In the tiny village of Manjama, there is a small health center. In just a few rooms, without air conditioning or much electricity, babies are delivered, people are given basic medical care, and mothers are cared for. As our team walked through the center with the nurses and Community Health Officers (similar to Physician’s Assistants), we met a mother with her newborn daughter. She was tiny, no larger than four pounds. I had no medical training, but even I knew that the rate she was breathing wasn’t normal.
The Community Health Officer made a quick phone call and then asked if we could transport the baby and her mother and grandmother to Mercy Hospital, just a few miles away.
Our Land Rover, where we had been eating lemon cookies and listening to reggae, was transformed into an ambulance. We never asked the name of the little girl or asked to take a picture. I imagined myself in that situation — would I want to be peppered with questions from strangers?
But we did call back. The nurses had stabilized the baby’s breathing using an oxygen concentrator at the hospital. The baby’s life had been saved.
You can hear statistics about Sierra Leone’s infant mortality rates, but it doesn’t hit home until you’re there. In the course of an hour, we saw a child in need of medical help. She had what so many kids in Sierra Leone don’t — a way to get to a hospital in time. Because she got to the hospital in time, she survived.
UPDATE: Thanks to a generous donor, we were able to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser for the hospital. They have an ambulance!