2006.04.18: April 18, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: Illness: Schistosomiasis: Medicine: Journal News: Mauritania RPCV Jean Marie Naples fights back from brain injuries to continue doing research on schistosomiasis

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mauritania: Peace Corps Mauritania : The Peace Corps in Mauritania: 2006.04.18: April 18, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: Illness: Schistosomiasis: Medicine: Journal News: Mauritania RPCV Jean Marie Naples fights back from brain injuries to continue doing research on schistosomiasis

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Mauritania RPCV Jean Marie Naples fights back from brain injuries to continue doing research on schistosomiasis

Mauritania RPCV  Jean Marie Naples fights back from brain injuries to continue doing research on schistosomiasis

As a research fellow at Johns Hopkins, Jean Marie Naples has been doing research on schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms in water. The infection, which is mainly found in West Africa, South America and the Philippines, is known as a cause of bladder cancer and liver failure. "I'd like to continue my research," Naples said. "Someday, I'd like to go back to Africa with my research. My goal is to get rid of this disease in the world."

Mauritania RPCV Jean Marie Naples fights back from brain injuries to continue doing research on schistosomiasis

Medical researcher fights back from brain injuries at West Haverstraw hospital

By AKIKO MATSUDA
THE JOURNAL NEWS

Caption: Schoolchildren in Niger with gross haematuria (blood in urine) caused by schistosomiasis (photo courtesy of Jurg Utzinger)

WEST HAVERSTRAW Jean Marie Naples slowly placed her right foot onto the grass in the yard at Helen Hayes Hospital, overlooking the Hudson River.

Her left foot carefully followed, as her blue-striped sneakers got slightly muddy because of the brief rain that had passed through the area Friday morning.

"This is a big deal," Naples said excitedly, using her arms to balance herself.

"This is all new," said Nancy Mason, a physical therapist assistant at the hospital while walking closely with Naples. "We're making a transition to walk on uneven surfaces with no assistive device."

For the first time since an October car accident, which severely injured Naples and left her unconscious for more than a month, the West Haverstraw native started walking outside on her own, without a cane.

Considering the injuries Naples suffered, her recovery has been outstanding, experts said. Among many factors, her tireless effort to get better definitely helped her improve, they said.

Naples, a medical researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said she knew the importance of rehabilitation through her experience in medicine.

She also said she thought she had been kept alive because of her mission: To save lives in developing countries. Because of her clear goal in her life, she never felt desperate even when her injuries took away her ability to sit up or walk, she said.

"I had injuries that were supposed to kill me, but they didn't," Naples said. "I really think I was left on the Earth because I'm supposed to do something. I'm supposed to get better."

On Oct. 8, Naples was taken to a Morristown, N.J., hospital after being badly injured in a one-car accident on the drive up from Baltimore to visit her parents in West Haverstraw for the weekend. The Morristown Police Department called the Haverstraw police, and a Haverstraw officer informed her parents.

"I was waiting for her to come home, and that was when the policeman came," her mother, Antoinette Naples, said recently as she choked up with tears. "We went down there, and we were told that 72 hours would be her turning point."

When Antoinette Naples arrived at the hospital with her husband, Ralph, their daughter was lying in an operating room, where doctors were draining blood from her head for a subdural hematoma.

In addition to the brain injury, the accident fractured Naples' neck and right arm, and damaged a lung.

While she remained unconscious, family members took turns around the clock staying at her hospital bedside. They constantly talked to her and played music, hoping she would regain consciousness.

After about three weeks, while she was still unconscious, Jean Marie Naples was taken by ambulance to Helen Hayes Hospital. She was in traction in a halo device to keep her head and neck still.

"We were not clear if she was going to improve from where she was," said Dr. Glenn Seliger, a neurologist who has seen Jean Marie Naples since her arrival at the Helen Hayes five months ago.

After a couple of weeks, she woke up and started vigorous rehabilitation, working with therapists at the hospital. She has since been discharged and now goes there three times a week for physical and occupational therapy.

"She's one of the most compliant patients I've ever seen," Mason said. "She does homework and more, and comes in with more problems, more issues and more ideas that she wants to work on in her therapy. She knows what she wants to achieve, and she keeps on breaking barriers."

As a research fellow at Johns Hopkins, Jean Marie Naples has been doing research on schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms in water. The infection, which is mainly found in West Africa, South America and the Philippines, is known as a cause of bladder cancer and liver failure.

According to a research paper she co-wrote with Clive Shiff and Rolf U. Halden and published in the November issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, applying a certain cedarwood oil mixture to the parasite-infested water surface could reduce the infections that affect more than 200 million people worldwide.

Jean Marie Naples said she had seen patients with the infections when she was a Peace Corps researcher in Mauritania in West Africa. Completing the research and applying the result to save lives in the affected countries have been her goals, she said.

Despite the severity of her injuries, her goals remain.

"I'd like to continue my research," Naples said. "Someday, I'd like to go back to Africa with my research. My goal is to get rid of this disease in the world."





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Story Source: Journal News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mauritania; Illness; Schistosomiasis; Medicine

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