Dr Courtney Caron, an Audiologist from the United States takes us through a day in her life as a Sound Seekers volunteer in Malawi.
There is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is different. The needs are different. The patients are different. What is needed from me is different. I have to prioritise what is needed most on any particular day. One thing is for sure though, a day in the life of an audiologist in Malawi is never boring.
Having dodged the chaos of Blantyre’s streets where carts loaded with the fruit of the season, bicycles loaded with charcoal or goats and ladies carrying 20 litres of water on their heads, weave in and out of the traffic. I spend the first half an hour answering emails from Sound Seekers, audiology equipment manufacturers, potential volunteers, other NGOs and the Ministry of Health.
Patients start arriving around 8am for various appointments: hearing tests, vestibular/balance assessments, ear mould impressions, hearing aid fittings, etc. There are usually one or two audiology officers taking patient histories and doing various tests but as the only audiologist in Blantyre, I try and review all patients’ tests and recommendations or assist with complex cases. Patients vary as much as my daily activities. I may see a 90 year old man with hearing loss due to old age, a three year child who has suffered from cerebral malaria, a 25 year old man with Down’s syndrome or a 40 year old woman who has received an antibiotic that is known to cause hearing loss. Each patient is different and requires a different way to diagnosis and treat them. It takes experience and knowledge as well as a little creativity to ensure all patients receive appropriate care.
There is one audiology officer in training and he requires some additional time from me to help with reviewing assignments, understanding intricate ideas or having additional hands-on training in order to help him succeed in his course. I also have management activities to do in order to keep the Sound Seekers’ project and the audiology department running smoothly. We are in the process of building a comprehensive audiology clinic so I have to do tasks such as identifying where the electrical outlets should be and sort through quotations to furnish the building. My day ends around 5pm and I return home through the chaotic streets of Blantyre.
Kerry Downes, an audiologist at St. George’s Hospital NHS Trust in London, ran the London marathon for Sound Seekers and raised over £2,000 in the process. We asked Kerry about all the training, fundraising, and of course the big day itself.
Having done a half marathon and a few 10 km runs over the years, I’d always wanted to do a full marathon – so when the opportunity came to run the London Marathon for Sound Seekers, I jumped at the chance. My trip to Sierra Leone in November was still fresh in my mind, so I knew just how important every penny raised would be. However the task of raising £2000 in 10 weeks was initially as daunting as the run itself. Working as an audiologist definitely helped as patients and colleagues were particularly interested in the work that Sound Seekers do. While most money came from donations, a cake stall at work and a raffle with prizes donated from local businesses together raised nearly £500. I also emailed the local papers around the area I’d grown up, and they kindly printed articles about my trip to Sierra Leone and fundraising efforts. I was overwhelmed by people’s generosity. Huge donations came in – from colleagues and patients to my tennis coach 20 years ago and even strangers!
Training had its ups and downs. Running after work in January in the cold and rain wasn’t ever going to be fun, and I suffered from the common runner’s injury ITBS syndrome fairly early on – meaning a few weeks off in my already tight 11 week training window. But my distances slowly increased and my knee eventually healed. I’d only managed 17 miles before the big day, I quite simply ran(!) out of time, so was quite nervous about not finishing.
The sun shone beautifully on the day and the supporters were even more amazing than I’d anticipated. My family came down from Yorkshire and many friends in London came along to support me along the route, I even spotted Emily from Sound Seekers at mile 15 thanks to her good set of lungs screaming my name! Miles 20-25 were seriously hard, but the miles crawled by and at last I was turning that corner by Big Ben and heading down the Mall to get my medal.
Whilst fundraising can be daunting, I’m so glad I did it for a cause close to my heart as it made the run all the more meaningful (and something to concentrate on in those moments of pain!). I reached and even exceeded my £2k goal, and will remember the day forever.
In early August Lucy and Stuart visited the Arco Ltd HQ in Hull and collected an amazing donation of £8,597.48! This year Arco, the UK’s leading safety company, donated a portion of the profits from their hearing protection range to Sound Seekers and we are thrilled that they will continue to support us for at least another year.