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LVHHN Nurse Builds Health Clinic in War-torn African Nation

Armen Hareyan's picture

When Mable Humphrey, R.N., met Dr. Abba G. Karnga, a missionary working in the African country of Liberia, she became fascinated with the country's history. Humphrey, a resident of Williams Twp. and the nurse case manager for Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network's (LVHHN) Dean Ornish Program, felt obligated to help the Liberian people who had been dealing with civil unrest and periods of war for more than 20 years. Supported by The Greater Shiloh Church of Easton, and joined by Dr. Karnga and Greater Shiloh Pastor Fred Davis and team members, Humphrey packed a small amount of medical supplies and traveled to Liberia.

"I had enough supplies to care for about 75 people," Humphrey recalls. "But when we set up our make-shift clinic, more than 1,000 people came to receive care." When she returned to the United States, it troubled her that Liberians didn't have the health care they needed. "Pastor Davis and I decided to build a permanent clinic there," she says. With financial support from the church and personal contributions, Humphrey purchased a home in the small Liberian town of Buchanan for $5,000 to use as a clinic.

There, hundreds of people were receiving health care every day. However, that came to an end when bombing from the ongoing civil war totally destroyed the clinic. "It broke my spirit, but I couldn't just give up," Humphrey says.

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She began looking for a place to build a new clinic. In Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, with a population of 500,000, Humphrey found three buildings and a church that were also destroyed by bombing. However, all were owned by Worldwide Missions, the same missionary group Karnga works with. Through fundraisers, members of The Greater Shiloh Church collected $20,000 to renovate these buildings.

During the months it took to make the repairs, Pastor Davis passed away in 2005. On Jan. 6, 2006, the clinic was re-dedicated and named in his honor. "The Pastor Fred Davis Memorial Clinic" is a 28-bed facility. It is staffed by one physician (who visits the clinic once a month), a physician's assistant, five registered nurses, aids and housekeepers. With continued financial support from the church and donations made by medical supply and drug companies, the clinic's staff is paid and shelves are stocked.

While touring another Liberian clinic, Humphrey was present to see the birth of a child. "The woman was lying on the floor," she recalls. "When she delivered, they took the baby and placed it on a rusty metal shelf. The mother was asked to clean herself up, take her baby and move on." The experience prompted Humphrey to include a mother-baby unit in her clinic where 200 babies are born annually. "There are linens on the bed and people are treated with dignity," she says. The clinic also has an emergency room and a general practice area. Caregivers commonly treat patients with malaria, hypertension, stomach disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the memories of war.

Humphrey's efforts are not going unnoticed, even by the country's leadership. When a shift in political power ended the civil war, Humphrey was personally invited to attend the inauguration ceremony of Liberia president-elect Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson. "In America, we have so much. They have nothing," Humphrey says. "I can't stand to see my fellow man in that condition. I'm just trying to give them a small piece of the American dream."