The introduction of the first epilepsy project in Sierra Leone has made a significant contribution in the area of epilepsy management and treatment. The project is an IHLFS-funded link between Sierra Leone’s Lumley Government Hospital and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital in the UK.
Fatmata Kamara is a 30 year old woman residing at Malama, Lumley in Freetown. She has suffered from epilepsy for three years and this has caused her a lot of humiliation, stigmatisation and pain - a traumatic situation amongst epilepsy sufferers across Sierra Leone. Previously, traditional healers have mainly been the first approach for the population in trying to treat epilepsy. The unsatisfactory outcome of this, along with the breakdown of her marriage, led Fatmata to try an alternative approach to recovery.
Fatmata learned about the epilepsy project through a friend. She decided to visit one of the clinics involved in the Link, and was subsequently diagnosed and put on drugs. After three months of treatment, both the number and severity of her attacks have decreased dramatically. Smiling as she speaks, Fatmata says: “I am not the same person again, I am really happy as my life had been turned upside down. I wonder what my life would have been had it not been for this intervention."
An important part of this project is its social program initiative of reuniting broken homes. Fatmata had benefited from this in no small measure. Quite recently, the project organised a meeting between Fatmata and her husband in order to settle the scores. After several days of mediation, the husband decided to accept Fatmata into his home. They are now a very happy couple living together. Most remarkable is that Fatmata’s husband is now very supportive of her and even reminds her to take her pills. Harold, a staff member working on the project, said: “This project has raised a big awareness about the epilepsy in Sierra Leone. Before this project, many people thought epilepsy was not a medical condition and [would] therefore prefer to go to traditional Doctors for treatment. This has now changed.”