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Lassa Ward

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  243 Ratings  ·  38 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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Ross is a medical student from California who decides to go to Africa, to learn about the deadly Lassa Fever in a ward in Sierre Leone and write a paper about his experiences. Nothing there is as he expected. This book is more about his experience of the chasm between cultures and the completely different mind set of the people there. Of the polarity of medical care where there are no supplies for things he takes for granted. Such as the fact there is not even a breathing bag/mask and there is n ...more
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
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, medicine
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
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epidemics, science
Working at a Lassa Ward in Sierra Leon, Dr. Donaldson recounts his months spent treating one of the world's deadliest viruses in one of the world's poorest countries. Ravaged by war, genocide, and poverty, Sierra Leon is a country rich in natural resources such as beautiful forests and diamonds, but poor to point of disfunction. Donaldson's work in a hospital treating Lassa patients is honest and haunting. He describes the tortuous thought process he went through while treating his patients. Whi ...more
I think this book is excellent because of the questions it raises. In that regard, in providing provocative food for thought, I believe the author did a fantastic job. The writing is not top notch, and yet Donaldson certainly gets his points across and manages to convey the meaning beyond the actual events of his two months in Sierra Leone, as well as what befalls him when he reaches home. The book was very easy to read, without getting overly clinical, and the human component of his experiences ...more
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Gruzinski
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alli Elggren
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Becca Hudson
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
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.
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.
Sep 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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.” 11 likes
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