Wintry diseases in tropical climes

Five hours a day on intravenous antibiotics is not exactly what I had in mind for my two week whirlwind trip to Liberia. Camping plans ix-nayed, I decided to pitch my doctor on this gem of an idea: why not find a place to give me intrevenous fluid OTHER than my hand, so I can type? Sitting in a clinic all day is pretty gruesome, so why not add to it the second most gruesome task imaginable: writing Human Subjects Approval proposals?

This, too, is apparently a terrible idea.

But surely we have big veins in our toes?

Absent the ability to punch away at my keyboard, I pepper my hosts with questions. It seems Yula and Johnny just arrived in Liberia six months ago. “How long will you stay?” I asked. Yula’s reply: “We won’t leave.”

Imagine graduating medical school and deciding to travel halfway around the world to construct a clinic in one of the poorest countries on the planet. This is a private clinic, not a humanitarian venture. Naturally these are humanitarian folks, but fundamentally their’s is a business–one targeted at poor and middle-income Liberians just as much as NGO ex-pats and Chinese construction crews.

And so far the service is terrific: Mama Blattman the nurse and neighbour Marilyn the doctor give four thumbs up. At $50 a day for five hours in bed and a gazillion medicines, I can’t complain.

Each time I visit Monrovia I see another dozen such businesses spring up. Many are even owned by Liberians. They don’t have the same bang on the GDP figures as the iron mines or the rubber plantations (neither of which are really taking off yet) but these little entrepreneurs seem much more important to me (and bring much more hope).

OK. Just four more days and I can bust outta here. In the meantime, to the Human Subjects approval…