by Dr. Jennifer Wilson
Every morning, the entire staff of NEA gather together under their big gazebo to pray for one another and pray for the day ahead before they begin their work. We were all invited to join them this morning. After a time of singing, an elderly woman named Lucy from Carpenter village walked slowly to the centre of our gathering and thanked our team for the kindness that had been extended to her people over the past 10 years. She told us she was a poor woman but she needed to return the kindness so she worked and planned all year in able provide us with a gift from her farm. Her gift was a bowl of 10 very large yams and 9 guinea fowl — a gift we might expect from a village — not one woman. The significance of the value of this gift was not lost on any of us.
David Mensah shared a passionate message from the book of John in the Bible. He told us the story of Jesus healing a man who had been ill for over 30 years at the pool of Bethesda. None of the disciples wanted to go to that place of suffering except for John. He explained that to his people, we have become a pool of Bethesda — a house of mercy, hands of healing. He then gave examples of patients he has met with in recents months. A man whose daughters would have been orphans if not for the emergency surgery performed by Magdi’s hands of healing; a woman who can now thread her needle to make income from sewing thanks to the “tall man” (that’s Martin McDowell, our lead optometrist); a man who can now “crack bones with his teeth” due to Kyle’s hands of healing; a child saved by the IV placed by nurse Joan’s healing hands years ago. The examples kept coming as David walked around the gazebo … Charlie’s healing hands, the pharmacists' healing hands, the nurses' healing hands. You could have heard a pin drop in that gazebo.
After omelettes, porridge, fruit, beans and Tim Horton’s coffee, all of the newcomers went on a 30 minute tour of the NEA compound with David.
Two hours later, that group came back stunned and amazed and so excited about at what they had just witnessed. NEA’s integrated development projects -- from fish to rabbits to peanuts to ostriches -- left them speechless. Caitlin, who is studying international development in university, said that everything she has been learning just came to life. Whilst (love hanging with UK friends) the tour was going on, Kim worked with our local hosts to train the translators and volunteers who will be collecting our registration and important stats for the Leyaata program.
After lunch the surgeries began and by dinner, 20 surgeries were successfully and safely treated. I popped my head into the Brenda theatre mid afternoon to hear Ashley’s voice announce “Welcome to Theatre Awesome!” Awesome it was with the glowing faces and healing hands of Emilia, David, Dan and Ashley cheerfully going about their work. Our young Canadian nurse Emilia was definitely keeping those three British chaps in line! All of them were wearing brand new scrub hats donated to the team by Esther, a local seamstress.
While surgeries were being performed an amazing sea of white shirts provided care to the NEA staff and their families as the medical, dental and eye teams kicked into action along with their translators and volunteers. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it went for a first clinic — especially with half of our team being there for the first time. Despite a few hiccups, such as losing power to our automated pharmacy, problems were identified and fixed with great speed.
After another awesome dinner, awesome stories of the day were exchanged by our awesome team leaders while Eric, our Ghanaian anaesthetist, told me he could write a book on all he learned in one day from Dr. Perry. We love our Ghanaian colleagues and are thrilled that a new Ghanaian physician graduate, Dr. David, and a new nursing graduate, Rita, will also with working with us for these 2 weeks.
We all headed off to bed leaving Dr. Toylin, our ophthalmologist in deep conversation with Abraham and Soale, our local leaders, about a life-threatening case involving a young woman with a very large tumor behind her eye. We need great wisdom to discern the next steps to help her in her great suffering.
The surgical team headed back to their residence for a team debrief and the medical team unwound under our gazebo with a good dose of journalling, puzzling, colouring, very competitive banagramming and playing some euchre. My daughter Amelia was amused by how health professionals choose to unwind.
Off to a village tomorrow — our day begins at 0545!