overflow treatment area, and in turn, almost all of our beds and furniture has been lost or destroyed. Lastly, we could really use one or two more vehicles. We try to be extremely conservative with our spending and our use of any items like this, but they are a necessary part of the program. If there is any silver lining here, it is that the opportunity to acquire vehicles at a reasonable cost is better now than it has been historically. Due to a large number of organizations retreating from this very difficult environment, there is actually a decent surplus of good, used vehicles that are already in country. So these can be acquired reasonably without having the expense of shipping, importation, and all the other costs associated with bringing them in. While it’s a sad reality so many people are leaving, given our needs for a vehicle or two, this is actually an opportune time for us to get them.

I apologize for the length of this letter, but I wanted to try to convey the severity of our situation and let you know we very much appreciate each and every one of you, and we could not do it without you.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

With Gratitude,

Darius R. Maggi M.D.
West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

2014 – September

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I wanted to give you an update as to what is going on in Sierra Leone and had hoped by waiting a few weeks it would be good news, but unfortunately the Ebola outbreak has just escalated.  We were scheduled to go back to Sierra Leone July 29 and operate on several patients but because the majority of the surgeries we do are elective and not emergency cases we elected to suspend doing surgeries and avoid unnecessary exposure to our health care workers and patients to the Ebola virus.  The morgue and holding area for the Ebola patients were just a few feet from our ward and the possible mixing of our patients was concerning to us.  This virus is extremely wicked and as all of you know very lethal to the majority of the people that contract it.

We have 32 Sierra Leonean employees that work with West Africa Fistula Foundation and are extremely loyal and dedicated to caring for the patients.  We have assured our employees and their families we will continue to support them because the cost of food and basic necessities have gone sky high due to the disruption of the economy this unprecedented disease has caused.

I have been on the phone with our staff almost on a daily basis and have been told of numerous unbelievable stories of people dying from this disease.  One particular story ismind boggling in that one of the nurses at the Bo Government hospital contracted the disease, subsequently passed it onto all 10 of her immediate family members – including her husband, children, siblings and parents – and every one of them died.  Below is an example of a text I received from Aminata our Nurse in Charge for WAFF:

I am saying a very big thank u to u for taking care of us at this time that EBOLA is in our country.I am greatfull.God will bless u and your family.people are infected every day.but by his grace we will live to tell the story. Ebola has entered freetown and it is killing people more than were it started.i am so worried.so many nurses have deid in freetown.A nurse that was like a sister to me died here in Bo of Ebola now her family is no more every body is died inculding her two years old daughter.this is serious.oh GOD have mercy  - Sent from my iPhone
 
We are committed to continue helping the people of Sierra Leone, and this horrific disease reaffirms that our vision for better health care facilities is so much needed. I am telling you that helping these people is the most gratifying experience one could imagine. We are asking for your prayers and appreciate your continued support. Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.

                              
With gratitude,
Darius R. Maggi, MD

West Africa Fistula Foundation

West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

Find Us On Facebook!

www.westafricafistulafoundation.org

WAFF Staff assisting a patient.

WAFF Nurse – Rachel
Sierra Leone cooking
WAFF Staff – Kadiatu

Dr. Mannah with Kabba (WAFF Maintenance)

2014 – January

Dear Friends and Supporters,

To All of our WAFF Followers and Supporters,

Once again, we are greatly humbled by the kindness and generosity so many of you have showed over the past year. Our program continues to positively impact so many lives in Sierra Leone, and we are extremely grateful that this is all made possible with your help.

The year ahead will bring more challenges to be sure, but as you have proved so many times, these challenges are met and exceeded by the compassion of our supporters. Just this month, we received an amazing donation from one of the neatest, most encouraging sources we have encountered to date: a pair of 14 and 16-year-old sisters. These young girls, operating under a non-profit called Pretty Purposeful, show a sense of caring and maturation way beyond their years and are a tremendous inspiration to all of us. I would encourage you to learn more about their story at www.prettypurposeful.org.

One of our own team members, Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith, is also leading an effort in raising funds and awareness for our program, and we have attached a letter she recently sent, outlining her impressive commitment.

There are obviously many more stories, and no effort – however large or small – goes overlooked or unappreciated. The women of Sierra Leone are so appreciative for each and every one of you, and we feel very blessed to be able to continue to help them with your assistance.
Thank you for your continual support, encouragement and involvement with our organization.

With gratitude,
Darius R. Maggi, MD

Here is complete information about Iron Man Fundraiser Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith is involved in:

Dear Family and Friends,

Most of you know about my involvement with the West Africa Fistula Foundation (WAFF) in Sierra Leone, West Africa. In 2013 I had the opportunity to make three trips to Sierra Leone and was part of a small team that operated on over 50 women and girls (like 15 year old Gitta pictured below) suffering with chronic urine and fecal leakage due to obstetric fistulas. As you know this horrific problem is caused by unattended childbirth and is completely preventable with education and the availability of basic obstetric interventions. This year I plan to make a similar commitment as it has truly the most rewarding experience of my life.

WAFF is a small organization, funded entirely by our friends and private followers as well as the physicians themselves. Donations fund operating expenses including the salaries of 15 full time local staff in Sierra Leone who care for our current patients and admit new ones to our dedicated fistula ward, and our administrative services in the US are all donated. If you have ever wanted to do something to make a difference in the developing world but were not sure how to do it or whom to trust, helping to support some of the most unfortunate women in the world through WAFF is a great opportunity to bring about real change in a cost effective way.

While fundraising is not my passion, I have learned through my own giving the wonderful things that grow from generosity, so I invite you to be a part of this cause knowing the great satisfaction that you will gain from it. To make it fun, I have once again committed to an enormous personal challenge this year and invite you to sponsor me to compete in the Ironman New Zealand race on March 1, 2014. Through my first Ironman race in 2012 I was able to raise over $30,000 for WAFF and plan to exceed that amount this year. Every penny of sponsorship goes directly to WAFF and is carefully used to fund our local operation in Sierra Leone, including the surgery itself as well an average of 12 weeks of housing, nursing care, treatment of active conditions including anemia, malaria and parasitic disease as well as vocational training and nutritional support.
On my last trip to Africa in October 2013 I was joined by my friend and professional photographer Kathi Beasley, who made the short (8 minutes) video below to kick off our fundraising drive for a new hospital which is being designed and built by WAFF. Please take a look at this video to see the work we are doing and please consider sponsoring me to complete this race and help some of the poorest women in the world.

Realm of the Free – West Africa Fistula Foundation and their Good Works for Women

Since the Ironman race covers 140.6 miles including a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile marathon, my suggested sponsorship levels this year reflect that magic number! While no donation is too small, sponsorship is suggested at one of the following levels:

Level 1- $70- 50 cents per mile, will pay a registered nurse’s salary for 1 week; or 2 weeks of food, housing and vocational training for a fistula patient

Level 2- $140 – $1 per mile, will pay a registered nurse’s salary for 2 weeks; or 4 weeks of food, housing and vocational training for a fistula patient

Level 3- $560- $4 per mile, will pay a registered nurse’s salary for 2 months; or 4 months of food, housing and vocational training for a fistula patient or patients

Level 4- $1400- $10 per mile, will pay all expenses for a single woman to be cured of her fistula.

Donations may be made directly to WAFF at www.westafricafistulafoundation.org (Please note “IRONMAN” in the comments line) or checks made out to West Africa Fistula Foundation may be delivered directly to me at 2725 Albans, Houston TX 77005.
WAFF is a registered 501 (c) 3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.

Thank you so much for your support, and follow my race progress live beginning on Friday February 28th at noon (Houston time) at http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/coverage/live.aspx#axzz2qtftb8ba

In gratitude, Susan

Sincerely,

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

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.

https://vimeo.com/79826451

Sincerely,

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

Find Us On Facebook!

www.westafricafistulafoundation.org

waff-1Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith and Dr. Darius Maggi working together on a fistula surgery.
WAFF-3
 WAFF-3
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.
waff-5
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.

2013 – September

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I apologize for this letter being late, as I am actually heading back over for another trip now and realized I had failed to get this update out from our last trip. However, upon returning this last time and having multiple meetings about the current WAFF situation and our goals moving forward, I keep coming back to the same feeling: our team is doing an absolutely amazing job despite conditions that are almost incomprehensible, BUT there is still SO much to be done…

First, the good. This last trip we had two Fistula patients that our nurses found and literally rescued from the brink of death. They were discovered malnourished, dehydrated, and so emaciated that they would have undoubtedly died had our nurses not found them – all because of the stench resulting from their fistulas. They had been isolated and shunned from their community because of their condition, and our nurses found them disoriented and confused. Now, due to the great work of our team, these two ladies will not only survive, but they will be able to start anew with their fistulas fully repaired.

Now, the challenge. I would like for you to take just a few minutes and really try to imagine:

  • Having your own son, healthy and normal, suffer a seemingly minor broken leg, but then he has to have that leg amputated because it became so infected after being treated by a traditional healer in the village

  • Being in an automobile accident where six of your friends were killed and now you lie in the hospital with unknown head and abdominal injuries but haven’t been seen for over 18 hours because there is no physician around

  • Your daughter lying in a hospital bed for 5-6 days, left extremely anemic from having malaria, but because there is no blood bank for her to get blood, she will probably end up dying

  • Your father having a simple hernia that resulted in his bowels being blocked and ruptured just because he could not find anyone to see him

  • Having a sister seemingly paralyzed from the neck down in car wreck, but when she arrives at the local hospital they have no x-ray machine, no neck brace, and no way to transport her in a stabilized position to the closest hospital that has such items, which is 5-6 hours away… So, she has to ride, sitting up in an ordinary taxi cab

  • Your wife or daughter dying from a pregnancy in the tube just because when she arrived at the emergency room there was no one there to see her

  • And finally, having your small child with pneumonia hooked up to oxygen, but because the machine supplying that oxygen is powered by a generator that runs out of diesel, your child dies

These might sound like some kind of terrible stories out of a bad book or movie, but I personally witnessed every one of these events with my own eyes, either as they happened or right after. So, while I am incredibly proud of the great work our team is doing (and I want to emphasize they ARE doing great work), it is so hard not to think about how much more has to be done. As many of you know, we have been and will continue to be focused on the care of women with fistulas and/or gynecological/obstetrical issues in general, but we will hopefully soon be announcing some more defined goals and plans for accomplishing those goals with your help and support. As you can see, there is so much to do.

Sincerely,

 
Darius R. Maggi M.D. 
West Africa Fistula Foundation
West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

www.westafricafistulafoundation.org.

Dr. Susan with Sierra Leonean Children
Paul Robinson tracking vehicle maintenance
WAFF Staff getting ride in van to hospital
Andrea & Paul Robinson going over  the day’s duties

2013 – April

 

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We again had a very successful trip to Sierra Leone and have a lot of good things that are happening.
First of all I want to tell you about a young Doctor that contacted me several months ago and became very interested in helping the “Poorest of the Poor”. Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith of Houston Texas and head of a very large Women’s Group of Ob-Gyns decided to go to Africa with me but not only did she go but before she went she trained several months for the “Iron-Man” and dedicated all of the proceeds and donations in excess of $31,000 for the Women of Sierra Leone. Dr. Susan was hooked after she went to Sierra Leone and has graciously accepted to be on West Africa Fistula Foundation’s Board. We are very privileged to have someone of her stature to be joining our organization.
This is the link about Dr. Susan and her race along with her dedication to WAFF:http://vimeo.com/63447062
There continues to be a lot of good news in that the number of Fistulas is definitely declining in Sierra Leone but there is still so much that needs to be done because of the true lack of medical care in the Country. We continue to do many surgeries and care of patients in need and without your support this would be impossible to accomplish. When these patients go home dry or we are able to save a life we thank God for allowing us to do his work.
We have decided to not move to the Holy Mary Hospital and feel we are called to start the first phase of the Medical Center of Excellence that we have dreamed. We have several volunteer architects, engineers and other wonderful people all coming together to make this Center in Bo, Sierra Leone a true referral center for all of West Africa.
We continue to network with many different organizations so we can share knowledge and use this synergism to be more efficient. This last trip Dr. Gary Gilkeson and Dr. Tasha Ruth from Medical University South Carolina brought their team of people and are doing research on Lupus. Willa Finley from Lubbock Texas with Africa Business Jubilee visited our place in Bo and brought with her Elizabeth, a colleague that resides and works in Ghana with her.
Paul and Andrea Robinson of England have been made life much easier in administration and physical facilities management and have added invaluable experience to WAFF through their dedication and hard work.
Dr. Mannah has been showing improvement since his very unfortunate auto accident where 12 people were killed and is extremely helpful in the care of the patients. Our staff is truly dedicated and they do a wonderful job taking care of the patients.
We will keep you updated as we progress and with this transition to another facility over the next 12-18 months and are very excited about what can be accomplished.

Sincerely,

 
Darius R. Maggi M.D. 
West Africa Fistula Foundation
West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

Find Us On Facebook!
www.westafricafistulafoundation.org.

Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith
Dr. Susan with Sierra Leonean Children
Sierra Leone water
Villagers use as Bathtub during the Dry Season
Andrea & Paul Robinson in Sierra Leone

Andrea & Paul Robinson
Sierra Leone cooking
Fatmata Cooking for Patients on the WAFF ward
Sierra Leone drinking water
Village waterhole used for Drinking Water during Dry Season

2011 – November

Dear Friends and Supporters,
I am a little late getting this newsletter out after our last trip in Sept.-Oct. 2011,but I feel we once again had a very productive journey. As we have reported in the past, we are experiencing a bit of a transition in Sierra Leone, where we are seeing fewer total numbers of Obstetrical Fistulas, but the ones we are now seeing are the more difficult ones. This is obviously good news in that the overall fistula numbers are diminishing, but unfortunately, there is still a tremendous amount of Maternal Mortality, with Sierra Leone ranking as the 2nd worst in the World at this time. On this front, we have made an agreement with the government to further assist in the care of more of their general Obstetrical and Gynecological patients. In return, we have been given access to a larger portion of their facilities to help them in this area. This important collaboration allows us to keep our expenses more focused on care, rather than the brick and mortar expenditures until those can be justified. I continue to promise you that our funds that have been so generously donated by all have been and will be utilized to the fullest.

Drs. Gary Gilkeson and Natasha Ruth joined us for about a week and are doing studies on Lupus at the University of South Carolina Medical School . Nurse Patty Hoskin accompanied us and helped tremendously with skills training and general welfare of the patients.

We had a significant number of successful surgeries and are pleased to say a large number of these women went home dry to their respective villages. Beyond these surgeries, we had an increased workload in the Obstetrical and Gynecology area, but there are still way too many Maternal Deaths that could easily be prevented.
We are enclosing a number of pictures of the patients and kitchen facilities that we use, as our studies continue to show nutrition is extremely important in being able to have successful Obstetrical Fistulas.

Additionally, we are extremely pleased to announce that we have proposed a STAGING of OBSTETRICAL FISTULAS that we hope will be used worldwide to be able to predict success rates of the surgeries. This is very much like the way staging of cancers is used. Our staging was accepted and published in the International Journal of Obstetrical Trauma in the first Journal publication.

Finally, we want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.We also would like to once again express our appreciation for all that continue to support the Women and Children of Sierra Leone and others we treat in West Africa.

Sincerely,

 
Darius R. Maggi M.D.
West Africa Fistula Foundation

Find Us On Facebook!

Patients in new gowns awaiting surgery.
Kitchen facilities – Cooking Rice and Casava Leaves for the patients
Malnutrition is very common.
Patient eating while waiting on the ward for upcoming surgery.
Placing child on scales to see how much he weighs.
After many years of being “wet” Fatmata is pronounced “dry” after successful surgery and gets to return home !

2011 – August

west-africa-logo
Dear Friends and Supporters,
We again are extremely pleased to report another very successful trip to Sierra Leone for the month of June 2011. We were very fortunate to have another new group of volunteers this time, including Dr. Rob Kester from Auburn, Maine, Dr. Jim Caputo from Rochester New York, medical students Eric Gruber and Hemang Acharya from U Mass medical School, Boston and Yewande Adisa from England.  We also met up with a dedicated volunteer group from Long Island University in New York.  Dawn Kilts, Dean of Nursing, Dr. Mohamed Grighria, Dean of Business School and Dr. Suzanna Gim, Dean of Pharmacy were all gracious enough to come to Bo to offer their help. The Long Island team has made many trips to Sierra Leone, bringing lots of student volunteers (over 14 this time), and they are partnering with us in our efforts to help the people of Sierra Leone. They have been very instrumental in assisting us in many facets of day to day work, as well as aiding us in our future growth plans.As usual, our first and foremost concern was our fistula patients. While we are quite pleased to report the sheer number of these patients appears to be slowing down a bit, there are still a tremendous number of difficult cases to be done. During this trip alone, we can gladly report we performed 51 successful surgeries overall (38 of which we consider Major cases and 13 Minor cases). To give you just one example of what is all too common in Sierra Leone, Elfreda Manley is a 48 y/o Sierra Leonean Lady that had had the fistula since the age of 17 yet had not found anyone able to fix her. She came to us with unfathomable 31 year history of leaking urine uncontrollably down her leg. Elfreda is a very intelligent lady that reads, writes and speaks English extremely well, yet she has been ostracized numerous times because every time she gets a job, it is eventually discovered that she leaks urine, and she is immediately fired. She had felt very depressed initially because she had been discriminated against for so long; however, she experienced some real hope upon arriving to our ward, where she saw numerous patients with the same problem. She had been staying with us for 6 months in order to get physically and emotional ready for the surgery, so we had gotten to know her extremely well and were very excited about her time finally arriving. Since her surgery, she is now 100% DRY and like a whole new person. Along with her having such a great skill set, we have decided to hire her to join our staff because she is such a positive and caring person. Below we will show you a picture of Elfreda Manley.While stories like Elfreda’s and our dream to help these fistula patients has brought this program to where we are, we continue to see an overwhelming need for Obstetrical Care, General Gynecology care and obviously many other services that we in the U.S. take for granted. One such example is a 24 y/o young lady that was in an automobile accident which killed her 7 y/o daughter. When we were making rounds on another ward early one Sunday morning, she called out to us to evaluate her. Here she is lying in a bed, unable to move her legs and upper extremities (obviously paralyzed from the neck down but without a neck brace on because there are none), and her 7 y/o daughter’s body is in the Morgue 30 yards away. Her family has been standing around her bed asking for someone to help her, yet with no one able to help, they are forced to load her up with zero cervical or neck support into a small taxi to take her to Freetown (4+ hours away) to see if they can get her some help there. While this is extremely hard for many of us to understand, this is one example of the tremendous needs that are pervasive throughout this entire country.  

But to stay positive (and you must in countries like this), the bottom line is we have a unique opportunity in that we can do SO MUCH FOR SO LITTLE in this Country, and THANKS TO PEOPLE LIKE YOU we have, and continue to be fortunate enough to aid these people and give them a chance. Unlike many of the situations in America, where people want a HAND OUT, these people would like just a little HAND UP to get them jump started. With our volunteers from all over and our Sierra Leonean administrative costs so low, we are able to do a lot of these surgeries at an out of pocket cost of 500-1000 dollars, where in the States most of these would cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. So, we truly appreciate your support and want you to know your help has gone a LONG way.

Dr. Phillip Koroma, the only Obstetrician and Gynecologist in the Provinces outside of Freetown, continues to allow our program to function in the Bo Government Hospital, and this allows us to keep our operating expenses to a minimum where we can function until we are able to obtain a larger facility for the increasing load we are experiencing.

We want to thank each and every one of you for allowing us to continue to help these people. If you have any questions, please be sure and feel free to call and/or email.

Sincerely,

 
Darius R. Maggi M.D.

Visit our NEW and updated website:
www.westafricafistulafoundation.org
.

 

We now are offering Handmade Surgical Caps made by the women of our ward!

 

 Grandma had a fistula for over 40 years and woke up the next day after surgery and said “Oh My God My Bed is Dry”. Jo Jo Coker the nurse with her is a former Fistula  patient and has finished Nursing School and now works with WAFF.
 

The Patients are fed  3 times a day  and placed on iron and vitamins  in order to get them nutritionally sound for surgery.

 Elfreda Manley the lady with the fistula for 31 years looking out after a patient’s baby.  She is now dry and will be joining our team.
 Betty Vandy had  a fistula for 17 years and is happy to be dry after having surgery this June.

2011 – March

Dear Friends and Supporters,
 
Again we are happy to report a very successful trip to Sierra Leone. We had a TREMENDOUS group of Volunteers this time that were extremely helpful in growing our program. Wade and Sarita Robinson of West Virginia came and brought in excess of 50 water filters for the women we operated on to take back to their villages for use. The filters they brought are very user friendly and will help prevent one of the most deadly causes of infant morbidity and mortality, Typhoid Fever along with other water borne illnesses.
Patty Hoskin from Buxton England, a nurse, health educator, tutor and lecturer was very instrumental in many areas of the program. Patty interviewed, counseled and interacted with all of the patients but has become very involved in Skills Training of the patients. She has taken on a project that she will be introducing in the near future that we think will  benefit the patients and the program.
 
Last but not least was Dr. Alexandra Rogers a 4th year Resident in Urology from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Rogers was extremely helpful in the day to day surgeries, rounds and has the energy of the Booster Rockets of the Discovery. It was extremely gratifying to see a young up and coming physician/surgeon get involved in Humanitarian work. Hopefully this will be the first of her trips to Sierra Leone. Behind every good lady is a strong man, Alex’s husband Shawn Graft has been a God send to this program as I call him the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of WAFF. Shawn spent countless hours in helping train the Administrative staff of WAFF in Computer skills, fixing and updating computers, removing his type of viruses that attack the computers plus taking  numerous outstanding pictures including surgical procedures to enhance the program. He has facilitated putting all of our patient charts on the computer. They took 2 weeks of their vacation time to come help the people of Sierra Leone.
 
As I have reported on almost every trip we continue to see very advanced Cervical Cancer in many of the patients that think they have Obstetrical Fistula because their symptoms are sometimes identical to the Obstetrical Fistula patients. 
 
We continue to see many obstetrical fistulas and hear the same story of how these women have been in labor for days and days. We have many patients that walked through the doors of our ward with towels between their legs holding the urine and/or feces from dripping down their legs walking out of those doors dry without those towels and a smile on their face. 
 
I omitted one case from our last visit which was a lady in excess of 65 y/o that had a fistula for over 40 years. The day after her surgery she reached down and touched her bed and for the first time in 40 plus years  said “Oh! my bed is dry”.
 
We have so much more to do and still have the dream to build the Charity Hospital of West Africa 4 miles east of Bo so the people of Sierra Leone will have what we so take for granted in the United States of America an opportunity for a normal life.
Helen Weld, one of our first volunteers with WAFF and a lady very dedicated and instrumental in our move to Bo 3 years ago likes to remind us of the quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world —– indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

Thanks again to all that support us in your own way.
 
Sincerely,
 
Darius R. Maggi M.D.
P.S.  We are now on Facebook as West Africa Fistula Foundation!
Find Us On Facebook!Stay tuned…..We are currently working on updating our website:
www.westafricafistulafoundation.org
.

 

WAFF Staff

Several of our dedicated team members.

WAFF Patients
Women at the ward awaiting treatment.

 

Water of Life

Bucket filtration system project:  Two of our volunteers, Wade and Sarita Robinson (West Virginia, USA), brought water filters and distributed them to our patients.  Wade and Sarita sourced the buckets locally and drilled, sanded and assembled 50+ of these bucket purification systems.   They also traveled by boat to several remote villages to deliver these water filters and share their knowledge of water filtration.

20110217-0080-079

2010 – March

WEST AFRICA FISTULA FOUNDATION
UPDATE – March 2010
Dear Friends and Supporters,
We are pleased to report another extremely productive trip. What a rejuvenating experience to see the Sierra Leonean team step up and work very efficiently and hard to help the underprivileged people of Sierra Leone. We performed over 40 surgeries this trip and have some very happy women and children.

As most of you are aware we are in the process of building a Medical Center that will serve all of West Africa. We now have approximately 40 acres of land we have purchased to build on. We were very fortunate to have Mike Henderson one of the founders of www.heartofafrica.org accompany us. Mike has volunteered to help us through all phases of the building project in Bo. His major challenge will be raising the money to build the Medical Center we have all dreamed. My son Deno and son-n-law Colby Crenshaw also made the trip and was there for the first week of our journey and had a great time. Dr. Dahan Sheref who continues to support, facilitate and promote our project in many different ways.
Saleh Yahya a Sierra Leonean has joined our team and has offered to volunteer his time to help oversee the financial arm of WAFF in Sierra Leone. Saleh has a kind and beautiful wife along with 5 wonderful children and is dedicated to seeing the completion of the Medical Center.
We are uniting with Maternal Life International via Dr. Bob Scanlon, Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones and Ray Rogers to plan for the West Africa Medical Center (WAMC).

We were very pleased and surprised to hear that we (West Africa Fistula Foundation) were awarded the BEST NGO in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone for the year 2009. Dr. A. Philip Koroma our Medical Director was named the Doctor of the Year in Sierra Leone. Congratulations to Dr. Koroma.

WAFF also received a “CIVIC AWARD” from Bo District Development Association (BODDA) for “Charity Organization of the year 2009.

We cannot rest on these laurels as we have ONLY BEGUN because we continue to see so much NEEDLESS suffering in Sierra Leone and conditions that are so easily treated for very little money or very advanced conditions that could have easily been prevented. Something that just makes me sick is the number of women that continue to come in with very advanced cancer and unfortunately all we can do is send them back to the village to die because we do not have the facilities to treat these women.

We will end on a very pleasant note. Jim Stewart my friend since childhood in Wilburton, Oklahoma continues to fund ice cream for the children near our residence in Bo, Sierra Leone. This last time we had 97 children receive ice cream, many for the first time in their life.

Our thanks go to Jim who continues to say “every child should at least have an Ice Cream”.

Bottom line we appreciate your continued support and concern for the people of Sierra Leone and want to tell you thanks for allowing us to continue to serve the poorest of the poor.

Darius R. Maggi M.D.
dariusmaggi@yahoo.com www.westafricafistulafoundation.org 903-463-9400

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world —– indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

2009 – November

UPDATE – November 25, 2009

Dear Friends and Supporters,
Our last trip to Sierra Leone reaffirms our mission. Despite our primary goal of taking care of the Obstetrical Fistula Patients we saw a tremendous number of men, women and children that came to the hospital very late in their illnesses and died. There were numerous young children that died of Typhoid Fever which is so easily prevented and treated if caught early in the course of the disease. Many of these patients did not come in because they could not afford medical care which only costs a few dollars and if they could the facilities are so deplorable their chances of survival are low.
On the positive side Dr. Gary Gilkeson an internist research physician from Medical University South Carolina accompanied us to further his research on Lupus Erythematosus that is quite prevalent in South Carolina among the African-Americans. Most of these people have roots in Sierra Leone and Dr. Gilkeson is trying to determine if this is an inherited disease or acquired by comparing the incidence in Sierra Leone. Dr. Tasha Ruth, a Pediatric Rheumatologist accompanied Dr. Gilkeson and had a great experience seeing and treating pediatric diseases in Sierra Leone. Dr. Bob Scanlon an Ob-Gyn from Huntington New York and a very dear friend of mine came for several days and helped out with the patient load and in surgery. Dr. Scanlon has been to Africa numerous times and in one of his most recent trips gave a week long course on Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone. Dr. Scanlon received very positive feedback how his lectures had helped save many mothers since his last trip. Jennifer Bennett in her 2nd trip to Sierra Leone a Head Surgical Nurse and Midwife from Australia also accompanied us and was a great help in continuing to teach the nurses and provide patient care.
We continue to progress toward our dream of developing a Medical Center in Bo as we have now acquired several acres of land just east of Bo and have had this cleared off in hopes of starting our project in the very near future.
We performed many fistula surgeries plus numerous other surgeries that required immediate attention but this reaffirms our need for better medical facilities and access to care for the people of Sierra Leone.

We want to thank you for your continued support and encouragement. Be sure to visit our website www.westafricafistulafoundation.org

If you have any questions we will be glad to visit with you. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas Sincerely,
Darius R. Maggi M.D.

3621 Pottsboro Road #150 Denison, TX 75020 903-463-9400 Office 903-819-7250 Cell

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