Augusta thinks back to her childhood dreams and remembers that she always wanted to save lives and help people. She wants to see other girls and women follow their passions too. Augusta currently lives her dream by working as a State-Enrolled Community Health Nurse (SECHN) in the town hospital’s tuberculosis and leprosy unit. She shares her story and some of her experiences working in various hospitals.
After graduating senior secondary school and passing my West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), I entered the nursing program at Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema. There I met Ms. Victoria Mandoh: professor, senior nursing tutor, and head of the public health department. She taught me many subjects including surgery, basic nursing, psychiatry, and public health. She was my first mentor and really very clever. I love her! Ms. Mandoh sent me to complete my practicals at Connaught Hospital, the biggest referral hospital in Freetown. I developed an interest in treating patients with tuberculosis after working in the intensive care unit (ICU) and chest clinic.
At Connaught ICU I had the opportunity to use an electrocardiograph (ECG) with the help of Dr. Russel, an amazing doctor. One day the hospital admitted Sulaiman, a nine year old boy. We saw his heart’s rhythm on the ECG and noticed that he had pericarditis. The boy stayed in ward eight for some time and then transferred to the ICU. The doctor removed the fluid around his heart but sadly Sulaiman passed away. His parents didn’t have the money to perform the operation sooner.
During another practical, I witnessed a successful open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) performed by the late Dr. Sillah in the operating theatre. I remembered the procedure in theory from my classes with Ms. Mandoh.
After Connaught, I transferred to Kissy Mental Hospital in Freetown where I worked in an all-female ward. The hospital felt that the men’s ward would be too dangerous for me. I stayed at Kissy for only two weeks but enjoyed my time working with patients having mental issues. I interviewed and assessed them regularly, then documented their progress based on speech, mood, appearance, and other factors. I would then present my reports to staff.
Two patients became my friends at Kissy. One woman always waited for me at the hospital’s inner gate. We would meet there and walk together in the ward. She greeted me as her nurse and listened to my advice. The hospital discharged her after she made much progress, but then she returned one day. Her children said she tried bathing in the street.
One day Kissy hospital allowed me to work with a male patient. He became my friend and his nickname was ‘Good Luck Johnathan’. He only took his medicine when I called him ‘His Excellency, the President of Nigeria’.
Augusta’s phone rings and interrupts her story. She reads the number and realizes that it’s her patient. She answers and talks with him. He left the hospital yesterday with medicine, but admitted that he ignored Augusta’s advice. He drank a stout beer and called to complain of stomach pains. She already told him that his prescription shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol or it would cause that very side effect. Augusta decides to take an okada (motorcycle taxi) to meet with the man’s wife. She’ll convince her to talk with the man about quitting his bad habits. The man still denies his tuberculosis diagnosis and that frustrates Augusta.
Patients can be difficult because some don’t listen. Others do. I tell them to always take their medicine while avoiding alcohol and cigarettes. They should listen to their nurse.