This is a true story about the importance of persistence in solving a difficult problem. Persistence has gotten us close to a solution, but there is still more to do, and this is where the help of many people is required. The real work begins now.
Just a short while before I left Gambia, for an election mission to Ukraine, in October 2014, a young friend approached me looking to get support for a young woman whose name is MaSireh Bojang. She is now 25 years old and five years previously had been diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease involving multiple heart valves. It took me a while to respond as I was in Ukraine for 5 weeks and then was faced with finishing my house in Glenburnie, Newfoundland and Labrador so it could be rented.
So it was in the spring of 2015 before I had opportunity to act on his request. I asked a doctor I know in Gambia to do an assessment of her condition and he confirmed the diagnosis and the fact that time was quickly running out for this woman. The clinic that helps me with such situations in The Gambia put her on medication to stabilize the condition and she has been having a monthly examination and an injection since then. However, the only cure is valve replacement, which is not possible in the Gambia.
I spent many months searching for a place where this young woman could have surgery. I knew it would not be in Canada as getting her through immigration would have been difficult at best and the surgery costs would have been prohibitive.
Then at the beginning of this year, I contacted a Ukrainian Doctor I know in Toronto from my work in Ukraine. He told me to forget about getting her into Canada and that we had to find her a place elsewhere. He contacted a Surgeon with whom he does work internationally and the surgeon sent me a list of organizations that might help and hospitals that could do this type of surgery including a couple in Africa.
I was rejected by two Canadian organizations that work overseas as this was beyond their scope. I wrote all the rest of the list, but had no response. Then I had a second note from the surgeon telling me about a hospital in Kenya (Tenwek Christian Hospital) that does this kind of cardiac surgery and are quite good at it. This seemed like an obvious focus as it would be easier to move her around in Africa.
I initially contacted the hospital, but received no reply. I then asked a young Kenyan friend, who now lives in Germany to try and find a contact for me, as well as another consultant friend who had a Kenyan contact. This didn’t work so I did some more research and about two months ago I found an email for the cardiac unit at the hospital and some telephone numbers. So I wrote them and called the numbers listed after eventually finding one that worked; lo and behold they responded the next day.
I was asked to send her medical data, which I was able to do with the help of the clinic in Gambia and corresponded with a Dr. Russ White, who is Chief of Surgery at the hospital and also Clinical Professor of Surgery at Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, Rhode Island.
At the end of May I received confirmation that they could do the surgery the last week of July, which gave some time to raise the money required and make all the logistical arrangements in The Gambia to make this happen. Fortunately, my work there is supported by people who are able to help me with the logistics.
Since I have been unable, thus far, to set up a Foundation in Canada that could fund this kind of direct humanitarian effort, I have appealed to several organizations to endorse my efforts in raising the $15,000, (more if there are complications) required and have received an endorsement from Humber (Corner Brook) (6399) Rotary Club and am good to go. The fund-raising, however will take considerable effort over a very short time frame.
Things happen when they are ready and if they are meant to be. The young woman is much stronger now with the care of the clinic so she is in much better shape than when she first went there and we have a cardiac team who will hopefully make her almost brand-new.
The launch of such a fundraising effort for me in some ways is quite daunting, but it is a necessity. Your support will make a huge difference, and will be much appreciated and will allow a young woman a new lease on life.
Written by Bill Pardy
May 15th, 2016