I Actually Feel at Home

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Alexandria is one of our Ghanaian nurses who has worked with us for many years now. On Friday, she became sick and had to stay back on the compound to rest. Once she had recovered, she shared with me how overwhelmed she was by the way the NEA staff took care of her. While she was sick, plates of watermelon would be left outside her door and someone would check in on her every few hours bringing cold water, asking what they could do to help her. She told me, “I actually feel at home in this place.”


  Medical Team Residence: Nim House

Medical Team Residence: Nim House

She expressed something that this 2018 Health Team is feeling as well. Not enough can be said for this NEA staff and the entire support team for their hospitality and commitment to the success of this program. Tonight’s blog is dedicated to them — the behind-the-scenes heroes that make our work possible.

The indoor kitchen staff that prepares food for our team starts at 3:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm every day. The quality, colour, flavour and creative presentations with which they prepare the meals is unbelievable. Tonight, we had peanut soup over rice balls, chicken and roast potatoes, salad garnished with fresh vegetables and tuna and fresh watermelon. On talent show night, the kitchen sent up a Ghanaian appetizer platter to contribute to the celebration. It was mini-skewers of chicken gizzards with fresh jalapeño pepper and onion. There is also an outdoor cooking team that prepares three traditional meals a day for all of the translators, volunteers, staff, compound kids and post-operative patients. It is a massive operation.

  Kitchen staff led by Patience in pink.

Kitchen staff led by Patience in pink.

  Ghanaian Party Platter

Ghanaian Party Platter

Every three days, each team member’s laundry is done for them. We send it out in a personalized black bag and it is returned to us at the end of the day. A large group of women from local villages make up this team. Once a week, our sheets and towels are laundered as well.

We never see the cleaning staff, but we arrive home every day to find our residences and washrooms absolutely spic and span. Tea, coffee, crackers and Laughing Cow cheese are set out for our enjoyment with a fridge full of water and pop.

The compound has never looked better in my opinion. The groundskeeping staff have created a place of true beauty, and the attention to detail in the landscaping and the maintenance of the property and buildings is breathtaking.

Our security staff are on duty 24 hours a day and a security team travels with us. We don’t notice their presence but we know they are there and as a result, we feel safe and completely at ease at all times.

We have an amazing team of NEA drivers. Manoeuvring three busses in convoy down bumpy, pothole-ridden village roads takes skill, and these drivers are the best. Despite the dust and the dirt, the buses are always spotless inside and out, and we have yet to have any mechanical problems.

Our translators wear blue shirts, and they are by our sides at all times while we work. We are lost without them.

The clinic volunteers are the heroes in the yellow shirts. Today’s team left at 3:00 am. When we arrived in Asantekwaa, the crowd was well organized and the entire clinic was already set up, ready for us to begin working. These volunteers also control the flow of patients through the stations, run prescriptions to pharmacy and assist with the taking down of the clinic and transporting it back to Carpenter at night.

The surgical volunteers are responsible to manage all transportation, housing, and feeding of the hernia patients during their two-day stay in Carpenter.

  Translators and volunteers finally sitting down after a busy day!

Translators and volunteers finally sitting down after a busy day!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the pastoral team. This large, dedicated team has the important task of praying for us, for our patients, and for the mission as a whole. They pray constantly from the moment we leave our homes and will continue until a word is received that we have all returned safely to our loved ones.

I’ve shared with you what this NEA team does but what I have not done is communicated how each of these individuals discharges their duties with such kindness and love. This is what Alexandria was talking about . It is this love that they show us in such practical ways that makes this NEA compound in this remote area of this small African country a second home to so many of us.

PS: The entire team had a beyond busy day but we managed to all make it to the dining hall by 7:00 pm for dinner and team reports. We were off to bed early as we know what we are in store for tomorrow! Apparently a patient arrived from another country yesterday to get in line for our Wednesday clinic!

Fun in the Sun

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Two days of rest, relaxation and fun in the Ghanaian sun are great for the soul. We are so sorry to hear we are missing Canadian winter!

Saturday morning the team enjoyed a lovely sleep-in with the exception of the running club who were on the trails at 6:30 am. En route to breakfast we discovered the big NEA gazebo was full of African crafts, carvings, baskets, fabrics and clothing for our purchasing pleasure. This team clearly has a case of shopping withdrawal.

After breakfast David Mensah played the role of tour guide as team members walked around the vast NEA compound to witness the different sectors of development taking place. They received lessons in aquaculture, mushroom farming, shea butter production and animal husbandry to mention a few. How wonderful for our team to understand the context into which our health care delivery fits. The rest of the day was filled with napping, puzzling, yoga classes with Bex, book clubs, a tour of the village, a trip to a local market and some rehearsals for…

GHANA’S GOT TALENT!

We were all amazed by the creativity and variety of acts that took the stage for our 3rd annual talent show. As tradition dictates, the night was opened up by the simultaneous singing of the national anthems of our home countries Egypt, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Britain, Jamaica, Ghana, Canada, France, Germany and Senegal. The line up was fantastic. We enjoyed a game of Family Feud hosted by the eye team, poetry by Martha, stand-up comedy with Greg, a monologue about Francois’ new charity “Hoarders Without Boarders” (pronounced Hordairs Widout Boardairs), a nursing team skit entitled “Staying Alive” and a beautiful song called “Thank You My Friends” by Abraham. The physicians pulled off a coordinated hand-clapping skit which impressed! Dr. Dan brought his portable keyboard and expertly accompanied a number of parodies for Carlye and I, pharmacy and surgery. One of my favourite choruses belonged to the surgical team, sung to the tune of “Day Dream Believer:”

Cheer up knackered team
How hard can it be
To fix, 300 hernias
and we’re living the dream

One of my favourite moments of the night was when Dr. Carolyn, who was brilliantly playing the bachelorette in the “Dating Game,” asked Dr. Neil, Kyle and Francois (who were playing the bachelors) the final question of this hilarious skit. “If you could be a tooth … what tooth would you be?” After considering their answers, she wisely declined all three of them and decided to buy a cat. It is true that laughter is very good medicine.

Today was a wonderful day of rest. There are too many of us to fit into the local church so the surgical courtyard became our sanctuary. There was singing, drumming, dancing and joyous celebration for all God has done over this past week. Noah shared a moving testimony about a man with epilepsy who has received treatment from our team for a number of years. Prior to this, due to his regular convulsions, he was an outcast and banned from eating meat in his village. Now he is seizure-free, reintegrated into society, and invited to eat meat in the village.

David Mensah’s mother shared a testimony as well. Having lost her husband and her father due to hernia, she stood in the centre of the surgical centre that is preventing hundreds of deaths from hernia and thanked God for our team. It was quite a moment.

Dr. Martin McDowell led us in a medley of This Little Light of Mine and Give Me Oil in My Lamp and I must say we sounded beautiful. Pastor Rans preached a message about Queen Esther. He challenged us that we all have a purpose for which we were created but often we let fear stand in our way. Esther faced her fear, rose up and took action due to the imminent death of her tribe. Rans thanked God for our willingness rise up like Esther and act even though his people are not even our people. “Good works shall never be in vain,” he concluded.

Once the temperature dropped in the late afternoon, an NEA vs expat volleyball match was enjoyed by all. We lost by only one point in game one and then got creamed in games two and three. I think we are all such good friends now than NEA no longer feels they need to take it easy on us!

European football was next on the agenda. The local men’s football team arrived to take us on. We could tell by their warm up that we were in big, big trouble but thankfully NEA staff joined our team. Prior to the match, Dr. Rob presented them with brand new football jerseys which they promptly put on. It was an amazing match that ended in a tie even though we had 17 players and 17 subs to their 11 with no subs.

Next up was American football. Quarterbacks Dr. Martin, Greg, Dan and Dave gave a quick crash course to our friends and the game was on. It ended in a tie as well with big touchdowns being scored by our Dr. David Cressey and Dr. Kate.

It certainly has been a great weekend with some good ol’ fashioned fun. Speaking of old fashioned fun, I cannot conclude without sharing two Monopoly stories. Dr. Josh received some blog comments from home about a “Monopoly episode.” At the talent show, he was forced to stand up and give a monologue about the Monopoly incident of his youth. Turns out he was a rather mean banker, forcing his younger siblings to play for hours until he had all their money. Interestingly, Saturday morning I had a chance to present a Monopoly Board to the kids on the compound. Last year, some of the pre-teen boys on the compound asked my daughter Amelia if she could help them get a Monopoly board. We have no idea how they even heard about this game. With Brenda Mensah’s blessing, a deluxe Monopoly board was presented to Emmanuel, a 13 year old boy who is now the President of the NEA Monopoly Club. After reading the instructions, the boys played for 7 hours on Saturday and five hours today. I’m hoping they don’t invite Dr. Josh to play.

After we celebrated Debbie’s birthday at supper, our fun and games came to an end as all our supplies and medicines needed to be prepped and loaded onto the truck which will leave very early. Everyone went to bed early as we anticipate a full day in the village and in the theatres. We are rested, healthy and excited to finish strong as, over the next four days, we continue to serve each patient we meet with our whole hearts.

A Fulani Boy’s Speech

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Every morning at 5:45 am, a group of us from Canada, UK and Ghana gather to pray for our mission and our teammates. While it is early for us, the NEA staff have already been up for hours making breakfast, packing lunches, washing buses, and organizing surgical patients. The logistics team leaves at 4:00 am to organize the crowds and set up the clinic prior to our arrival. Dr. Kyle’s translator Moses looked a little sleepy today at the dental station: he had stayed in Yaara all night to guard the building that contained our supplies and medications. The commitment of the NEA staff towards this health program is hard to describe in words. It truly is their program.

Breakfast was extra special as Abraham presented Dr. Magdi with his gift-wrapped personal luggage which finally arrived from London at 3:00 am. Katie and Bex almost missed their breakfast as they discovered the ostriches on a morning walk and could not pull themselves away from these magnificent creatures.


  The lost luggage

The lost luggage

Off to Yaara we went, and despite our long journey the physicians were consulting at their desks by 9:15 am. I cannot say enough about my colleagues. We are used to practicing in quiet consultation rooms where we can concentrate, examine patients under good lighting, and use specialized equipment to help us arrive at the correct diagnosis and treat the problem. Here, Drs. Carlye, Charlie, Sue, Kate, Helen, Mary, Andy, Anne, Karen and I are working in the hottest, most noisy environment imaginable, gathering information through a translator, dealing with unfamiliar diseases, while always ready to respond to an emergency.

  Dr. Carlye

Dr. Carlye

  Dr. Helen

Dr. Helen

  Dr. Mary

Dr. Mary

Our ability to diagnose and treat with excellence is only possible due to the support and clinical information we receive from our nursing colleagues in triage, weights and temps, diagnostics, the nursing station, and then from our team of pharmacists at the end of the line who so professionally dispense the medication needed along with the counselling required. Our Ghanaian health care providers are the most invaluable resource of all. Today, was an extremely well run clinic and we were on the road by 3:45, thanks to an outstanding team effort.

  Nurse Practitioner Sandra

Nurse Practitioner Sandra

  Pharmacist Martha and Daniel, her Ghanaian colleague and translator, serving a patient

Pharmacist Martha and Daniel, her Ghanaian colleague and translator, serving a patient

I took a few moments today to visit our eye clinic. I watched as every patient moved through Barb’s auto refraction station, Dan’s intraocular pressure check followed by a full eye exam and slit lamp by Dr. Pete, Dr. Mai, Dr. Josh or Dr. Martin. After this, Jane checked her database for the required prescription and finally, our Ghanaian volunteers pulled out a pair of donated eye glasses they required. In addition, hundreds of sunglasses and safety glasses are being dispensed. It is a truly amazing operation and I’m hoping my pictures will come through to you so you can see for yourself.

  Auto refraction station

Auto refraction station

  Intraocular pressure check

Intraocular pressure check

  Full eye exam

Full eye exam

  Slit lamp

Slit lamp

  Jane checking her database for the required prescription.

Jane checking her database for the required prescription.


  Dispensing glasses

Dispensing glasses

The laser clinic only ran for a half-day today, but rather than taking a well deserved afternoon off, Martin took a short cut to Yaara to help his team in the village, and Marion popped into the OR to see if help was needed. They next thing she knew, she was scrubbed in and assisting Magdi with a hernia repair. What a change of pace for Marion who, although a nurse by training, has worked faithfully on our eye team since 2007.

  Marion assisting Dr. Magdi.

Marion assisting Dr. Magdi.

You know you are a great leader when your team can function without you. Dr. Rob, surgical team leader, joined us in Yaara and in his absence his team worked non-stop from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, completing 35 procedures. They are now up to 180 in total and we thank God that there have been no complications. (Nothing blew up or caught fire either.)

What would a trip to Africa be without an insect story? Today, it is all about the ants. Poor Dr. Carlye set her backpack down on the grass and when she picked it up and slung it on her back, it became apparent that she had set it down on a fire ant hill. The back pack flew off and a group of translators rushed to her and began slapping her head to toe trying to knock off hundreds of little ants without much progress. Finally one of them said, ”Madame, you must take off your clothes!” which is the only way to properly deal with these type of ants in your pants. Thankfully, there was a latrine nearby for Carlye to duck into.

This evening, Kim and Dr. Mai went into their room to find a group of a larger ants having a party. There were thousands of them pouring from a hole in the wall and the floor was almost black. We considered blowing three whistles but Kyle our protector kicked into action with a broom and Birkenstock. I ran like a mad woman with arms flailing to find Soale, because that is what you do when you have a problem in Ghana. I frantically explained the situation to him. He paused (as he always does) and responded, “They say good luck comes to those with ants in their room.” Kim and Mai did not find that funny. He followed up with “This is very normal for us,” Well, it’s not normal for us, Soale! But the best response came when I asked him if these ants bite. Another pause. “Just a little, but it is not critical. Don’t worry, I will send for silicone.”

  Soale

Soale

It has been quite a week indeed. According to Kim, over 2600 patients have received health care in Mo Land since our arrival. The only appropriate way I can find to sum up this week is to tell you about a Fulani boy who came to see me today. The Fulani tribe are nomadic tribe and typically their children are uneducated. I was seeing a Fulani family at my station and one of the boys was standing right beside my chair. His mom, the translator and I were reviewing the children’s histories when this boy started to speak in a loud, strong voice for about 30 seconds. He would stop speaking, looked at me, looked at Dr. Mary sitting at the other end of my table, and repeat this 30 second speech. He did this three times. Curious, I asked my translator to find out what he kept repeating. The translation I received from this 6 year old boy was, “You have such kind hearts. Had it not been for your help, most of us would die.”

I want to thank God for making what happened this week possible and for watching over NEA, our team and our patients. I want to thank each and every one of our families, our friends, our donors and our supporters for your role making it possible for us to be here for this time. Thank you for your prayers, your good wishes and your encouraging comments that are read to us every evening and make us laugh and make us cry.

As they say in the UK, we are knackered. Tomorrow is a day of leisure and we could not be more ready. Tours of the NEA compound and Carpenter village, a trip to market, book clubs, and the third annual Ghana’s Got Talent show are planned. On Sunday, we will go to church and in the afternoon, Ghana will take on a Canada/Europe for a very competitive volleyball and football game. The outcome will not be hard to predict.

Signing off until Monday …

Fanta, Footballs, Fire and Foolishness

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today was paediatric day in our surgical theatres. Our Ghanaian anaesthetist Eric suggested we consider giving the children a touch of sedation before bringing them in for their anaesthesia so that they would be less scared of our white faces. Dr. Karen, who does a lot of paediatric anaesthesiology at home, took charge and the team made arrangements for all the kids to receive a brand new football along with small drink of Fanta laced with an oral sedative prior to being wheeled into the theatre. Let’s just say that a very happy group of kids came in and out of their surgeries without any complications and barely a cry or whine was heard.

 Happy patient

Happy patient

Our anaesthetic nurse Debbie has been just brilliant. We are thankful that these kids not only had their hernias repaired but they and their families had a very positive health care experience overall.

The only complication of the day involved a sterilizer which sort of caught on fire. Apparently Dr. Dan didn’t blink an eye and just kept operating whilst singing his jazz tunes. Thankfully the fire put itself out and no harm was done (except for the sterilizer).

  Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Miraculously, one of the NEA staff remembered there was another sterilizer on the compound. Before they knew it, a four foot tall industrial sized autoclave suddenly appeared and was in working order. We have no idea where it came from but Ashley and Sara can now sterilize the entire team’s instruments in one batch, saving hours of work.

The medical team was on the road at 0630 for the long and bumpy ride to the remote village of Yaara. Stepping off the bus in Yaara is always one of my favourite moments of the mission and this year was just as special as ever. The drums were beating, the women were dancing in a circle and David’s brother Chief Joseph, the Queen Mother, elders, and women leaders were all ready to greet us. Many of us joined the circle and tried without much success to find the beat of the drums. The village presented our team with yams, bananas, oranges, papaya, watermelon and Jessica received her own yams and a chicken.

  Yaara drums

Yaara drums

Abraham tried his best to keep the welcome festivities and speeches short so that we could go straight to work as the crowd was enormous. What amazed me about today is how our team is just so committed to providing the most thorough and compassionate care to each and every patient they come in contact with despite the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other people who are waiting.

There are many amazing stories that could be told about this day but there is only one that I will share tonight.

Word was received that a very ill young woman in the village was too weak to get to us. Our paramedic Greg made a house call to the far corner of the village and when it became apparent that she needed immediate care, a taxi picked her up, drove right through our crowds to the door of our nursing station. Our doctor of the day was Dr. Andy and he was faced with a difficult and heartbreaking situation. It is cases like this that, quite frankly, cause an anger to rise up within me. A situation like this would never happen in Canada or the UK and it is unacceptable that a young mother in a village in Yaara is not given the same opportunity for health and life that we have. If the doors to NEA’s hospital were open today, I have no doubt that this situation would have looked very different for this woman and her three young children. Those of us who came in contact with her today will not soon erase this injustice from our minds.

Every afternoon around 3:00pm each team member, volunteer and translator on the medical, surgical, dental and eye team are handed a quote. This Franciscan Blessing was handed to us yesterday:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at poverty, injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for health justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.

Amen.

Again and Again and Again

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

The medical clinic was up and running by 0800 in Nyamboi village and we enjoyed overcast skies which lowered the temperature by a few degrees for a few hours. By midday the heat was blistering once again. According to Dr. Mensah, “November isn’t the best month to come to Ghana.” Right.

Val was in charge of our nursing station today and together with Toni-Ann, our Ghanaian nurses, and “doctor of the day” Carlye, they had to kick into action with five very sick kids with malaria all requiring injectable antimalarials and rehydration. It was so busy that Jen McLoughlin (aka wee Jenny) had to be pulled from triage for reinforcement. Miraculously, these five kids walked out of the clinic on their own two feet by lunchtime.

  Nursing Station

Nursing Station

Our triage team of Greg, Megan, Leslie, and Jen worked non-stop treating minor problems and sending the more serious patients through. Our diagnostic station run by Alisha, Anne and Anna had a full waiting room all day long and did a marvellous job providing the physicians with important information to assist our decision making.

  Diagnostics Station

Diagnostics Station

Dr. Andy had a very unusual case of a pre-teen boy with what appeared to be an infected shoulder joint. When faced with a case like this that is beyond our capacity, we do everything possible to help. Using our connections at the nearest hospital and funds raised through our generous donors he was transported for the care he will need. Dr. Duncan was kept extremely busy with listing hernia patients for next year and accepting referrals from the physician team for procedures such as drainage of abscesses. Surgical nurse Becky dove right in and was a huge help to our nursing team.

Dr. Francois reminded us at breakfast that dentists take Wednesdays off work but we convinced him to join us anyway. These four amazing professionals worked steadily under the canopy with Dr. Carolyn keeping extremely busy with fillings.

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Our eye clinic saw just shy off 100 patients today and a few special cases were shared with all at dinner. Dr. Josh had a patient who was blind in one eye and whose “good” eye was failing due to severe glaucoma. Due to the generosity of our donors, he was able to supply her with one year supply of medications to preserve her vision. Dr. Mai looked after a young woman who was also blind in one eye and about to lose sight in the other eye due to an infection. Dr. Pete saw a 3 month old who was blind from congenital cataracts. We will work with NEA to support this child receiving surgery in Accra, hopeful that a life of blindness will be averted in all three of these patients.

While their colleagues sweated in out in the village, Dr. Martin and Marion preserved vision for 30 patients in the laser clinic. The laser clinic is known as the “country club” as the laser needs air conditioning.

Our clinic day ended with the Nyamboi village presenting our team with a mound of yams, a huge bowl of bananas and a beautiful white ram. It was an incredible display of generosity from this farming community.

The surgical team were faced with some massive hernias today. By repairing them, they are not just preventing death from hernia — they are restoring families’ incomes. These men can barely walk, let alone work on the farm. A hernia repair transforms their lives and thirty-seven lives were transformed on this day alone.

Our anaesthesia program is expanding by the hour and is now capable of administering general anaesthetics, spinal anaesthetics and sedation in all three theatres. Using the second ultrasound machine that we have, Dr. David is now teaching Eric how to do regional anaesthesia (nerve blocks). Eric is over the moon with the training he is receiving and loves working with Dr. David, Dr. Karen and Debbie.

One of our surgical nurses Bex had a birthday today and she received a lovely gift presented by Katie — a special box (empty box of gloves) filled with some treasures (bar of soap, toothpaste and some rocks). She was thrilled.

After dinner, our team was inspired and moved by an address by Dr. Mensah who thanked us for coming to Ghana again and again and again. He thanked us for raising funds again and again and again. He thanked us for our overwhelming professionalism that is displayed again and again and again. He concluded by thanking God for answering a prayer he began to pray in 1972 about his dream to bring medical services to Ghana. Tomorrow, he meets with the architects that will be building NEA’s model hospital called the Leyaata Hospital.

It’s happening again — my blogs are becoming books but there was no way that this day could be described in less than these 800-ish words.

More than Mere Friendship

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Our day began with the news that our little patient with cerebral malaria survived the night but was still in critical condition. Our colleagues at the district hospital are doing everything possible to save her and we continue to pray for a good report tomorrow.

Our Ghanaian logistics team arrived in Nyamboi village at 0400 this morning to set up our canopies and organize the crowds. When our 3 buses of team members and translators arrived at 0800 it took no time at all to man our stations, pop up our incredible pharmacy and begin our task of caring for one patient at time. A small delegation of first-time team members that included Anna, Anne, Alisha, Jessica and myself greeted the chief and elders while the clinic got underway.

 Clinic triage

Clinic triage

The clinic ran so smoothly and efficiently thanks to a great team effort. It was a real pleasure to have Dr. Simon and nurse Bex from the surgical team join us and consult on a gangrenous foot as well as a patient with an abscess that needed draining. Midday, the District Director of Health Services and his team arrived to greet us. He toured our clinic and witnessed Ghanaians and Canadians and Europeans working side by side and hand in hand. Abraham remarked to him, “This is more than mere friendship.”


 More than mere friendship

More than mere friendship

Our eye clinic really suffered today as temperatures soared into the high 30s in their dark window-covered church clinic. They never complain, but Dr.Martin did declare at supper they are the “hottest team” of all. Many of last year’s glaucoma patients were reviewed in clinic today and are all doing very well.

Our dentists worked extremely hard today and didn’t seem to even notice the goats continually grazing around their canopies.

Back on the compound the surgical team had a full and challenging day with four emergency cases in addition to all of their booked surgeries. Dealing with a few dodgy stomachs they pushed through with incredible resilience. Ashley shared at dinner how proud he was of all the surgical nursing staff who have very long days arriving early and staying late to prepare the theatres and sterilize everyone’s instruments. There was one marriage proposal in the OR and it involved a dowry of bush meat — I will leave you guessing on that one!

Dr. Dan’s last patient of the day was unexpectedly complicated. When Dr. Simon arrived back from the village he immediately scrubbed in to assist. I popped in to see how they were doing to find our UK anaesthetist Dr. Karen and our Ghanaian anaesthetist Eric talking through advanced sedation techniques that were suddenly required due to the complexity of the case. Meanwhile Dan and Simon were able to successfully complete the surgery during which they explained to me that they were medical school classmates, best men at each other’s weddings but have never once operated together until that very moment. What a memory for them.

  Good friends Dr. Simon & Dr. Dan working together with Eric on a complicated case

Good friends Dr. Simon & Dr. Dan working together with Eric on a complicated case

After our tomato soup, cashew-beef, rice and yam fries dinner (I know, right?!), Soale who leads NEA operations shared with us two important observations from today. Firstly, he noticed that his people were really touched emotionally by the care they received. A very elderly woman that Dr. Charlie and our nursing team cared for said to Soale, “Who said the world is bad now? Look at these people who come from another continent to help us beyond measure.” Secondly he shared a verse in the Bible from Psalm 133:1 that says “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.” He feels that the unity between the NEA leadership and the Ghana Health Team leadership and the unity amongst all of our team members is driving the success of this program. He thanked God for His hand on our work.

Abraham is right — this is more than mere friendship. It is about friends new and old who are wholeheartedly united in purpose and who truly do believe it is possible to make a difference in this great big world.

  More than friends: our Ghanaian, British, and Canadian nurses

More than friends: our Ghanaian, British, and Canadian nurses

PS: We got your message Nicky Blunt and you name is already on the list for 2019!
PPS: We might just be teasing Josh Smith a lot over how much his family loves him.

Best First Day Ever

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

NEA decided to treat us to a “sleep-in” after our long journey, so our day began at 7:30am under the gazebo. The NEA staff gather every morning to pray before they start their work and this morning, they invited us and all our translators to attend. Beautiful multi-part harmonies rang out as the staff led us in a song called “My God is Good.” David, who is an NEA accountant, shared a message from the Bible from Matthew 25 that talks about how whatever we do for the least of humanity we do for God himself.

A superb breakfast of oatmeal, omelettes, beans, fresh bread, peanut butter, watermelon and bananas along with Tim Horton’s coffee (we don’t leave home without it) was enjoyed by all. Dr. David joined us for breakfast. David is a young Ghanaian physician who is one of NEA’s scholars. He will be working with both the medical and surgical team for the second year in a row and we are excited about the mutual transfer of skills that will take place. “We will never forget this. We will always have you in our hearts,” he told us.

  Dr. David and Dr. Kate discussing ultrasound images of a trauma patient.

Dr. David and Dr. Kate discussing ultrasound images of a trauma patient.

After breakfast, all the teams made their final preparations to begin our work and our automated pharmacy went live. The physicians spent a good hour with our local medical assistant Ernestina reviewing illnesses we are less familiar with, such as malaria, HIV and tropical ulcers to name a few.

The operating theatres were up and running by 10:30am, and despite the later than normal start, the team completed 35 hernia successful surgeries with zero complications. It is unusual for Day 1 to be so efficient, especially with so many first time surgical team members, but, Dr. Rob (aka Mr. Rob in the UK) declared it the “best first day ever.” Way to go surgical team! Imagine what they can do with a full day work.

We ran a very important medical clinic this afternoon for the NEA staff and their family members. What an honour for us to care for and provide medicine to these dear friends and their families. As seems to be the pattern, the clinic began with an emergency when a pregnant patient fell off a motorcycle on the road outside the compound. We were thankful that Dr. Kate brought an ultrasound machine from Edmonton which was a key diagnostic tool in this situation. Thankfully mom and baby are doing well.

Emergencies continued and today’s rapid response team of our paramedic Greg and Dr. Sue and Joan responded to a collapsed patient in the eye clinic as well as a toddler who was convulsing with cerebral malaria. The child was stabilized and after consulting with our paediatrician Dr. Anne, was transferred to the nearest hospital. We were thankful to receive word that the child was still alive this evening, but the situation is critical, and we pray she will survive the night. (Malaria is a leading cause of death among children under 5 in Ghana.)


  Nursing leaders Joan and Sandra poring over clinic maps.

Nursing leaders Joan and Sandra poring over clinic maps.

The eye clinic worked until the sun went down (no power in their building), and they too had an exceptional first day — including a lovely fireworks show when their sterilizer sort of blew up. Thankfully, Ashley in the OR is a really, really nice guy who offered to provide sterilization services to our eye team for a nominal fee.

Our dental team were extremely busy and were faced with some challenging cases that Dr. Francois admitted were very humbling. I think we would all agree, this is humbling work for all of us. None of us are foolish enough to feel overconfident — we simply do our best one patient at a time.

  Dr. Neil and Dr. Carolyn under the dental tent.

Dr. Neil and Dr. Carolyn under the dental tent.

According to the queen of logistics (BTW isn’t Kim looking fabulous in the new logistical team color of bright yellow), we saw 386 medical, surgical, dental and eye patients on this compound today. I’m just so glad it was the best first day ever. Not so much for us, but for NEA. The men and women and their families who do the very, very hard work of development 365 days a year deserve nothing less.


  Queen of Logistics

Queen of Logistics

Because of Love

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

After just a few short hours of sleep we boarded the coach buses and enjoyed a smooth and beautiful journey to the North. Just after 11:00am local time we paused together under a mango tree for a Remembrance Day reading by Dr. Josh and a moment of silence.

 Pausing to remember

Pausing to remember

Our journey lasted nine hours. As we pulled into the gates of the NEA compound, the driver laid on his horn for a solid three minutes to announce our arrival. We think this is how we might begin to announce our arrival home in the future! All of the NEA staff and their families greeted us in a receiving line that seems to get longer and longer every year. It was a sweet reunion. After a song and prayer of thanksgiving to God for our safe arrival, Abraham thanked us for our commitment to this program. He believes the motivation for people who take risks and make sacrifices of this magnitude is simply because of love.

Over the next two hours I witnessed the epitome of teamwork and cooperation as a medical clinic, nursing station, fully stocked pharmacy, eye clinic, dental clinic as well a surgical theatres and a recovery room popped out of nowhere. Everyone pitched in, even the children.

Our traditional spaghetti dinner, enjoyed by all in the dining hall, was prepared by Patience, who looked stunning in her white uniform and cap. It is also a tradition during our first dinner together that Dr. Carlye, who is our team doctor, gives us strict instructions regarding the two most common team health issues in Ghana: diarrhea or constipation. Funny how none of us mind this type of conversation over supper.

The work continued throughout the evening until eyelids literally started to drop. A well deserved night’s sleep awaits us all under our mosquito nets. As I drift off to sleep I’m thinking of so many special moments that I noticed today. I’ll leave you with a few….

I noticed Val caring for a little boy with a cut on his leg who somehow found his way in to the unpacking area.

In the midst of setting up the surgical theatres, I noticed Dr. Dan and Dr. Simon tucked away in a consulting room already examining tomorrow’s surgical patients.

 Early consulting for patients

Early consulting for patients

I noticed Ashley and Emilia skipping across the field late at night to the theatre making sure the sterilizer wasn’t blowing the place up.

I noticed team members sitting in a large circle helping pharmacy prepare 5000 doses of deworming medication.

 Prepping deworming

Prepping deworming

I noticed the massive task that our pharmacists Linda, Sherry, Martha, Alexa, Lisa and Kirlis have to set up an entire pharmacy in a few short hours. They would have pulled an all-nighter if we had let them.

I noticed Sandra coaching our first time nurse Toni-Ann on our triage system while Joan was coaching Alisha Anna and Anne on how to use the rapid HIV and malaria tests.

I noticed Greg, our paramedic, sitting on the floor with our trauma bag contents sprawled out just to be sure he was prepared for any emergency.

And finally, just as the sun was setting, I noticed our eye team had recruited a long line of children who were, with such pride and such ease, transporting all the boxes of eyeglasses to the clinic on their little heads.

It is time for our work to begin. Tomorrow as we have the honour of providing care to all the NEA development staff and their extended families, while operations will begin in the surgical theatres.

All because of love, indeed.

History Will Mark This

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Ghana Health Team

The young Ghanaian man in the Amsterdam airport listened as Dr. Sue and my daughter Jessica shared who we were and why we’re going to Ghana. He knew very well the challenges of the Northern Region of his country. He thanked us on behalf of all Ghanaians for crossing continents to help strangers and concluded by saying, “History will mark this.”

We are here. All sixty of us and all of our medications and supplies arrived safely (minus one personal bag which is en route from London). Our program and protocols and systems are ready to go, and I noticed some of our leaders fine tuning these things even as we flew through the night. (I love my Type A friends who may have a touch of OCD.) Other than one small flight delay, our travel was seamless, and we are grateful for those who prayed for our safe arrival.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at a lovely hotel. Soon we will begin our journey northward. Our dear friends at NEA will be waiting to greet us under the mango trees and once our reunion with them is complete, we will begin the massive task of unpacking.

“History will mark this” was a thought-provoking comment for me, and I realized that perhaps the significance of this mission for the Ghanaian people has dimmed for me over this past year. How easy it is to forget what life would be like without access to a doctor or a dentist or medication. How can we even fathom that a surgical illness — even a simple hernia— could be a death sentence for many? What would a day be like for us without our contact lenses and glasses? I choke up when I remember that without health care, only two of my five kids would probably be alive and well today.

My BBC news app reminds me every day of the evil and destructive events that seem to be marking our current times. What a privilege for us to be part of an effort that is born out of kindness, love, compassion, and justice for our global neighbours. While we may never show up in any history books, I’m reminded that our annual visit to the Mo Land marks something very significant — the arrival of hope and healing for men, women and children who are just like you and me.



 GHT2018 Canadian Team Members Departing Pearson International Airport on November 9, 2018, including Christ Church’s Dr. Martin McDowell, Dr. Andy Patterson, Anne Embleton and Jane Smith.

GHT2018 Canadian Team Members Departing Pearson International Airport on November 9, 2018, including Christ Church’s Dr. Martin McDowell, Dr. Andy Patterson, Anne Embleton and Jane Smith.

Faithworks Sunday

On Sunday, October 28 we celebrated FaithWorks Sunday with a focus on Loft Community Services.

Anne Simons and Jim Rehill, on behalf of Shirley Rehill, spoke about what Loft Community Services does for those in our community, who they help and what their current needs are. We thank Anne, Jim and Shirley for sharing with us how important Loft is in Stouffville and other locations in the GTA.

After the service, a hot dog lunch was served with freewill offerings going to our Deacon Al Fund (which funds local outreach needs, such as gas cards and grocery store gift cards for those in need). A portion of the funds raised also went to purchasing a blender, lamp and alarm clock for the Loft house here in Stouffville. They were received with an abundance of gratitude.

Christ Church Stouffville is one of the largest contributors to FaithWorks in the Diocese of Toronto and we thank you all for your continued support. The work FaithWorks does cannot be accomplished without generous donations by people like you!

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7 Simple Outreach Ideas

Looking for easy ways to help someone through the love of Jesus Christ? Here are 7 simple outreach ideas to get you started.

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  1. Bake something. Make some brownies, or bake a casserole and deliver it to someone who you know will appreciate it. Maybe it’s a senior who is homebound, maybe it’s a single mom who needs a break, maybe it’s the new neighbours who just moved in. When food is made with love it tastes a whole lot better.

  2. Send a card. Know someone who’s going through a tough time? Send them a card to show them you’re thinking about them. Know someone who’s accomplished a goal? Send them a card to say congratulations. New baby? Send a card. New job? Send a card. It’s a quick and easy way to lift someone’s spirits, spread a smile or just show someone you care.

  3. Make a phone call. In the time of texts and emails, a phone call might seem a bit old fashioned, but it offers a closer connection than a Facebook post or a one-line text. A phone call lets the person on the other end know how much you really do care about what’s going on in their lives. And you just might be the only person he or she has spoken to that day. Go ahead, make the call.

  4. Drive someone to church. Know someone who’s got a whole lot of month left but not much money or a senior who doesn’t drive anymore? Offer them a ride to and from services. Engage in a conversation along the drive. You just might help them out more than saving a few dollars on a tank of gas or a bus ticket.

  5. Talk to someone at coffee hour. When you know a lot of people in your church, coffee hour seems like a natural place to strike up a conversation. But when you’re new or an introvert, it’s not that easy. Look around the room. See that person standing over there by themselves? Go up and say hi - they’ll feel a whole lot better and you just might have something in common. Make sure you introduce them to other people as well.

  6. Donate to the local food bank. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the big times when most people donate to the food bank, but hunger doesn’t take a holiday. There are people right here in our community who rely on the food bank to get them through the week and your donation is welcome. Go ahead a throw a couple extra items into your grocery cart next time you’re at the store then donate it to the food bank. No one deserves to go hungry.

  7. Pray. Don’t discount the power of prayer. If you know of someone who is in need or sick, pray for them. God is always listening.

Read and Recommended

The Quilted Heart by Mona Hodgson

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Here we have 3 Novellas in one book, each one focuses on a woman in Missouri, in 1865, right after the Confederate War.  Each of these three women, have different hardships, and trials as they try to navigate through a difficult time in history. 

In the first novella, Maren, has travelled from Denmark, to marry a man, who did not want her once he saw her, and now she is losing her sight. 

In the second tale, a young Emile, lives with her widowed father who has grand ideas who she should see and who she should marry. 

The third story is about a young wife Caroline, who finds out that he young husband has been killed in the  war, so as a widow what should she now do, and when the idea of joining a wagon train to California comes up, she is thwarted by a gentleman she does not like or does she.  

Review: A good read, suitable for the women of our congregation.  This book can be found in the fiction part of the church Library. Check it out today!

Reviewed by: Susan Walmsley

 

Top 5 Ways to Serve at Church

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It is possible to come to church and never serve.  But this doesn’t make for a very dynamic or spiritual experience.  According to an article on Christianity Today, the number one reason why people don’t help out at church is because they don’t know how they can help or they feel like they don’t have the talents or gifts to help. But God has given us each a unique gift to share. Here’s 5 easy ways you can serve at church.

1.    Greet people: Each week, we say hi to the people we know, but what about the people who are visiting or new to our church?  It's awkward and uncomfortable to be in a room of strangers with no one to talk to and not knowing where the facilities are. The simple act of saying hi to a newcomer and showing them around is a great way to help them feel more comfortable, and is a practical way to love others as we would like to be loved (who enjoys standing awkwardly on their own?!).

2.    Pray: Don’t discount the power of prayer. Sometimes it can seem like it’s the “least you can do”, but it’s actually one of the most important. In addition to praying for someone to heal or have a problem fixed, pray for them to grow strong in the Lord.  In the first chapter of each of St. Paul’s books, he prayed less for situations to be resolved positively and more for people to grow in their spirituality.

3.    Read a book and share it with others: Our church library is an underused resource that we are fortunate to have. Have you read a great Christian based novel or book lately? Recommend and share it with others. Spread the word – literally.  

4.    Host a coffee hour: Everything goes better with coffee. It’s easy to get to know those in our church whom you may not have spoken to before over a cup of steaming hot joe.

5.    Invite others to church: Share your faith! One of the best ways you can do this and serve the church at the same time is to simply invite your friends to attend a church service or event with you.

“Serve one another humbly in love”

Galatians 5:13

 

The John Strachan Trust Launched at Film Gala

On May 23, The John Strachan Trust, named after the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto, had its official kickoff at the Eglinton Grand, a former movie theatre and historic landmark in midtown Toronto. The gala evening attracted over 100 attendees and included a short film and comments by Archbishop Colin Johnson. http://bit.ly/2J1PAeH

John Strachan, our visionary first bishop, made bold and courageous decisions that ripple forward hundreds of years. Over a century and a half ago, Bishop Strachan called for an endowment to fund the Bishop’s Office. He presented a vision of what might be possible, but it wasn’t something he could achieve on his own.

The John Strachan Trust is the endowment that helps fund the Office of the Bishop of Toronto. At present, the endowment is $2.5 million away from ensuring the Bishop’s Office is sustainable for generations.

With your financial support, we can act now to leave a legacy for the future Church and support the Bishop’s ministry as a leader, shepherd, teacher and advocate.

For more information on The John Strachan Trust, visit www.toronto.anglican.ca/foundation or contact Michael Cassabon at 416-363-6021, ext. 242 or mcassabon@toronto.anglican.ca.

 The Right Reverend John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto

The Right Reverend John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto

Thy Kingdom Come

Join the global wave of prayer, 10th - 20th May 2018

“I cannot remember in my life anything that I’ve been involved in where I have sensed so clearly the work of the spirit.”  – Archbishop Justin Welby

This ecumenical “global wave of prayer” that takes place between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday started in the Church of England by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and has now spread to the whole Communion and beyond the Anglican Church.  It is a simple resource, with a daily email  sent to your Inbox over ten days to support individuals in their prayer life.  Visit the website, https://www.thykingdomcome.global/ for more details.

Join in and start today!

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Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - You Have Been My Friend

by Dr. Jennifer Wilson


Writing a blog about our final day is very difficult. I have run out of time to say all that I want to say about this remarkable team and our remarkable 2017 mission.

Preparation for our last clinic on Thursday began at 0200 when NEA gave out 180 tickets to the elderly, the women and the children sleeping on the ground outside the gate. In a lovely gesture, they moved this large and vulnerable group inside the gate to ensure they would be seen before the big crowds arrived in the morning. Dr. Perry looked great in his birthday tiara at breakfast, but the party was cut short. With crowds swelling at the gate, we were at our workstations by 0730 to begin what would be the largest clinic we have ever run in Ghana. Each team cared for record number of patients and by day’s end, this compound provided high quality health care, surgery, dentistry and eye care to over 900 patients in one day! Our surgical team finished this mission with 296 procedures performed. I still don’t have final laser numbers as the entire eye team rushed out of dinner with an “all for one, one for all” cheer to help run an after-hours clinic. This total also does not include the patients treated and sent home for minor ailments, or the lines of patients who received acetaminophen for their joint pains, or the hernia patients seen and listed for last year. What a day it was! 

At 3:00 pm I received my inspiration quote from Caitlin while I was consulting on a patient. I glanced down and what I read made me start to cry:

'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte to Wilbur. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.' - E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web. 

This little line from this famous children’s story tugged at my heart in a big way and my poor patient and my poor translator thought I was having a mental breakdown. These words, said by a spider to a pig, crystallized for me why this mission has been such a tremendous thing. 

The growing friendships amongst our leaders and team members, our deepening friendship with NEA staff, and the professional friendships we have developed with our Ghanaian colleagues all while serving wholeheartedly together is very unique and very special. So it seems really fitting to me end off with a tribute to our Ghanaian health care colleagues who will continue this work when we are gone

Together, this enlarging group of friends eagerly await the opening of the doors of the NEA hospital. Everything is in place and everyone is ready to move full speed ahead. Momentum and excitement are at all-time high. If we could raise just raise a few more million dollars (obvious fundraising pitch), the capital campaign will be complete and this self-sustaining, model hospital can open its doors to meet a critical and desperate need. After what we have witnessed these two weeks, we collectively agree that the day cannot come soon enough. Until the time that our Ghanaian colleagues and friends can stand on their own, we, the enlarging “NEA fan club” ... or perhaps I should say “NEA friendship club” ... will continue to do what we can to help, by all means, because that is what friends are for.

Now that our work is done, we are all missing our loved ones and ready to begin our long journey home. This is a great opportunity to say a big thank you to all our families, friends and colleagues who have made it possible for us to spend these two weeks in Ghana. Without your love, practical support, and financial support, this could never have happened. Thanks for journeying with us! 

I’ll close off this mission with one of my favourite little prayers by John Bailee: 

Make me a more worthy following of the One who cared for the sick and the oppressed. Let your power, O Christ, be in us all, to share the world’s suffering and redress its wrongs. Amen.

 2017 Ghana Health Team

2017 Ghana Health Team

Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - The Emu Who Took One for the Team

by Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today, all 66 of us ran our clinic right on the NEA compound for the many, many, many villages that surround the Carpenter area. We were shocked by the crowd already gathered outside the gate as we walked to breakfast at 0615 today.

 Today's crowds

Today's crowds

It was so lovely for all of us to be working so closely together on the compound with the luxuries of bathrooms, hand washing sinks and improved crowd control due to the fence around the NEA compound. 

Preliminary numbers from yesterday indicated that today was the largest clinic ever run in the history of our Ghana Health Team with approximately 750 patients being cared for by our medical, surgical, dental, eye and laser team. At 3:30 pm I snuck away from my workstation to pay a little visit to tall our teams. I’m hoping I can take you all on a little tour ...

.... Despite all that happened today, we were so happy to join one other for dinner by 7:00 pm, and I’m sure you have realized by the title of this blog what was on the menu. That’s right. One of the emus who many of us love to visit regularly “took one for the team”. 

 Abraham carving the emu

Abraham carving the emu

We felt bad for the poor guy until we tasted how delicious he was -- as was the carrot and ginger soup, whole wheat rolls, chicken stir fry with rice, salad garnished with beets, beans and carrots, french fries, roast potatoes and fresh watermelon. Teams of NEA kitchen staff are essentially working around the clock to prepare our food every day. 

Although today was an amazing day for me, it was also very difficult. Some of the cases I saw involved so much suffering. After consulting on a group of women who had very serious but easily treatable conditions that they had been suffering with for years, I needed to take a minute to compose myself. Even my translator was rocked. “The women really suffer in this place,” he said to me. He is right. I’m beginning to understand why so many of NEA’s programs focus on the women, as the suffering they endure is beyond my comprehension at times. 

As we walked out of the main gates to our residence tonight, many men and women and children were already sleeping on mats by the front gate, trying to secure a place in our last clinic tomorrow. It seems a good part of the country knows tomorrow is our last day and my prayer, as this day ends, is that tomorrow we will finish well and our hands will get to those who really need our care.

Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - Angels of the Mo Tribe

by Dr. Jennifer Wilson


Tuesday morning while we were eating breakfast, the rains came down. While this delayed the departure of our mobile team and made the condition of our road to Asantekwa rather “interesting," we were thankful for the storm. It cut the humidity and with the temperature dropping by just a few degrees, we had a much more comfortable day of work for us. I noticed a few hoodies and winter coats on some of my patients. 

Anticipating a very large crowd, our NEA logistics team arrived at Asantekwa at 0400 to organize the lines using ropes and vehicles. Let's just say they got a standing ovation from us all at dinner, as their creative crowd control measures allowed us to do our job with greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

 Waiting crowds

Waiting crowds

Some of you might remember that this is the village that a young woman died in our clinic two years ago. She came too late with a very serious medical condition, and despite our best efforts we could not save her. This death has and continues to deeply impact those of us who were there that day, and the root cause of her death has been a catalyst for some specific NEA programming that is now in place as part of the Leyaata Project. Today, Dr. Carlye and her translator Rachel, who is a Leyaata staff member, consulted on another young woman, who they were able to quickly discern was in that same situation. They intervened quickly and with help from NEA arrangements were made to urgently transfer the young woman to a hospital to prevent what surely would have been another needless death. 

The eye team has been very busy seeing lots of interesting cases like vitamin A deficiency, central vein occlusion, congenital cataracts and glaucoma. Our laser was hard at work with 21 patients, and many of last year’s patients are returning for follow-up with wonderfully normal pressures in their eyes. As Dan reported tonight, their “clinic ballet” is so highly rehearsed that the team is working at maximum efficiency. “We may not be saving lives, we are making lives," he said at dinner. I don’t disagree with Dan often (he is much smarter than I am) but I would argue they are doing both. When a farmer is given his sight back, he can now farm, and his children can now eat and go to school and are saved from diseases of poverty. The child growing up blind with congenital cataracts will not live to adulthood here. Their interventions and the ripple of their intervention are both making and saving lives! 

Our dental team were faced with three very serious cases and with the assistance of our Ghanaian maxofacial surgeon Dr. Richard, all three cases were successfully dealt with. One was so serious that Greg, our team paramedic, had to rush in with his backpack crash cart and start some emergency IV medication stop a hemorrhage. Dr. Richard is now one of us. In fact, I just passed him placing a game of cards with Greg, Aaaron, Renee, Esther and Nicole under our gazebo! 

 Greg and Dr. Richard responding to an emergency

Greg and Dr. Richard responding to an emergency

The medical team applied every LEAN principle of efficiency to get through our massive crowd. With nursing constantly screening the crowd for the sick and treating minor ailments right from triage, we all worked steadily until the entire crowd was seen. Pharmacy carried a very heavy load of prescriptions with their usual grace, despite dodging bat droppings all day. At one point our nurse Esther (who works on an adult cardiac surgery ward ) was managing with ease at least four patients on IV fluids hanging from the rafters ... half of whom were kids. 

 IVs

IVs

Back on the compound the surgeons started their day with another emergency case involving a two year old with an incarcerated hernia. He had been up all night screaming and vomiting in pain. Dr. Perry noted how rewarding it was to finally see that little one settled and comfortable as he recovered from his successful surgery. They had a very long day as eight of their cases required general anaesthetic. Oh, and there was an escape! Their last patient of the day was prepped and ready for a hydrocele operation and when it was time to roll him into the OR, he was gone. NEA staff went to try and find him but word on the street was that he was just too scared, ran away and was now in hiding. Poor guy.

There were many special moments scattered throughout this extremely busy clinical day. Dr. Carlye had a marriage proposal and wisely began to tell this gentleman about the weather in Canada. The proposal was revoked! One of the NEA pastors has been working very hard in his orchard this season to bring us a bag of his best oranges. Francois offered to say grace for dinner reciting the grace that he learned in as a little wee cub scout just a few years ago. And last but not least, I got a 20 point cribbage hand (without cheating) and almost skunked Dr. Charlie. 

But the truly unique moment of this day involves the title of this blog. It happened to David Mensah, who went out to the village to search for the runaway surgical patient. As he was coming back towards the gate, he heard two men arguing. The topic of their argument — angels — caught his attention. One man was saying that these white people, bringing healing to the region, must be endowed by God with the spirit of angels. The other man was saying that no — we were just humans who have chosen to develop an angel spirit here on earth. David thought he would stop and listen. Just then Dr. Martin popped out of the residence to say that the power was off. The man turned to David and said “See, there is an angel right there." (Side note to Heather: we are really trying not to let that go to Martin’s head.)

The one man then started to roll up his pant leg and started banging his leg. He told David that last year he had been to every hospital in Ghana with an infection that was causing his leg to rot. No one could help him until he visited our clinic and now his leg is perfect. He continued to argue with his friend (all the while banging on his leg) that the doctor and nurse who treated him were real human beings but they had developed the spirit of an angel to the level that was finally able to cure him. He was at the gate because he wanted to be first in line to come find his human angels to thank them. 

Finally, not knowing they were talking to Dr. Mensah, they said to him, "And we also hear that there is a Ghanaian angel who coordinates all of this help from afar. Are you from around here? Have you heard of him?” 

Oh, how David laughed when he told us this story, but he wanted us to know that his people are absolutely confounded by what they are seeing here. “You are angels to the people of the Mo tribe. Angels that come to stir the waters at the pool of Bethesda," David concluded. He ended our evening by challenging all of us to continue to develop the spirit of love, compassion, generosity and service to humanity that brought us to Ghana — to this special place for this very special time of service.

Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - One By One

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today’s blog is dedicated to Dr. Joshua Smith, our colleague and team member who could not be with us this year. Our team misses you, Josh, and our best wishes and prayers are with your family at this time.

When David and Brenda Mensah returned to Ghana to begin their integrated development work, David became very discouraged. Everywhere he looked there was suffering. Simple basic human rights like having clean water to drink did not exist. At one point he said to his wise wife, “Brenda, did we make the right decision to come here?”

Her response was this — “David, we will save them one by one”.

David is very wise too and he knew that we needed to hear this story today. As the crowds swell to proportions we have not yet seen and a hernia wait list that seems likely to reach 400, discouragement can set in as we begin to feel like the dent we are making is so very small. David reminded us that the only way to move forward is to deliver quality health care one by one and then watch to see the ripple effect. We must never underestimate what God can do with one life saved. We might be saving a David Mensah who will grow up and be a game-changer for his people. We might be saving a child who will one day be a difference-maker to his or her generation. When we save one man from hernia we save up to a dozen lives, because now that man can go back to his farm and there will be income to feed his family and send them to school. The ripples can spread far and wide as individuals are healed, communities are strengthened.

Today I had a special little “one.” Dorcas is 4 years old. She swallowed battery acid and was dying of malnutrition when she came to see us a year ago. It was a devastating situation and we did not have the capacity to do anything to help her. Leaving her in the capable hands of NEA with extra funds we raised, a referral was made to the highest level of care in Ghana. A lot has happened over the year and today this beautiful, happy, robust little girl paid us a visit, along with her mom and 3 uncles, just to say thank you. Dorcas’ only problem was that the family could not afford a critical medicine that she needed. Our wonderful pharmacy team happened to bring a 6 month supply of a very similar medicine and we were able to provide it to this family whose love for this little girl was just so apparent.

At dinner Dr. Chris gave a brilliant surgical team update that he organized by talking about something sad, something nice and something funny. I don’t think Chris will mind me copying his idea, so I present to you my top three list of sad, nice and funny events of today along with one extra category — interesting.

Sad

1. A surgery was cancelled today as the patient appeared to have advanced lung cancer with little time left to live.

2. A child from a very remote village who had a very, large painful growth between 2 of his toes for the past 2 months with no medical care. He could not walk. The suffering of this little one pierced my heart and the heart of Dr. David Hunter, our mobile surgeon, as we collaborated on how to help him.

3. We are seeing an unusually high incidence of orbital tumors that appear to be arising from the sinuses. Research is definitely required.

Nice

1. My Amelia was given a very special medal of honour by her nursing colleagues at dinner. Amelia worked in the oral rehydration (ORS) station today. She was responsible to ensure the mothers gave specific amounts of ORS every 15-30 min over a 2-hour period to the dehydrated babies. At one point there were about 8-10 babies in ORS at once and it was madness in that room. Her medal was a sachet of ORS tied around her neck with a string.

2. Dr Richard, a Ghanaian oral maxofacial surgeon from the teaching hospital in Kumasi arrived today to join our dental team.

3. We found a short cut home tonight that shaved 55 minutes off our commute!

 Amelia giving another little one ORS

Amelia giving another little one ORS

Funny

1. The places (on our bodies) we place our little package of frozen Fandango that Steve delivered around 2:00 pm as we are all wilting from the oppressive heat.

2. How easily you can talk yourself out of really needing to go to the washroom when you walk into certain latrines.

3. A team member who, in an apparent act of revenge, used another team member’s personal tupperware container as a receptacle of a certain bodily fluid. Said tupperware shall not be returning home.

Interesting

1. That a 10 year old girl can carry a huge pile of 3-4 foot thick tree branches on her head and remove one hand from the load to wave to us.

2. Ghana children don’t whine and seem to always do what their parents say the first time they are asked.

3. There is such a thing as a mushroom sandwich!

One of the quotes that Caitlin delivered during her 3:00 pm visit to us all said

I will not change the world; Jesus will do that. But I can change the world for one person. So I will keep loving one person at a time. – Kate Davis

Thanks to Brenda, David and Kate. The message we needed to hear on this day was very, very clear, and despite all that we are seeing, hearing, feeling, experiencing, and processing we will spend the next 3 days bringing our very best love and deep hope and tender healing to these wonderful people of Ghana … one by one.

 One of our young patients with Dr. Andy

One of our young patients with Dr. Andy