Massah works at the town hospital as a laboratory technician. She poses with the lab microscope before packing it away and ending her shift. She plans to visit church this evening but wants to share her story first. Massah reveals the reason she chose her field, describes her daily work, shares her future plans, and talks about her family.

Massah's Story

I am a fully trained and qualified laboratory technician with a degree from Eastern Polytechnic University in Kenema. I sat my West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in 2006, then I enrolled in university with the intention of becoming a nurse. One day my chemistry professor asked me into his office. He admired my efforts to reach the top ten in his class, so he encouraged me to become a laboratory technician. I said no because I was determined to be a nurse.

I kept my professor’s advice in my mind for the next month, then I returned to his office to inquire about the duties of a lab tech. He explained everything and encouraged me again. That’s when I finally agreed to pursue the career. After university, I sat my National Council for Technical, Vocational, and Academic Awards exam (NCTVA) and became a certified laboratory technician.

I have many duties as a lab tech. I give screening tests for blood-borne diseases such as Malaria, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, and HIV. I also search stool samples for parasites or diagnose bacterial infections from urine samples. I can also identify a patient’s blood type. I love my job and my team at the hospital. We work in harmony with no problems, quarrels, backbiting, or politics. Everything runs smoothly. Rachel is my close friend at work and a fellow lab tech. We love to share stories, make jokes, and have fun after work. She’s great!

I want to take further courses in advanced laboratory work at the University of Makeni (UniMak) but my salary isn’t enough to cover tuition. I plead with the government to increase the salary of laboratory technicians. People in other fields make so much money, such as honorable members of parliament and government ministers. I could use the money to specialize in virology and become a Disease Surveillance Officer (DSO). DSOs investigate outbreaks by working closely with lab technicians. Hopefully I will become a DSO even though the classes are expensive.

A larger salary would also help with my family responsibilities. I work long hours so my children don’t live in town with me. Instead my aunt takes care of them in Bo. I send money for their meals, transportation, and education. My son and daughter attend private primary school because free education didn’t exist under the previous government. I don’t want to pull them from private school even though it costs a total of Le 3.1 million (USD ~360) per year. My kids prefer to stay in their school because the teachers do very well and all their friends attend. I also hesitate to move them because government schools aren’t as effective as private schools, according to the rumors.

Massah takes out her phone to look at pictures of her son, Abdulraman, and daughter, Joy, in their school uniforms.

Joy looks annoyed because I had to leave her in Bo to come work at this hospital. My children feel very happy when I’m around. My mother helped me raise them but she passed away on February 19, 2018. I don’t talk about my mother because I miss her so much.

My son wants to be a medical doctor. My daughter wants to become an accountant. When I practiced medicine at Njala, I took them to visit the hospital and university. They enjoyed both places and loved seeing students walk around the college campus. My kids want to be university students when they grow up. I hope to inspire other children as well. I want to visit girls’ schools around town to introduce my work to them.

Massah’s shift ends as she concludes her story. Her colleague Jennifer takes over the lab to perform an ABO grouping test. The test identifies a patient’s blood type for transfusions or donations. In this case the patient needs a transfusion. Jennifer prepares for the ABO test by collecting three serums: anti-A, anti-B, and anti-D. She begins by sterilizing the patient’s finger and pricking it with a lancet. She places his blood on three separate indentations of a ceramic tray. She adds one drop of anti-A to the first blood sample, one drop of anti-B to the next, and one drop of anti-D to the last. She mixes the solutions by rotating the ceramic tray with her hands, then she notes the blood type. After the ABO test Jennifer will screen the patient for any blood-borne diseases before approving the transfusion.