Here is the latest letter from Global Ministries missionary Dr. Albert Willicor, Chief Medical Officer at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia. Dr. Willicor is a co-worker of Victor Taryor, the hospital administrator and NC Conference supported missionary who will be visiting NC churches in March.
Greetings to you all from Liberia, West Africa. I am very thankful for your support which allows my service as a Global Ministries missionary assigned as Chief Medical Officer for Ganta United Methodist Hospital in rural, northeastern Liberia.
I was raised by my grandmother in a remote village. Her selflessness and compassion were to influence the attitudes and character of the future doctor. At the age of eight, I started kindergarten and went through high school and university on scholarships, without which my present status would have been unachievable.
I graduated from medical school in Liberia in 1983, and took up residency in OBS/GYN at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia.
The military coup d’etat of 1980 brought about national decline and generated general discontent, which served as a template for the 14 year civil war that followed in December 1989. The ensuing events inadvertently dictated my future direction.
Like in all wars the most vulnerable population were those who found themselves at the extremes of life – the very young and the elderly. Fever, diarrhea and starvation killed many. But the children suffered the most. They were dumped from wheelbarrows into mass graves in displacement camp (makeshift living situations developed by international humanitarian organizations for internally displaced Liberians). In addition, many children lost their parents in the chaotic consequences of the war.
I lost my first child when she was four years old in similar circumstances. But she was found two years later in a distant border town! Thank God Almighty for her rescue. As the circuit of events unfolded during the course of the war, I found that it was inextricably the invisible hand of God that constrained my choices for a purpose: while other professionals left the country, I stayed behind to search for my daughter; while others returned to Monrovia in the relative safety of the “peace keepers” (United Nations security forces) I could not abandon the sick behind battle lines.
There was enormous human suffering during those trying times- in the throes of crippling disease, massive deprivation, and despair. But church groups and other relief agencies set up clinics, relief centers, and places of worship that helped give them hope from despair; while appreciating the abounding grace from our Lord for their rescue.
I was in refugee and displaced camps, participating in relief activities, and became a testimony to the humanitarian role played by various church groups. This experience influenced and stimulated within me a deep sense of compassion for the afflicted and the less fortunate. It prescribed for me a future role in the church, in the service of humanity.
While working at the Firestone Medical Center in Liberia, after leaving a mining concession hospital in northern Liberia, I was approached by the Ganta United Methodist Hospital and told of the need for a doctor. Although a difficult decision considering the difference in material and financial benefits, I accepted the request without much hesitation. My service, I thought, was needed more in the rural community than in the comfort of glamorous Firestone Hospital. My wife agreed without question! The invisible hand of God was in the shadows.
Now that the immediate aftermath of the civil war is fading away, and health care is generally improving, albeit slowly, around the country, staffing, which was a major challenge, is being alleviated. About a year or so ago, I was like a one man horse race-virtually alone, running a hundred bed hospital. At times, we were blessed to receive volunteer doctors and medical teams. This helped out tremendously.
A typical day started with rounds on three wards (Pediatric, Obstetric, and General Wards), completed only if an emergency surgery did not intervene. This was followed by the out patient clinic. Elective surgeries on selective days of the week were compelling routine. Occasionally, I completed my rounds in the evenings. I was also on emergency on-call duty at night. What gave me such endurance is evidently providential.
That was then. Now, there is a great relief. With three junior doctors, there is a general relaxation of tension.
As Chief Medical Officer, my duty is to ensure adequate medical service to a people striving to recoup their lives after a devastating civil war….compounded by poverty resulting from generations of subsistence farming. While this objective is being pursued with some success, infectious diseases continue to wreak havoc with devastating consequences in the midst of limited circumstances. In spite of it all, I’ve seen God’s transformational power at work.
Lormu was an only child…..she was treated several days for nonspecific symptoms. The parents became uneasy about the lack of progress in her condition. After the exclusion of other common diseases in our setting, a presumed diagnosis of Lassa Fever, – a virtual fatal viral disease – was made.
Transfer procedure was immediately started. The center with Ribavarine, an antiviral agent, is some distance away from Ganta. With no ambulance, a car was fetched by the parents.
While being transferred to the vehicle Lormu had her first seizure – a very worrying sign.
I kept constant contact with the receiving center; where her seizures had continued. My heart was in turmoil. That night, just before midnight, my mobile phone rang. My heart sank. Instinctively, I knew something was wrong. The worst had happened. Lormu had succumbed to the ravages of the tiny viral creatures.
For some illnesses, diagnosis by exclusion of illnesses with similar disease symptoms in the early stages is the only means available to us. Ganta Hospital does not have the antiviral agent. The patient is sent to where it is available (45miles away @ a two hour vehicle ride due to terrible roads).
In spite of the shortcomings and challenges, there is hope and healing!! Emergency surgical procedures are saving lives. Diagnostics through using laboratory and x-ray results enable accurate in-patient and out-patient treatments. Health education through our Community Health Outreach activities encourages and promotes healthy communities. Partners like you assist us with medical equipment and supplies to help us provide compassionate, Christ-centered, affordable health care. Lives are saved. Communities are transformed. God is glorified!
Progress in health care is hinged on political stability and the consequent prosperity that ensues. Current political dynamics in our country gives us high hope for the future.
I invite you to support me:
- With your prayers. Pray that I will be healthy and strong to do my work.
- Through assisting with my salary support so I can remain faithful to the call the Lord made on my life.
- By engaging in hand-on activities like helping with health kits and birthing kits.
- By coming as a volunteer in mission to assist with our ongoing health care delivery.
For financial contributions, you may:
1. Use Global Ministries’ website: www.umcmission.org to send a donation for my salary support. At the bottom of the page, click on “Missionaries”. Scroll to my name on the missionaries page and my profile will appear. At the bottom of my profile is a link to make an online donation.
2. Through mailing a check to your local church or conference office. Write “for Albert Willicor, #15151Z” on the memo line of your check.
3. Through assisting with my project support. The name of the project is Ganta United Methodist Hospital, # #15080N.
“Trust in the Lord ensures a fulfilled hope”. Part of what keeps hope alive in Liberia is what our Lord does for his people through the faithful support of partners like you. My wife, Angeline (who is also a nurse at the hospital) and I thank you so much.
Albert Willicor (MD)
Ganta United Methodist Hospital
P.O. Box 1010