Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - A Sterling Start

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

After a few short hours of sleep, our journey to Carpenter continued Sundaymorning on domestic flights to Kumasi, followed by a rather toasty coach ride to Carpenter. Kim kept trying to communicate how hot the bus was, hoping for a bit more A/C, only to have the driver advise her “Ma'am ... it is because of the weather." Point taken.

Apparently overbooked flights are a problem in Ghana, too, and so with hugs and high fives while shoving Cedis in their pockets, we left behind Dave our assistant logistics lead (sorry Heather) and Greg, our advanced care paramedic (who by the way had been travelling from Fort McMurray since Thursday) to figure out a plan B. Resilience is one of our team values, don’t you know!

So 66 minus 2 of us rolled into the compound of NEA around 2 pm to be greeted by our dear friends, brothers and sisters and of course the children at NEA. The circle we formed as we held hands and sang a Ghanaian song of thanksgiving to God was just such a massive circle. I was perhaps a tad emotional remembering it was exactly 10 years ago that my feet hit Carpenter soil and this beautiful partnership began. After an exchange of greetings, hugs and introductions in the 35 plus degree heat, we enjoyed mushroom soup from Frank’s mushroom farm and fresh bread from Kate’s bakery, and then we got to work.

The next 3 hours was a sight to behold as 200 hockey bags and cartons were unpacked. By 7 pm the training room was transformed into a massive pharmacy, medical, dental and nursing station as well as a logistics home base. Our eye team was so far ahead of schedule they bragged they were prepping for Wednesday’s clinic. And our surgical team ... oh my. By 7 pm our first 15 hernia patients had been screened and prepped for Monday’s surgeries and those 60 boxes of equipment suddenly became 2 operating theatres and a recovery ward.

The best part about 7 pm was that Dave and Greg rolled in to a standing ovation after a nice air conditioned VIP coach ride to Kumasi where NEA staff liased with them. We were particularly happy to see them as we had all decided to go on a hunger strike (after lunch, of course) pending their arrival. A wonderful spaghetti dinner was had by all as eyelids began falling at a rapid rate.

Our first patients couldn’t wait until we were open for business, as two of the children booked for hernias were sick with malaria. Dr. Anne, our team Pediatrician, Dr. Lisa, and nurse Kathleen, who are all first time team members, jumped to action and the kids were cared for and treated by torch light under the surgical tree and the watchful mentorship eye of our veteran Dr. Sue. The kids will have their surgeries on Friday.

As Dr. Rob said to me, “It has been a sterling start to our fortnight." What a choice of words. My favourite words today came from my dear friend Magdi ... “I’m just so happy."

What a day it has been as we begin our service to this incredible organization at NEA and as we lend a hand to our local Ghanaian health care colleagues who continue to leave their posts and journey towards our team headquarters.

My husband always teases me that I’m supposed to be writing blogs ... not books, but it is as if a week’s worth of stories happens in one day here.

Load of love back home to our friends and families. Your blog comments are coming through and being read to the entire group at meal times and they make us laugh and cry because we miss you all!

 Our team's first patients

Our team's first patients