People

Texas Doctors Struggle to Help People of West Africa

POST EBOLA AUGUST UPDATE AND PHOTO GALLERY from the West Africa Fistula Foundation


By Texas Medical Center | August 19, 2014

The people of Sierra Leone are strong and resilient in a country that has been struggling to recover from nearly insurmountable challenges. They are among the friendliest people you will ever meet despite having some of the poorest living conditions worldwide. You can see the strength, tenacity and resolve in the the eyes of Sierra Leoneans through a collection of more than 75 images now on display at the University of Texas Medical School lobby in Houston through October.

In September 2013, a medical mini documentary entitled “The Woe of Bo Town” was filmed at the Bo Government Hospital in rural Sierra Leone, 150 miles inland from the coastal capital of Freetown aided by the support of Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith from The Complete Women’s Care Center of Houston. The photography was in progress just weeks if not days before the current ebola outbreak began. (https://vimeo.com/79826451)

During the project, OBGYN doctors were followed as they surgically repaired women who were suffering from obstetric fistulas after prolonged childbirth labor. The West Africa Fistula Foundation, founded by Dr. Darius Maggi of Dallas, has operated a woman’s ward within the hospital for over a decade. In 40 trips to the country, Darius and volunteers have repaired more than one thousand women from the stigma and constant pain of their injuries. It is estimated that several million more await help.

After viewing the documentary, University of Texas at Houston Medical School MS1 students last year raised approximately $25,000 for the foundation – breaking all fundraising records for previous causes. The documentary, a one woman project shot by Bellaire Texas producer/editor Kathi Beasley, went on to win eight Telly Awards of excellence in every category entered for cause and non-profit marketing.

Digital large format stills and video captures selected for this gallery from the documentary project reveal a moment in time just before the government hospital system was overwhelmed by the spread of ebola. The collection shows the normal working conditions of medical workers who have recently been forced to decide whether to risk infection from patients in order to provide care, or walk away and abandon those in need due to fear and self preservation. Doctors without Borders (MSF) have repeatedly sent out appeals for help from several West Africa countries, but calls for universal precaution supplies and people are moving slowly. There is much to be done.

This collection was assembled in hopes of inspiring those who have the same type of courage as the people of West Africa to come forward when the time is right and give aid with whatever resources and talents they possess. Efforts that began as a pure humanitarian effort, have escalated into an international public health crisis that will call many people and countries to action.

Contact Dr. Darius Maggi at www.westafricafistulafoundation.org to donate and learn how you can help or contact Kathi Beasley at 832-331-1216 for photo gallery information.

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