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November 2016 visit to the Gambia – John Roberts-Harry’s thoughts

September 28th, 2017 · No Comments · News

I thought I had some idea about the problems facing people with eye conditions in less developed countries. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The feeling of dejection at the end of the first morning clinic is something I will never forget.

The clinical conditions by and large were the same as we encounter in the UK. The advanced stage of glaucoma, diabetes and cataract in the relentless wave of humanity that I had seen that morning came as a surprise. Patients do not present with visual problems until they begin to lose sight in their second eye – by which time they have advanced glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy or are led in by the hand because of their bilateral mature cataracts. There are a large number of patients who are already blind in one eye due to trauma.

 

Treatment of any kind is limited. Diabetic control is poor, there was a newly arrived laser but (almost) no-one had been trained to use it. There is effectively one topical treatment for glaucoma, many patients cannot get a regular supply.

Nurses performed the role of junior doctors, seeing clinic patients, operating on cataracts. The enthusiasm of some to learn was remarkable, soaking up information, applying their newly acquired knowledge with confidence and enthusiasm. That aspect of the visit was very rewarding, as was the obvious gratitude of patients in general. The irrepressible cheerfulness of the Singleton team was wonderful. The aim became to assess the level of knowledge, then incrementally improve on that in a way that was sustainable and transferrable to others.

The visit has left an indelible memory, a fairy tale ending it was not.


November 2016 visit to the Gambia – Paul Lawrance’s thoughts

August 24th, 2017 · No Comments · News

It was with mixed emotions that I went to the Gambia for this visit. I always look forward to meeting all the folk in SZRECC and it was so sad that two key members of the Gambian team (Bakari Cham and Sherif Trawally) had passed away. I had fond memories of travelling with Bakari to the secondary centres, repairing equipment as we went. I was pleased to find out that Bakari’s son, Lamin, was working at the clinic under the wing of the newly promoted Fofana Muchtarr and that I would have the chance to work with him.

 

Fofana and Lamin

Prior to the visit, I had managed to acquire and ship ten autoclaves. I hoped that we would be able to spend most of our time checking and servicing these prior to them being used in their cataract centres around the country. As usual, quite a large amount of time was spent repairing equipment rather than training preventative maintenance. In fact the autoclaves were not made available until more than half way through the visit. We managed to service four machines but did not reach the stage where they serviced them while I observed. Fofana felt that our visits should be for longer.

 

Unpacking the autoclaves

 

We repaired quite a lot of equipment but it was a concern that the equipment that they were obtaining for the centre was not standardised, which makes it harder to maintain. They used to have only the solidly made Haag Streit and Zeiss slit lamps but now there were at least four different models. Also the newer equipment was often less reliable than the equipment that it replaced. For example, they had bought new operating microscopes with LED lights; the lamp no longer needed replacing but the power supplies were failing. There were definitely more power cuts on this visit; perhaps a sign of the country’s worsening economy; presidential elections are next month.

 

Fofana has done a good job under difficult circumstances; their team is responsible for plumbing, electrical work and anything “technical”. Perhaps it is not surprising that they never have time to do maintenance. As Bakari had died unexpectedly, there was no handover. I think that it was useful that I went through the spares stock with Fofana identifying what spares were for what equipment and deciding those that should be thrown away (including a large number of blown lamps). I hope that communication between us will improve as this is the weak link and will be the key to making sure that equipment is repaired and maintained well.


Reconnecting the Link

July 17th, 2017 · No Comments · News

The trip in November 2016 was the first since Spring 2014, and long overdue!

On this latest occasion a mixed group of volunteers visited the Gambia, some new to the project, and others returning once more after many previous trips. Half of the team were keen to meet their corresponding halves in SZRECC, and the other half were just as keen to revisit old friends and acquaintances.

Our aim was to re-establish the strong connection that had been forged over many successive visits. The short hiatus due to the West African Ebola crisis meant that we needed to reassess the Link’s objectives, especially with the initial target year of 2020 only three years away. The Link has a regularly updated Activity Plan to lay out the priorities for each visit, and the influx of new volunteers meant that some amendments were due. The latest three-year Activity Plan encompasses updated teaching objectives for areas such as glaucoma, medical retina and informatics, while continuing with previous objectives covering theatre procedure, paediatric ophthalmology and orthoptics.

SZRECC is a centre of excellence providing education for medical professionals from a vast swathe of West Africa, meaning that there is often rapid turnaround of personnel, within and out of the hospital. It’s important that both sides of the Link know who’s working with whom, and what resources are at our disposal. We had a rough idea of who our counterparts would be, but this forthcoming trip would be a scoping visit to know for sure which staff occupied which positions in SZRECC.

The week-long visit to SZRECC left us feeling both enthusiastic and slightly daunted by the task at hand. Looking ahead once more to the future of the Link, momentum has now been re-established, and further follow up visits are in the pipeline to make the most of this new impetus. We have a fortnight’s trip planned in autumn, with two separate teams visiting SZRECC back to back for a week each, so that a more continuous presence is provided.


Humanitarian Fund Project Report

May 7th, 2015 · No Comments · News

The link was successful in securing funding from the humanitarian fund of the British Medical Association last year. Click here to read the report submitted which describes the two visits to The Gambia in November 2013 and March 2014.


Case Study

March 1st, 2015 · No Comments · News

Mamundow Marong is a nurse assistant at the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre (SZRECC) in The Gambia.  Following the last visit of the Swansea team a case study was written about Mam’s role in testing children within SZRECC. Read all about Mam here.


Charity Quiz Night Saturday 15th November

March 1st, 2015 · No Comments · News

Thanks to everyone who supported us at the annual charity quiz night. A total of £946 was raised. Click here to read more.


Our FaceBook Page

November 19th, 2014 · No Comments · News

We have a FaceBook page. It has lots of useful information and photos of our events and visits to The Gambia.

Why not visit and Like it!


Swansea team visit The Gambia, March 2014

March 30th, 2014 · No Comments · News

A team of four from Swansea visited The Gambia between March 21st and 28th 2014. The team consisted of Stella Elliott, Link Co-ordinator, Suzanne Martin, Orthoptist, Colm McAlinden, Optometrist and David Laws, Consultant Ophthalmologist.

Click here to read Suzanne’s blog.

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Gambian team visit Swansea Rotary Club

January 21st, 2014 · No Comments · News

SAMSUNG
Visitors from the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre were invited to Swansea Rotary Club during their recent visit to Swansea. The club has kindly made a donation in the past and was interested to hear how the link was progressing. Suzanne Martin, Orthoptist from Swansea gave an overview of the aims of the project and what has been achieved so far. Winston Ceesay, Consultant Ophthalmologist gave an example of how cataract surgery made a real difference to patients in The Gambia, the impact of which affects the whole family.

Pictured from L. to R. are Suzanne Martin, Haddy Sohna, Cataract Surgeon, Andrew Bellamy of Swansea Rotary and Winston Ceesay.

 


Sponsored Walk Saturday 14th September!

September 11th, 2013 · No Comments · News

Rhossili BayFollowing the huge success of last years sponsored walk, we invite you to join us again this year and experience the beauty the Gower peninsular has to offer!  The hilly 20km circular walk starts at the Britannia Inn, Llanmadoc and encompasses Broughton and Rhossili Bays.  A £5 entrance fee includes a T-Shirt – all you need to bring is a packed lunch, your sponsorship form and your walking boots! For more information contact Suzanne Martin in the Orthoptic Department/Singleton Hospital on 01792 285289/285213