Hannah's Story

Hannah*, a 28-year-old woman, had previously had a mastectomy for breast cancer but when she developed multiple masses in her other breast she was taken to a traditional healer. We found her at the home of the traditional healer who had a team that was smearing her entire body with a mud-herb concoction. She was in severe pain, since she was taking her morphine erratically.

Given the reputation of traditional healers and strong belief in witchcraft in Sierra Leone, it took all the tact, sensitivity and diplomacy of the Primary Care team (PC) to be allowed to see the patient, talk with her, win over the confidence of the team of traditionalists through dialogue with them, and get their permission to examine her and administer morphine and other drugs.

This was an unusual encounter, a rather awkward, unpredictable and potentially explosive situation that was turned around by the way the PC team talked, behaved towards the patient and her family and the manner in which they related to the traditional doctors.

(Report from Hospice Uganda team – used with permission)

*Patient's name has been changed

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