Medical Mission Uses Portable Ultrasound Machine in Liberia

July 18, 2019

Allison Byrne is a physical therapist and co-leader of a medical team from the Park Community Church in Chicago. She recently returned from a medical mission to assist the Light Evangelism Ministry (LEM) clinic in Fendell, Liberia. The LEM clinic provides diagnoses and treatment via IV and oral medications to any patients who come to be seen with only limited electricity from a generator.

Allison’s team consisted of six people with various medical backgrounds (including a resident nurse, osteopath, and physician assistant) and two more people who primarily supported the ministry’s school. They helped deliver babies, perform circumcisions, apply casts, initiate refeeding for malnourishment, and provide wound care.

Allison brought an M-Turbo ultrasound system that SonoSite loaned to her team, and they used the machine for a wide range of applications. They also had the opportunity to teach the local nurses who run the clinic how to use ultrasound while providing treatment to 100-200 patients a day. As she explains:

“We used the M-Turbo to show expecting mothers their babies for the first time, place IVs more successfully, screen for hydrocephalus, and identify various abdominal diagnoses, including cirrhosis and cancer. There were several times we used the ultrasound to help diagnose cancer, which came with mixed emotions. Because we didn’t charge separately for ultrasound scans or medicine, we were able to spare these patients and their families from having to spend a lot of money to get a diagnosis at another facility. We had the chance to prepare people to make the most of their likely limited time with loved ones.”

Allison relished her team’s opportunity to put the SonoSite M-Turbo to such compassionate use.

“We used the ultrasound so many times to show moms their babies, and they were overjoyed! They had never been able to see life growing inside themselves before, and their faces lit up when we gave them the chance. We were able to take Polaroid photos of the ultrasound images for the moms to take home with them.

The ultrasound allowed us to place very difficult IVs, which is the only way we had to administer medication to critical patients. Many patients in the hot African climate are dehydrated, making line placement a significant challenge. The ultrasound allowed us to start drips more quickly, which in many cases is life-saving.”

Allison also recounted how ultrasound played a role in instilling hope.

“We had a young girl come in who had suffered significant physical abuse over the course of multiple days a few weeks earlier. Her mom was deeply concerned about her recovery and the long-term impact this would have on her health. We were able to use the ultrasound to screen her abdomen, and we were able to reassure her and her mom that her body was healing. We wouldn’t have been able to give this reassurance if we didn’t have the ultrasound.”

While FUJIFILM SonoSite, Inc. supports the improvement of health care in the global community, we do not officially endorse any of the charities and organizations that are mentioned or linked to on our Global Health page.

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