MSF: Thalassemia in Lebanon * Orbis: Trachoma in Ethiopia * Diane Duke of Friends for Life

by Harry Goldhagen; Published 12/14/20

Angel Sightings is a periodic collection of stories and articles published on other sites that highlight medical heroes and their work. Please share any heroes you come across here.

MSF: Saving the Lives of Children with Thalassaemia in Lebanon

Dr. Layal Issa and young patient
Dr. Layal Issa and young patient (MSF)

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Lebanon have been treating children with thalassemia since 2018. The program is based at Elias Haraoui Hospital, a pediatric hospital in the city of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley, where many Syrian refugees also live. Thalassemia is group of rare inherited blood disorders that reduce the amount of hemoglobin, causing anemia and often shortening life expectancy if left untreated. Treatment involves regular blood transfusions, iron chelation medications (to prevent iron overload from transfusions), psychosocial support, and consultations with specialists.

The MSF program is the only one in the country providing free, comprehensive care to children with thalassemia, whatever their nationality. Most of the 96 children are Syrian refugees, though some come from vulnerable Lebanese families. To Dr. Layal Issa, a pediatric onco-hematologist and MSF medical activity manager, one of the objectives of the program is helping the children to see “that they are not alone, that they can go to school, that they can grow up and go to college, and that they can get married and have healthy kids.”

Read the full article here.

Orbis Team Continues Treating Trachoma in Ethiopia Despite Covid

Community health worker and patient
Treating trachoma during the pandemic (Orbis)

The Orbis International team has set an ambitious goal to treat 10 million people in Southern Ethiopia for trachoma, an infectious, blinding disease. The Covid pandemic threatened to set back the organization’s long-term efforts to eradicate this disease, delaying widespread distribution of Zithromax (azithromycin), an antibiotic. Before the global pandemic, treatments were most often distributed at a central point within a community, like a church or a school. Social distancing guidelines prevent community gatherings, so outreach workers in PPE (personal protective equipment) will go door-to-door to administer the drug.

Read the full article here.

Health Care Heroes in Memphis: Diane Duke of Friends for Life

Friends for Life logo

The Memphis Business Journal has honored Diane Duke for her contributions to improving health care in the Mid-South. As Executive Director of Friends for Life, she manages an organization dedicated to improving the welfare of those with HIV/AIDS, addressing housing and nutrition as well as health and wellness. One key project that Duke took on when joining Friends for Life was establishing The Corner, a non-clinic clinic — it’s designed to look like an art gallery and to help clients relax — with a pharmacy and laboratory that dispenses PrEP and PEP, two effective medical approaches for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.

Read the full article here.

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