I’m writing to you from our surf hostel in Malika, near Dakar in Senegal as we unwind from our clinic days.
Our team visited two health posts over the course of our trip: Bandafassi and Ethiolo. In Bandafassi, we saw approximately 255 patients over the course of 3 days of clinic, and just under 500 over 3 clinic days in Ethiolo. Because we had a slower flow of patients than most VOSH clinics, we were able to truly take our time with each patient, getting to know each person and provide them with the best care we could offer. Our two ODs, Dr. Shea Colpitts and Dr. Neil Paterson, were the best mentors we could have asked for. They pushed us to use our clinical skills and reasoning every single day.
Over the course of the two clinics, we encountered many different pathologies, including trachoma, corneal scarring, complications of trauma, keratoconus, hypertensive retinopathy, early onset macular degeneration, and more. The most concerning cases were those with active trachoma. These cases often afflicted children of the same families. We treated these cases with oral and topical antibiotics, and educated parents on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of active trachoma. By far, the most common pathologies were due to sun damage. For example, many patients had early onset cataracts, pterygiums, pinguecula, and maculopathies. We dispensed sunglasses to almost every patient who came through our clinics. This opportunity was such a valuable learning experience for all who participated.
The people in Bandafassi and in Ethiolo were incredibly warm and welcoming to our group. Many of our patients travelled long distances (some even on foot!) to come to our clinic. I worked with a woman named Hawa who wanted to follow my penlight with her head instead of only her eyes (she thought she was sneaky enough to get away with it). Each time I reminded her to keep her head still we would both dissolve into a fit of giggles as she realized she’d been caught. Patient #200 in Bandafassi was a man who walked for several hours to arrive at our clinic just as we were packing up for the day. We agreed to see him that day. He left looking stylish in a new pair of bifocal sunglasses with rose coloured lenses. A flute player came to our last clinic day in Bandafassi. When we asked for his contact information, all he told us was that he was the village flute player and that everyone at the health post would know where to find him. He had bilateral ptosis and when we asked him to cover one eye to take visual acuities, he laughed, reached around his head with his hand, and lifted one lid so he could see the visual acuity chart. We were so lucky to have met and worked alongside so many incredible people over the past two weeks, and none of us will ever forget our experience here.
In the end, we referred 46 patients for cataract surgery (should they choose to undergo the procedure). We dispensed at least 750 pairs of sunglasses, 400 pairs of reading glasses, and 300 pairs of prescription distance glasses. Thanks to all those who donated to our drugs and surgery fund, we were able to provide care to the people who needed it.