Wednesday, October 8, 2014

For those seeking information on the Ebola Virus...

The Ebola Virus has been on every news source known to man.  Everyone has an opinion on how and who should handle this epidemic.  Let’s start with the basics and gather information on what is Ebola and how, as a medical professional (human or veterinary medicine) we can help.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is having an online Q & A today giving an opportunity to cutout the middle man.

What's New on the CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response Website

CDC Twitter Chat - Ebola Q&A

Join us today (10/8) at 3PM EDT as CDC experts answer your questions on #Ebola. Use #CDCchat to participate.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The good Samaritan...

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was:  ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’  But…the good Samaritan reversed the question:  ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

I read this quote and it makes me think of what I've been reading about the Ebola virus outbreak.  You read all these sources online and you see all the news coverage and it’s easy to become panicked.  It’s easy to try to distance yourself from this infection and the people who have it.  But then, you see pictures of the poor children who lost their parents, the parents who lost their children and those that are now alone because their entire families have been wiped out.  If you were in any number of these circumstances, what would you do?

I’m writing this to give a different angle of this serious subject matter…

First and foremost, educate yourself.  Don’t rely on the news stations to keep you accurately informed.  Although there are many news broadcasts that are honest and ethical, they of course are trying to sell a story.  Look to sources like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).  These are organizations that are on the ground, in the trenches, at ground zero.

Second, don’t allow yourself to panic to the point that you do no help in any way that you can.  I am not saying that everyone should rush into Sierra Leone or Liberia, but there are ways you could help. 

·         You can donate to the organizations that are in the trenches like Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross.

·         Donate to organizations that are supplying the medical staff such as AmeriCares and Unicef.

·         Look to your community.  For instance, a Liberian community in Philadelphia has been collecting and sending supplies overseas.

·         If you do have medical training, considering volunteering your professional expertise through USAID.

Remember these facts about the Ebola virus…

·         Ebola can be spread by either direct contact,with fluids (blood, urine, feces, saliva, vomit) containing the virus entering mucous membranes (I.e. eyes, nose, ect.) and/or items that can contain infected fluids (I.e. needles).

·         Although the disease cannot be spread by food per se, animals can carry Ebola (which may be patient zero, or the first that contracted the disease).  Animals that can harbor Ebola include monkeys, bats and apes.  These animals can in turn spread disease via blood, urine, feces, saliva and vomit.

·         The disease can be spread through burial practices as Ebola can remain virulent in bodily fluids.

·         Ebola can easily be killed with bleach and water.

Don’t let fear impact how you can help.  For more information check out these sites…

·         Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Offers information on the Ebola virus.

·         World Health Organization (WHO).  Offers information on the Ebola virus, an up-to-date infection map and other valuable resources. and

·         Doctors Without Borders.  Can donate to help their efforts to combat the disease.

·         AmeriCares.  An organization sending needed medical supplies and other resources for medical personal on the ground in the affected countries.

·         “Local Community Rallies to Help Liberia Ebola Outbreak.”  News story on how a local community is helping to combat the disease.

·         “The Difficulty of Burying Ebola’s Victims.”  Article on the Ebola Virus.

If you know of other ways to help, post it here in the comments.  Let’s create a world community that does not panic, but simply stays informed.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thoughts of a Veterinary Professional...

Welcome to the first installment of my podcast Thoughts of a Veterinary Professional.  There are two purpose's of this new enterprise, to spread the knowledge I've attained with the hopes of encouraging others to become part of the animal sciences in addition to encouraging a dialogue among veterinary and human health professionals.  I have been in the animal industry for 19 years in difference capacities...from a Licensed Veterinary Technician and Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator to Barn Manager and Volunteer Coordinator (for a nature center).  This podcast ( is my conduit to transmit my knowledge to others, to learn from others experiences (I welcome comments) and to create a virtual environment that foster's communication between veterinary and human health professionals. 

Installment one is devoted to encouraging others to become part of the animal sciences.  Do you have an interest in animals, but are not sure what direction to go?  Maybe you have a direct or goal, but are not sure where to take your first step.  Or maybe you know someone that wants to get involved and you don't know where to encourage them to start?  This is the installment for you...

Thoughts of a Veterinary Professional › Embed Code — Podbean

Friday, June 27, 2014

Love One Another...

Writing about the moon and moon babies yesterday really got me thinking about Niger.  Niger is a wonderful country filled with wonderful people.  Watching the news with talk of Boko Haram entering southern Niger is so very sad to me.  My experiences found very welcoming people that have an immense amount of knowledge to share, with their arms wide open to visitors.

I hit on this a little in one of my previous posts, my host Mother, Hisa, showed me how to create a vegetable bed with one tool.  It resembled a hoe.  That’s it, no other tools or fancy gadgets.  Coming from a country of everything has to be bigger, better and faster this was eye opening for me.  “You mean you don’t need an impressive piece of machinery to start a garden?”  Then how about learning how to welcome others…

The Peace Corp Training Manager, Yves, explained how the Muslim faith/custom is to welcome with open arms ALL visitors.  He explained how a weary traveler may simply stop at huts along his way to seek shelter for the night and he would be embraced and possibly fed.  Are we that welcoming in the United States?  Not even close.  If someone came knocking at our door we would act suspicious of them and send them on their way to the closest hotel, whether they could afford it or not.  I realized we really have something to learn in the US.

The average person does not mean malice or harm.  If someone asks for help we look at them as though they are going to pull everything from underneath us.  We guard our “wealth” with real and simulated guns.  Instead of looking at our countrymen as brethren, we look at our fellow countrymen as competitors or thieves looking to take our next big break or the items/belongings we worked so hard to attain.  Wouldn’t those possessions be that much more valuable if we were sharing them with others?

We are all the same, the same beating heart, the same hopes and aspirations and the same needs and wants to connect with others and protect those we care for.  The key is to keep all of those needs and wants in check so that they do not spiral out of control leading to discourse, a disconnect in communication and an irrational fear of someone lurking around the corner waiting to take something from us.  When we meet others, especially those that seem so different superficially, take the time to learn something.

My third night in Fandoga Beri was a time I wish I had the ability to have recorded.  Hisa (my host Mother) and I were once again eating dinner under the stars.  Hisa made my dinner every night and never acted as though I was some sort of burden or annoyance.  Keep in mind, I may have looked like an adult, but my language skills were that of a baby just learning how to talk.

I figured at some point I would be working hands-on with livestock during my time in Niger so I brought one of my tools, my stethoscope.  Hisa asked me what I did in the US.  I explained that I am a veterinary technician and made a comparison to a nurse.  I explained that I wanted to work with the livestock in Niger.  Although this may seem like some sophisticated talk for my third night there, I’m leaving out the constant flipping through my language booklets, the incomplete sentences and fumbling through explanations. 

At this point I pulled out my stethoscope and asked her if she had ever seen one of these, Hisa said she hadn’t.  I flipped wildly through my language book trying to figure out how to say that this device listens to the heart.  I ended up using the word for beat, as in a drum, and placed my hand over my heart.  I asked Hisa if she understood, expecting her to say “Ay man faham,” I do not understand.  I sounded clumsy and was using words that may have had no connection specifically to what I was trying to convey.  Hisa said she understood and I felt like “OK, this language thing is coming along.”  I then took the bell of the stethoscope and placed it over my heart and showed her how to place the other end in the ears.  Keeping the bell over my heart, I handed her the listening end to place in her ears.  Hisa looked in amazement.  I then offered to place the bell over her heart so she could hear her heartbeat.  Hisa eagerly said OK.  Hisa was able to hear her heartbeat for the first time and she sat there, holding the bell over her heart for the longest time astounded.  It was a beautiful moment.  Hisa’s heart and my heart sounded the same.

The same, what does that mean?  Trying hard to prove we are so different, so much better, so much richer, so much smarter, so much more cunning, we forget how we are the same.  All of us.  We need to come together “…and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying [namely] ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (New American Bible, Romans 13: 9, 10)

I don’t want to sound as though I am critical of my fellow Americans.  I know and have met many nice people, willing to give the shirt off their back.  I have met many people that welcomed visitors from other countries as though they are extended family.  I have read about Americans, met many people and have worked alongside others doing amazing things like sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and giving assistance to families in distress.

How easy is it to love someone you CAN understand, you CAN relate too or you CAN connect with.  How about those you feel little or no connection too?  Saint Paul in Colossians 4: 5, 6 stated “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one.”  All of us have something to learn, something to gain with understanding or wisdom and something to contribute to with gained knowledge.  When everyone is united, maybe even in what we call diversity, love abounds good things happen and organizations like Boko Haram are extinguished.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Moon and the Moon Babies...

I took my dogs out one more time for the night at about 11 o’clock and the sky looked beautiful.  There were so many stars out.  Whenever I’m out at night I cannot help but look up and marvel at how beautiful those little specks light up the dark sky.  If not every time, pretty darn close to it, I think of when I was in Niger.

My first day at Fandoga Beri was quite interesting and I had a dim bulb moment.  We were told at the training site we would be receiving a Muslim name from our host family and for some reason, this slipped my mind.  It’s so strange to be so excited that you would forget you would no longer be called by your birth name.  So two other Peace Corp trainee’s and myself went to Fandoga Beri and when we arrived we sat before the Chief and the people of the village.  I had been in the country for two days and could barely speak Zarma, so I wasn’t sure what was being said other than I felt very welcomed.

When I arrived at my hut I was met by my host Mother, Hisa and my host sister.  I had my Zarma language cards in my hand to help with basic “How do you do’s?”  I quickly understood my host Mothers and sisters name’s however I couldn’t understand why they didn’t understand that my name is Meresa.  At one point they acted like it took everything in them not to hysterically laugh.  So then I became concerned “What am I saying?!”  I would look back at the language cards over and over again perplexed wondering what exactly I was saying, thinking “Maybe Meresa just doesn’t sound right to them, the combination of the vowels and consonants.” 

A Peace Corp Volunteer (PCV) that had been in the country for one year made her rounds to each of our huts to see how we were doing.  She looked around and was surprised that I had everything already situated…my bed was made, everything was put away and in its place.  I commented “I feel now that I’m situated there’s no distractions to jump right in.  Speaking of which, I think there’s some miscommunication.  I tried telling my host family my name and they didn’t understand.  If I understand my host Mother is Hisa.”  My fellow PCV went to speak to Hisa and came back.  She sat down next to me on my bed, trying not to laugh and said “Well, there seems to be a misunderstanding.  She’s trying to tell you your name is Fadila.”  At that point I felt really, really, really stupid.  It all came back to me, the meeting we had prior to going to our villages when we were told we were to be given a Muslim name.  I laughed, a tad out of embarrassment.  That night, however, made up for that awkward moment.

Hisa brought me my dinner (my host Mother made me dinner EVERY night) and her and I sat down to eat under the amazing star filled sky.  I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the gorgeous moon illuminated sky.  I was in heaven.  I learned a phrase in Zarma that I would use so much I about worn it out, “Ifo no?”  I was pointing at the stars and moon asking “What is that?”  Hisa repeated “Hondu nda hondu izey.”  I couldn’t find anything in my intro cards so I wrote it down to ask the next day during training about the translation.  The PCV came to check on everyone after dinner one last time to make sure everything went well.  I excitedly pulled out my notebook to ask what the new phrase meant.   The PCV looked at me shaking her head and said “You’re getting into the culture pretty quick.  I’m jealous.  It took a few days to converse with my host family, except brief short phrases like ‘Hello’ and ‘goodbye.’  That phrase means the moon and moon babies.”  She proceeded to explained how everything, in terms of big and little, was translated in Zarma.  Especially after my little thick moment of not accepting my name, this more than made up for it.  The moon and the moon babies.
By the way, I asked the next day what my name, Fadila meant.  The Peace Corp training staff member looked at me and said, “That’s a good name for you.  It means ‘one with dignity.’”  The time I spent in Niger were amazing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A few garden photo's...

I've taken some photo's of my sunflowers.  Its hard to believe they were just planted in May, less than six weeks ago.
Mammoth Russian Sunflower

While tending to my garden I came across a much welcomed garden buddy, an Eastern American Toad.  He was simply hanging out.  He is a welcomed sight in a garden as toads can eat in one season 3200 insects (Dept. of Natural Resources, 2014)!  A reminder of how when you work in tune with Mother Nature, you can utilize natural means to keep down insect problems.  If you want to encourage toads in your garden as a natural bug eater, go to the following website to learn how,1607,7-153-10370_12148-60160--,00.html.  This would make a great summer family project.

Easter American Toad
Eastern American Toad

Department of Natural Resources. (2014) Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus). Retrieved on June 24, 2014.  Retrieved from,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12201-60111--,00.html.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Gardening Saga, Part I

If you’ve read my previous entry, my seeds started on May 23rd…it’s been three weeks and five days since my seeds were started.

My seeded inventory so far is:  Mammoth Russian Sunflowers, California Wonder Sweet Peppers, Bloomsdale Long-Standing Spinach, Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions, Burpee’s Fordhook Zucchini’s, Connecticut Field Pumpkins, Jack O’ Lantern Pumpkins, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Box Car Willie Tomatoes and Romaine Lettuce.  The first batch of romaine lettuce was harvested two days ago.  The zucchini, sunflowers and Jack O’ Lantern pumpkins look awesome!  I can already picture myself roasting the sunflower seeds!  Um mmm!  The bunching onions did not take off well and only a few sprouted (barely).  The Connecticut Field Pumpkins are very slow to start, although the package states I should have seen the emergence of a plant in up to two weeks, my second one (out of eight) just emerged yesterday.  However these were old seeds, from 2011, that may have affected their survival rate.  And for some reason the spinach did not sprout at all.  I’m shocked about the spinach as I have never had a problem in the past.

I had two seedlings too many of the zucchini and so they have been donated to the Free Soil United Methodist Church for their community garden.  The community garden also helps to feed some local families.  I need to thin out my tomato plants which will lead to more donations to the church.

I need spinach in my garden, so in light of the latest lack-of-growth this means I’ll need to purchase seedlings.  I will need to do some research to try to figure out why they did not grow.  Although it could have been a bad batch of seeds, I want to make sure it wasn’t something I did so as to not make that same mistake next year.

I have to mention the romaine lettuce because something very interesting happened with them…I did not purchase or plant any romaine lettuce seeds or seedlings.  Guess where they came from?  Last year’s plants!  I purchased four romaine lettuce plants last year and planted them in a ground pot.  This made it easy for harvesting and weeding and allowed me to keep the rabbits out of the tempting treat.  Apparently some lettuce seeds remained from last year and the lettuce plants grew from those seeds.  The ground pot remained covered with feet upon feet of snow all winter and I did absolutely nothing with the lettuce plants.  They simply grew on they own and already has grown some harvestable leaves two days after the last picking.  I think this is awesome!

For one of the ground pots I purchased oregano, basil and parsley.  I got a wonderful deal, 50 per herb plant!  I also purchased a four pack of Oregon Spice tomato seedlings (again at a whopping 50 for four) for the Topsy-Turvy®.  I want to can my own spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and salsa this fall and now I have different types of tomatoes along with the spices to accomplish this.

At this point in the game, Mother Nature has thrown some rather cool days and at times massive down pours.  The cool days are not well received by the tomato plants so they have “growth spurts” and then it stalls a little.  The seedlings that just were not that big undertook some hammering rain.  Our weather report states tomorrow will dry out and then Friday will have thunderstorms.  As long as we are not having any crazy frost or a swarm of locust, I think they will be OK. 

My routine so far has been to fertilize once weekly with an organic fertilizer.  When the plants grow a little more and/or start producing fruit, I’ll increase the fertilizer to twice weekly.  They are too small to prune or otherwise man-handle.  I simply make sure they are receiving the right amount of sunlight, water and fertilizer and correct those three as needed.