A Successful Screening.

Africa, Documentary, Mercy Ships

Well we had our screening day on Saturday, and it went very smoothly. We had security teams present at the site from 2pm the previous day and there was no trouble at all. Due to the chaos of the last screening three weeks of hard work had been put in to make sure this screening was rigorously planned and efficient. By the end of the day a little under 300 patients had been accepted and scheduled for surgery.

We arrived around 5.30am and the set up began.

The Pharmacy building was the selected screening site, lit up white behind the road. Security made sure cars didn’t stop to drop people off at the start of the line.

Above: Nurses pray before the pre-screening starts.

Pre-screeners wait outside the gate. They will not make a certified diagnosis but have enough medical knowledge to know whether or we may be able to help. It is at these gates that hundreds were turned away.

The line went on down the road into the distance. The early arrival of security meant that the queue was straight and ordered.

Patients area asked to get up as the screening process commences.

Pre-screeners raise their hands to indicate they are ready to see a new person. The potential patients are then escorted to them by Mercy Ships staff.

Above: Maaike Rademaker, the Ward Nurse General Team Leader inspects and admits a woman for screening inside the compound.

Above: A young girl with severe burn scars gets admitted for an operation on her neck to allow greater mobility.

Above: Ben and Sam direct prescreened patients into the compound.

The compound starts to fill up after 7am.

Above: A baby gets weighed before being screened by doctors. Below: Patients get taken round the back of the building to complete the screening.

Above: Michelle shares a smile with the burns girl while she waits to be scheduled for surgery.

Above: This baby is just one month old. She was taken straight to Palliative Care. Unfortunately the family lives too far out to take part in the palliative care program. Harriet, the palliative care nurse gave her some medecine to ease the pain, but medically can do nothing more. Perhaps one day Mercy Ships will expand their palliative care program in the countries they visit.

Above: Safia, the patient at the bottom of the picture with huge benign tumour waits to be screened. The doctors are still waiting to see whether or not they can operate on him. The extent of the tumour needs to further be defined with scans etc.

Above: An unusual patient with two left feet waits in the queue with her mother.

Above: A young cleft lip patient waits with his father.

Above: A mother and baby exchange a look as the nurse takes down the babies details.

Above: Jane White, the screening coordinator examines a boy in the screening tent.

Above: Jeff hands out water to waiting patients who received food as well.

Above: Dr Gary Parker (right) the chief surgeon examines a patient with a small benign tumour.

Above: The last patient of the day waits alone to be scheduled for a surgery.

The almost 300 patients scheduled for surgery was under the target of 500 but another screening will be organised in July or August. The very fact it went without trouble was a huge relief for everyone on the field service. Below: Liz Espeland (Assistant Ward Supervisor) who’s been with the ship for the past three years comforts a baby as the day draws to a close.


Leprosy Eliminated? nominated for BJP Nikon Project Assistance Award


Well I’m very happy today as my leprosy documentary has been longlisted for the British Journal of Photography’s £5000 grant. I am realistic about actually getting as, there is some very tough competition out there, however it’s good to know that the photographs have been recognized on some level.

 I entered 12 photographs and 4 have got published on the website and in the magazine. The others are in the slideshow below. I don’t know for certain as I only briefly spoke with them over the phone to confirm my email and number, but I reckon the one they like most was this bold image:

Leprosy in Nigeria, 2009


Woman who's just been told she has leprosy.

I walked into this room in Okegbala Hospital, Kwara State, Nigeria and the light coming through the one window was so clear I thought I’d stay here for a little while, photographing the doctor examining his patients. This woman was the first patient. She had a few light skin lesions on her arms and the doctor looked them over. I took this photo as he told her what I believe she probably knew already: all the signs pointed to her having leprosy. Later lab tests confirmed this. It takes 7-10 years for the leprosy bacterium to reveal itself in a body through symptoms such as skin lesions and areas of numbness, so even if she hadn’t been around people directly infect with leprosy in the last 7 years, it may well have been contracted well before then.


On the way to market

Mohammed Damargo kindly invited me into his yard to listen to his story and photograph him before his son took him to market on a trailer so he could spend all day begging. He was 16 when he was diagnosed with a disease some 40 years ago by a native doctor. He took the prescribed treatment which was a mixture of pounded leaves and dirty water left to infuse together for 7 days. After 10 years of taking this medecine but without improvement a European man came along who immediately diagnosed the disease as leprosy and came back the next day with drugs to take. He took the medecine for 1 and a half years before moving to Kuta, the current area he’s in which used to have a clinic nearby. He’s lived here for the past 30 years. In that time, due to skin lesions and damaged nerves  parts of his body have become infected and he has lost one lower arm, most of his hand on the other arm, all his toes and much of his face has sunken in making his words hard to distinguish. He finds hard to eat anything except a bowl of dried maize off the cob. Each day his son takes him to work in the wheelbarrow (shown) where he begs. It is impossible for him to do any other work and he gets no benefits as we might in this country.

Lalgadh Leprosy Centre, Nepal 2009


Man with leprosy

I have chosen two photographs to put in this blog. You can see a few more and read more about my experience in leprosy-affected areas at www.tom-bradley.com. For many of the photographs I took out there I wrote down a bit about the people… name, age, location and a few notes on the way getting it changed their life. Here I was called by one of the physicians to photograph a man who had noteable skin lesions on the side of his head, but this man was sitting to the side, waiting his turn to be seen. The simpleness of the frame struck me and I took two quick pictures before hurrying inside the physicians room. I’m not sure exactly what attracts me to it; it could very well be the simpleness of the image, the wall in two colours, with this old man’s head sitting atop a poor, frail body, one eye blind from leprosy. But then again maybe it’s because, unlike most of the patients I photographed this man I saw for less than 10 seconds and his identity is a mystery to me.

Ram Ishwor

One of the things that I really need to improve upon in my photographs is relationships. I came back from Nepal and picking out my favourite photographs I realised most of them were portraits. Though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, it’s the relationships in photographs (usually) between human beings that can really tell the story. This photo for me sums up what I saw of Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre. Ram Ishwor was only 14 when this was taken. His body had been reacting to the Multi-Drug Therapy that kills the leprosy bacterium hence the very swollen cheeks. As a result he was also incredibly weak and confined to a bed for a few weeks. He is one of LLSC’s long-term residents and just three weeks previously he had been bouncing around the place with a giant grin, continually poking me to take ‘just one snap’ of him. Dr. Graeme Clugston is the man reaching over touching his head (the nurse touching his leg is Graeme’s wife, Meena). He’s in fact not one of the resident doctors, but instead works in the administrative section of LLSC. However none of the other doctors were available for rounds that day so he stepped in place. I think the staff’s fondness for Ram shows through in the photo and certainly reflects the feelings I had about Ram in the few weeks I’d got used to him.

St. Chad’s Day 2008


Chase on Chad's Day

This is one of my favourites of the photos I took at University. St. Chad’s Day is the annual college day of activities and merriment where everyone dresses up in green (the college colour). It start usually quite early in the day (wake-up at 7.30 has been known) with a pimms reception. Part of the morning activities include college invasions where by tradition the majority of Chadsians assemble outside other colleges (Hatfield, Castle, St. Johns and Cuths) and demand entrance which is immediately denied by the college president. This naturally prompts the green mass of students to burst through the uncooperative colleges gates and invade it in order to make it known that today is the feast of St. Chad. Unsurpringly with students this often gets out of hand, and this particular moment captures a rebellious Hatfielder (still wearing his DJ from the previous nights Hatfield Day celebrations) who stole a Chadsians bucket (helmet – part of his green Knight costume) being chased by a Chadsman in a green caveman get-up. It was one of those times where you have a split-second to react but instantly know you’ve caught the moment.