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Lassa Ward

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  184 ratings  ·  35 reviews

Ross Donaldson is one of just a few who have ventured into dark territory of a country ravaged by war to study one of the world’s most deadly diseases. As an untried medical student studying the intersection of global health and communicable disease, Donaldson soon found himself in dangerous Sierra Leone, on the border of war-struck Liberia, where he struggled to control
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by St. Martin's Press
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This could be three stars, I suppose, but the writing drove me up the wall and back down, and...the rest of it didn't really help matters.

The back-cover copy says:

Ross Donaldson was an idealistic young medical student when he gave up his comfortable life in the States to venture into Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by fighting...

Nope. He spent a summer between years of higher education doing research and humanitarian work. He gave up those creature comforts for two months. Not the same as '[givi
This is a true story. A 3rd year medical student (with an MPH) spends a summer in a small village in Sierra Leone, Africa, to help an aging physician that has spent his life educating and caring for populations stricken with the deadly viral hemorrhagic Lassa fever. In the west, it is classified as a bio-safety level 4 disease. When the doctor has to leave town for a few weeks, the student is left on his own to care for the patients. He is overwhelmed due to his lack of knowledge/experience in t ...more
I grabbed this book from the public library on impulse, and overall it was an easy and interesting read. However, that comes with a caveat I'm beginning to apply to more and more books - it could have been much better with some careful editorial attention. As a small, specific example, the author refers to obstetric fistula as something that happens when delivery is "unsupervised." People with knowledge of this topic know that fistula is an injury that occurs when labor is complicated/obstructed ...more
Donald's memoir recounts his two months working as an aid worker in the Lassa ward in a remote area of Sierra Leone. Lassa fever is highly contagious, similar to Ebola, and requires quarantining the patients and extreme caution by the caregivers in order to prevent spreading the disease.

Donaldson was still a med student during the time he spent in Africa, but due to short staffing and fear of transmission, the Lassa ward served as an excellent training ground for him. I thought his explanations
just sarah
I wasn't expecting much from this book. What I wanted was a basic idea of Lassa Fever and a little information on Sierra Leone. This book was not magnificently written, in many cases it was overwritten and predictable, but it did deliver what I was hoping. I walked away with a better understanding of not only Lassa Fever, but also conditions in Sierra Leone and similar areas.

The most difficult aspect of this book was handling the author's reactions. He chose to travel to a place that he underst
My rating may be a little bit skewed, since I devoured this book in just a few sittings. What I found so particularly interesting was the author's perspective in the hospitals. I definitely identified with his point of view, and really appreciated his ability to put it into words. The fact that he mentioned the issue of medical equipment and staff training (my line of work) was an added bonus.

I was on the edge of my seat for much of the book, 1) because of the danger of the Lassa virus, and 2)
Ross Donaldson is a medical student, writing a paper about Lassa fever, who decides to travel to Sierra Leone and research the deadly disease first hand. Working alongside Dr. Conteh, a physician who has made Lassa fever his specialty, Donaldson sees the devastation caused not only by Lassa, but hunger, war, and other diseases in the African nation. The familiar (if you read any amount of medical memoirs) story of a student being thrust into healing head first, feeling unprepared, is accompanied ...more
This was quite an enjoyable, smooth, and moving read. I found the narrator relatable, both in his compassion and fear. The Lassa virus was not the only thing he had to fear; Ross struggled with many of his own insecurities as well. In America, he was nothing more than a physician-in-training; incomplete and without proper licensure. But in the starving, war-torn, hopeless Sierra Leone landscape, he holds the key to life and death. He who was the least has now become the greatest; the tables have ...more
A good overview of Lassa and of living/medical conditions in post-Taylor Liberia and Sierra Leone; I wanted to here more about the patients, and "native" medical workers and a bit less about the author's insecurities as a medical student, but overall a good read.
Don't read this expecting a medical thrller, because it isn't. It's the story of a student doctor who took time off residency to do humanitarian work in Africa. It reads more like a memoir. It was a slow beginning but once he got us into the Lassa ward in Sierra Leone it was very interesting. It's hard to believe that there were success stories within the circles of poverty he was working. I liked that he uses a very humanistic voice in his narrative, not some pedantic, scholarly doctor tone. He ...more
I thought this was a well written account of the insight into the niave nature of people who go to third world countries to study infectious disease. I think anyone in science or medicine should read this memoir and think about the state of medicine in the USA vs the rest of the world. I thought the "lead in" of the book where the author is known to be sick and hospitalized was cheesie given that we know he is going to work with Lassa, but find out at the end of the book that his illness is far ...more
This book was a very interesting and eye opening book for me to read. I enjoyed reading about this doctor's experiences in becoming a doctor in a foreign land. I was surprised by the condition of the lives of the people in Africa especially medically. It was hard to believe that this was a recent event, relatively. The end was a little anti-climatic for me but it was a true story and nothing spectacular happened it just all kind of ended or came together. All in all I enjoyed it and am glad I re ...more
An American medical student heads to Sierra Leone to do research on his paper on Lassa Fever, one of the very nasty hemorrhagic diseases that are to be found in parts of West Africa. While there he ends up working in - and, for a time, running - the only medical facility in the world dedicated to helping sufferers of this awful disease. A human interest story moreso than a medical adventure type story, but Donaldson writes with great compassion for his patients and the sheer awfulness of their p ...more
Rosie Beck
The eye opening story of a young medical student sent to study and assist in the Sierra Leone. His specialty was Lassa fever (similar to Ebola and Marburg), which he saw first hand. No bleeding heart tome, he tells of his amazement at how much could be accomplished with so very, very little with neighboring warlords stealing and ruling over people with so very, very little. Their spirits and hopes are the same as any other.
He learns to appreciate what he has when he nearly loses his own life bac
Alli Elggren
I read this book for Book Club in September. The full title is The Lassa Ward: One Man's Fight Against one of the World's Deadliest Diseases. It's an interesting book on an endemic I had never heard of before. It was a quick read for me and I really enjoyed learning about the details of Lassa fever and the endearing people of Sierra Leone. Made me feel very fortunate to live where I do! Not life-changing, but enjoyable. 3 1/2 stars...
Linda Gruzinski
A fascinating book if you are medically inclined...true story about a med student who goes over to Sierra Leone to research Lassa fever (a still deadly disease transmitted from rat urine) and has to manage the "lassa ward" by himself. I personally loved this book, because I was born in a little village right next to Lassa, where the disease was first discovered, so the book brought me back "home" to my beginnings in Africa.
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This book was an up close and personal account of one mans experience in caring for patients with one of the scariest and most contagious diseases of our time. I am amazed at his courage and dedication and the dedication of the doctor who trusted him with his clinic while he was away on a much need reprieve. This book changed me. It is a book worth reading!
Sounded more interesting than it actually was. I never got around to finishing it as it didn't hold my attention. The author annoyed me with his complaints about being left in charge of a Lassa Fever ward although he wasn't completely alone. Did learn some interesting facts about Lassa Fever and thats the only reason I have given it 2 stars.
Becca Hudson
Insightful and amazing read about an American doctor's experience working in Africa and dealing with the Lassa virus; one of the deadliest viruses known to man. It's inspiring and eye-opening. The extreme poverty and heinous conditions he's faced with tell of a turmoil and pain that few can imagine. Ross Donaldson is an amazing man.
Jul 10, 2014 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who liked "3 Cups of Tea"
I loved this book! After reading it, the subtitle is a bit of a stretch as he's only in Africa for about 1 month. But he is there to study one of the world's scariest viruses under one of the few physicians in the world who will treat patients for it. Really great book.
I really enjoyed reading about Ross's experiences in Sierra Leone. I had never heard of Lassa before - but it sounds devastating. I was hooked and wanted to know about each of the patients - and what happened to Ross when he went back to the States. A great non-fiction read.
Elizabeth Studstill
Giving it two stars because his reflections are painfully campy, and he fails to address the ethics of a 4th year medical student running a ward in Africa with no medical supervision. That said, I'm glad I read it, it's not everyday I read a book about Lassa fever.
Ok book. Fairly interesting topic, but the "doctor" who wrote it was in Africa for only a month so his observations are a bit superficial, I thought. This would have been a fantastic book if written by an author with a little more insight and experience.
This was a little too medically graphic for someone with a weak stomach like me, but it was extremely well written. Very interesting and inspiring story. It will definitely make you grateful for all of our luxuries that we take for granted.
Didn't realize this was a memoir until I was done. That improved my opinion of the book greatly. I would give it a 4 1/2 star if I could. There was some great commentary between the health care system in Africa & the US...pretty interesting.
Sheila Turner
Wow! I downloaded this book at 4:38 p.m. this afternoon and have just finished it, a little over 7 hours later. What a compelling read! The narrative brought me nostalgically back to my travels in a different part of Africa.
I started reading this book, then met and hung out with the author. It's a good story about the differences between American life and African life, and being thrown in a river: you either sink or swim.
Kristen Caccavo
It was pretty good. It didn't compare favorably to other popular memoirs, like Three Cups of Tea, but it was an easy, enjoyable read, which also served to highlight an otherwise unknown disease.
excellent book on Lassa fever. I also found this a very interesting view of the disparities in medical care - available supplies, education, etc that exist between the US and Sierra Leone.
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“Seeing modern health care from the other side, I can say that it is clearly not set up for the patient. It is frequently a poor arrangement for doctors as well, but that does not mitigate how little the system accounts for the patient's best interest. Just when you are at your weakest and least able to make all the phone calls, traverse the maze of insurance, and plead for health-care referrals is that one time when you have to — your life may depend on it.” 10 likes
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