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Hope Clinic: An update

Posted on 10th July 2020 by Philippa Wilford

Hope Clinic: An update

Based in Lailenpi, Hope Clinic was built in 2016, and provides services to almost 2,000 patients each year. 

The clinic provides outpatient services six days a week and, in emergencies, can provide a referral and transport service to hospitals in Pakokku or Yangon.  This service often saves families going into lifelong debt in order to reach expert clinical care in an urban hospital.  The clinic also acts as a clinical training centre for:

  • Community Health Workers (CHWs)
  • Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) 
  • Trainer of Trainers (TOTs)

Thanks to the commitment of our wonderful supporters, the clinic has grown in the last year, and is now staffed by three medical doctors and three nurses - all graduates of our student scholarship programme - in addition to a trained paramedic and two senior CHWs. The local medical team are also able to conduct clinics in local villages.

Seeing patients at Hope Clinic Nurse intern triaging patients TBA trainers at the clinic

Staffing

In 2018, three doctors from Health & Hope’s Freedom to Education Project (FEP) returned to Lailenpi to help run the clinic after undertaking six years of study in China and the Philippines. They were joined in 2019 by three qualified nurses, who have also been supported by Health & Hope.  Their training included a one-year internship in hospitals in Yangon in addition to college and undergraduate degrees in India.

They all now work part-time in the Clinic whilst also overseeing community based projects. It has been tremendous to see the development of a dynamic team, working together, sharing skills, experiences and vision for the future.

Dr Shwehulian, one of the medical team, recently shared his story of the challenges he has had to overcome in his life, and how this inspired him to become a doctor.

Outpatient visits

The medical team received 1,963 patients visits last year.  Of these 840 were children and 247 were those who were 60+ years of age. 

Most patients present with minor illnesses, however an accurate diagnosis is often difficult to make without access to diagnostic support. This year, we were able to purchase an ECG machine and rapid diagnostic kits, which have significantly expanded the range of services we have been able to offer from the clinic.

These diagnostic tools save families from having to travel many days to an urban centre, reduce the risk of road travel accidents and prevent villagers from going into debt for travel, accommodation and hospital costs incurred in reaching a government facility.

Dr Beichotha leading clinics for patients Nurses with new equipment Unpacking the new ECG machine

Training

Throughout the year, the clinic hosted multiple training events for staff, CHWs and TBAs. 

We also received a returning volunteer, Dr Nick from Guernsey, a retired GP and also a Commissioner with the Guernsey Overseas Aid & Development Commission. Dr Nick ran clinics and training for staff for eight days in March 2020 in addition to a three day training for CHWs. He saw 242 patients at the clinic and provided one-to-one training for both doctors and nurses in a range of topics including patient care and record keeping.  

Workshops at the clinic this year had a particular focus on Maternal and Neonatal Health.  These were run by specialist nurses, lactation consultants and midwives.  They provided support for up-skilling of the local medical team in neonatal resuscitation, care of the new-born, breastfeeding and mother and baby clinics.

Supporting nurse-led clinics Training local nurse interns Care of new-born baby training In-situ midwifery training

Mobile outreach clinics

The health team conducted a number of mobile clinics and health education campaigns throughout the year in conjunction CHWs. In February 2020, 364 people attended mobile clinics in an outreach to local villages, which included health education advice and nutritional screening for children at the local schools. 

These mobile clinics are also an opportunity for the Health Team to meet with locally trained health workers. This collaboration is essential in developing networks of support, maintaining effective communication and ensuring the delivery of quality health care where it is needed most.

During medical outreach, the team were asked to see a 67 year-old female with shortness of breath, high temperature, loss of appetite and fatigue. The patient was pale with signs of cyanosis, a condition where there is not enough oxygen reaching cells.  She also had cackles on her chest when listening with a stethoscope.  A thorough examination revealed dangerously low blood oxygen levels. 

The village had no road access and so the team made a stretcher and carried the patient with members of the village for three hours to reach a road.  From there she was transported to a hospital for lifesaving treatment. The patient’s blood oxygen levels and vital signs were regularly monitored thanks to the equipment carried from the clinic by the team.

Dr Shwehulian leading an outreach clinic Dr Sakie leading a mother & baby clinic

Thank you!

We are so grateful for your continued support for our work. The Clinic was opened in 2017 with only Dr Sasa providing a part-time service to the community. Hope Clinic has now become an essential provider of healthcare to villagers in Lailenpi and the surrounding area. 

It has significant potential to grow the range of services offered with sufficient, committed and sustainable funding. If you would like to support this project financially, you can give a gift online or contact Pip, our Partnerships Manager, for a project proposal by emailing: philippa.wilford@healthandhope.org.

Diary of a medic

Posted on 19th June 2020 by Philippa Wilford

Diary of a medic

Snapshots from my trip to Lailenpi with Health & Hope by Bill Hunter

Saturday — Monday

We arrived in Lailenpi after nearly three days of travel from Southampton! After our long-haul flight, we relaxed by a pool at the hotel preparing for the next section of our journey. Both Hannah, our host, and Dr Nick — a retired GP who’d travelled out with us to lead much of the planned training programme — warned that the 2-day drive from Bagan to Lailenpi would be gruelling. 

We thought we were prepared, having loaded up on snacks and water, books and games for entertainment. Our cameras were charged, and we were feeling positive.

It was about an hour into our journey, when Dr Nick said how much better these roads were than what lay ahead that I realised how wrong we’d been — I’d already banged my head three times! On the plus side, the scenery was mind-blowing and we got to see an elephant!

Once we made it to Lailenpi, we were greeted by the whole Health & Hope team holding a large banner. They gave us traditional Chin scarves, and we all sat down for an incredible meal. This was our first taste of the amazing hospitality we enjoyed throughout our stay. Already overwhelmed by the generosity shown to us, we collapsed into bed, very grateful to have arrived!

Tuesday

It was straight into an early start for our first day! After a fantastic breakfast we got stuck into teaching with Dr Nick as part of the Community Health Worker (CHW) training workshops. We went over their medicines list, and were incredibly impressed by the level of knowledge of the CHWs. 

After a full day, we sat down for dinner, then Dr Sasa took us up to see the new airstrip being built. The village choir came along and sang Hallelujah while the sun set around us.  Afterwards, Dr Sasa took us to his Dad’s house for tea. The variety to the day’s event felt intense, but absolutely wonderful.

Friday

This was the first day I had the chance to go to the Midwife-run workshops where they were teaching on Breech Birth and Shoulder Dystocia. It was genuinely better than any teaching I’ve had in the UK on either of the subjects, even after five years of medical school and an eight-week placement on Obstetrics, which had all been good! I came away feeling like I’ve never been more prepared to deliver a baby. 

This evening I had one of the most crazy experiences of my life! There was a 91 year old preacher arriving from India for a church conference that also happened to be running in Lailenpi. This preacher was the last Mara man to have been baptised by the original missionary who came over from England to Myanmar. Dr Sasa thought it would be a respectful symbolic gesture to have us carry him through the town to the church! It was amazing to take part in such an incredible display of faith and thankfulness, and was like nothing I’d ever experienced in the UK.

Sunday (sometimes known as a day of rest!)

At the end of a very full week, we were told we’d finally get some time to relax, and even have a lie in. None of that happened but I couldn’t have been happier.

Dr Saki kindly gave me a Long Gee to wear after he caught me admiring one earlier in the week so I got to go to Church in traditional clothing. We danced with some of the local people and sang ‘Sing Hosannah,’ which ended up getting thousands of views on Facebook!

After lunch, we all sat on the balcony and sang hymns and songs while Dr Saki played the guitar. It was one of the most peaceful and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had, and I felt privileged to share in this time together.

Beichotha, Mary and Phoebe took us on a walk through the town afterwards. We ended up stopping at a stranger’s house for bananas, seeing a local seamstress at work, and a hairdresser’s. It was great to see the community; everyone was so kind and generous. Beichotha told us if he wanted to, he could walk the seven days to the capital city, staying with strangers who would happily host him even if they didn’t speak his language. It was amazing to witness these expressions of Christian kindness at their most pure.

On the way back, we stopped for coffee at the Head Preacher’s house, and at a local school where students were preparing for exams. We were able to pray for the children and talk to them about our own experiences of exams and how to prepare for them.

We got back to our rooms well after dark, absolutely exhausted from this ‘day off’ but very happy!

Wednesday

It was another very full day in the clinic seeing patients. 

Earlier in the week, I’d seen a patient who had some mental health issues that sounded very like PTSD from a terrible experience she’d been through. Unfortunately, it seemed little could be done as facilities for mental health care don’t exist. 

I happened to mentioned this over dinner, and how sad it was that complex needs such as this patient’s are difficult to support. Afterwards, Dr Saki pulled me aside and asked who I’d been talking about. I found it hard to give many details, but he persisted, asking which nurse had been with me. He went straight away to track her down and follow up with the patient. 

There were many small moments like this, which had I not been directly involved, I simply wouldn’t have noticed. Clearly there was more care that could be offered to this patient than I realised. It was another reminder of the kindness of everyone within this tight-knit community.

At that dinner, we were also joined by members of the army who treated us to a song — yet another memorable moment!

Friday

Sadly this was our last day in Lailenpi. I spent it in the clinic. Later, we got to take part in a stone laying ceremony for the new student accommodation. Then it was time to say goodbye to everyone who had been so kind to us.

Saturday

We left early this morning. The drive back was shorter than the way up as it was downhill all the way!  We were very sorry that the outbreak of Covid-19 meant we needed to make emergency plans to return home rather than continuing our time in Myanmar. All in all, it was an incredible experience. I feel so privileged to have taken part.

Thank you to everyone at Health & Hope.

A desert trek for Health & Hope

Posted on 18th June 2020 by Philippa Wilford

A desert trek for Health & Hope

Jean O’Hara is setting off for the trek of a lifetime, and raising money for Health & Hope in the process.

We caught up with Jean during Lockdown to find out how her training is going.

 

Hi Jean! You are planning on trekking across the Jordan desert in October. What on earth inspired you to take up such a challenge?

I turn 60 this year, and decided I needed to mark it by setting a goal. I have raised money by taking part in 10-25km sponsored walks in England before, but I wanted to do something really big. So, on New Year’s Day, my friend Jill and I signed up for five days of trekking across the Jordan desert, from the Dead Sea to reach Petra.

I have never been to this part of the world before, and the more I read about it, the more exciting - and daunting - it sounded. The terrain is varied and difficult. It is hot during the day, and gets very cold at night. It is a supported trek, but I am under no illusions that it will test our strength and stamina.

 

Has Lockdown affected your preparation?

Yes, it has certainly made things harder! The company we are going with gave a useful training programme, but it was hard to stick to because initially we were only allowed to exercise locally for a limited time each day. Also, the trip itself felt uncertain, and so motivation to keep on training became difficult for a while.

However, with Lockdown easing, and being able to go further afield and to meet up and train with my friend Jill means we’re back on track, motivated and feeling hopeful that it will go ahead.

 

What made you choose Health & Hope as your charity to support?

My trip is fully self-funded, but I thought it was a good opportunity to raise some money for a worthwhile cause. 

I’ve raised money for large charities before. This time I wanted to support an organisation where I could see my money make a specific difference. 

My dad was Burmese, born and raised in Rangoon, so this part of the world appealed to me. Both my parents have known the struggle of poverty and hardship and the value of education. Seeing the way Health & Hope seeks to support local communities in these particular areas is exactly the type of work I want to enable. 

I trained in medicine and have spent my career as a psychiatrist, working with people who live with severe mental health problems. I chose to further specialize in the mental health of people with learning disabilities. They often experience adversity, trauma, stigma and discrimination and struggle to have their needs met and their voices heard. Projects such as Education for All are life-changing, and so Health & Hope's targeted fundraising for initiatives such as these is fantastic. As a fundraiser, I can see the difference my support will make.

Also, I read the story of Dr Sasa — what an inspirational man! He has dedicated his work to giving back to his community.

 

Thank you for your time, we will look forward to hearing how you get on!

If you would like to support Health & Hope through taking part in a fundraising challenge, and would like ideas and support, then do get in touch with our Partnerships Manager, Philippa by emailing pip@healthandhope.org.

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