Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Lassa Ward by Ross I Donaldson, MD, MPH

Ross Donaldson is a medical student from California who decides to go to Africa, to learn about the deadly Lassa Fever in a ward in Sierre Leone and write a paper about his experiences.  Nothing there is as he expected.  This book is more about his experience of the chasm between cultures and the completely different mind set of the people there.  Of the polarity of medical care where there are no supplies for things he takes for granted.  Such as the fact there is not even a breathing bag/mask and there is no way to even test for what they are treating.  How even though health care is supposed to be free, health care workers refuse to treat those who cannot pay.  How care workers do not understand the differences between viruses and bacteria or that different antibiotics treat different infections.  He is unsure and frightened of making a mistake that costs someone their life.

The book is less about Lassa Fever and more about his own personal education of a system doing its best with no resources or support amidst political chaos.  Soon after returning to the states, he fell very ill and got to experience the US medical system he was training to be a part of from the other side, further educating him on the faults of our own system as well as its strengths.

After reading this book and against the aftermath of the recent Ebola epidemic, I have to wonder how little things have changed in over ten years.


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