Ghana Health Team 2017 Update - Laughter is the Best Medicine

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Abraham allowed our exhausted team to sleep in today! The youngsters were a bit shocked and disappointed to realize that a “sleep in” meant breakfast at 0800! As we walked up the drive we could see quite a commotion under the gazebo. NEA had arranged for a local artisan and other vendors to set up their wares. With nothing to spend any money on for the past week, a shopping frenzy ensued as our porridge got cold and some serious cedis were spent. The look on the artisan’s face, seeing 66 of us filling our bags and baskets was quite priceless. He generated a year’s worth of income today.

After breakfast many of our newcomers took a walking tour through the Carpenter village. As they were touring the health clinic the cries of a newborn baby were heard after which, the Leyaata community-based volunteer who had brought the woman to the delivery popped out of the room to greet the team. Nurse Judy and Dr Anne said it was an emotional moment for them to see the Leyaata Project, which they had just heard about the evening before, in action. They were also amazed that this woman would be accompanied home by the Leyaata worker in a couple of hours, most likely on foot. Another needless death prevented.

Meanwhile a group of us veterans had a personalized tour of the newer NEA projects by Dr Mensah himself. The chicken farm, which had 1500 chickens the last time I saw it, now has 10,000 chickens. We saw the new rabbit and quail farm and the expanding mushroom operation. The aquaculture program continues to advance to higher and higher levels of reproductive technology as NEA is supplying more and more Tilapia fingerlings and catfish to a greater region of the country. Soale gave us a PhD level lecture on how this process takes place.

After lunch a crew took off to the market where Magdi assured them there was free wifi. They enjoyed the busy market and had some interesting negotiations. Unfortunately the wifi was not free nor did it exist at all!

Once the temperatures dropped a few degrees in the late afternoon, a first ever NEA vs GRID volleyball game was enjoyed by all. NEA beat us 3/3 but it was great, competitive volleyball! Then the teams moved to the football pitch and another great match took place. It turns out Dr Mensah is one agile football player but our pharmacist Elise had him marked well! It ended in a tie 1-1 so as darkness was falling, the game was settled with penalty shots. Dr. Perry surprised himself and us all when he stopped all but one shot and the GRID team emerged the grand champions. Now … football is the national sport here in Ghana so it might be best for me to qualify our “championship” with a few comments. We might have had twice as many players on the field as our NEA friends. It is also quite possible that they may not have given their full effort. In fact, I asked one of the NEA staff how much they held back to help us to win the game to which he replied “Doctor, we want you around next week so we held back, but only by 50%.” Poor Katie took a ball to the face and with no icepacks around here, some brilliant person found a frozen Fandango that quickly did the trick and she recovered with no problems.

GRID vs. NEA volleyball

GRID vs. NEA volleyball

The event we had all be waiting for finally arrived after dinner. It was time for the second annual “Ghana’s Got Talent,” and 66 of us and many of our Ghanaian colleagues piled in to the Mensah living room where were treated to spread of candy and cookies and coffee and tea. It was a night that left us all with sore faces and bellies from all the laughter that took place. Do you want to hear about a few of the acts? Of course you do!

The show was opened with the simultaneous singing of the national anthems of the 10 countries represented on our team. What a sound to hear anthems from Northern Ireland (Dave), England (Karin), Ghana (Emmanuel), Wales (Rob), Canada (Leslie), Judy (USA), Magdi (Egypt), France (Francois), Germany (Elke), Aaron (South Africa) and Ghana again (David Mensah) all being sung at the same time.

The National Anthems

The National Anthems

Then the fun began. Accompanied by Dr. Dan (a professional jazz pianist extraordinaire) on his portable keyboard, Carlye and I sang “Ghana man” to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and I do believe we got a partial standing ovation! The Triage song followed, with a group of nurses marching off to war wearing medical face shields as helmets and foley catheters as swords. Martin, who always has a way with words, wrote us all a wonderfully entertaining poem. The “Pharmaceuti-gals” lip synced “I Want a New Drug” by Heat Lewis after which they tossed pre-packed smarties into the audience. We enjoyed a “Faulty Tower” episode by Francois and Neil and those of you who know Francois can only imagine … Our UK friends, who usually tell me they are too reserved for this sort of thing, came up with a incredible heartfelt rendition of “My Hernia” to Tom Jones’ Deliliah that the entire surgical team performed. Reservations are gone! Greg did his first ever stand-up act and knocked it out of the park. Then the Village People arrived in costume and our eye team gave us one high energy re-written version of YMCA that became GRID/NEA. Next was a relay race led by Dr Charlie, Dr. Anne and Caitlin. The first team to complete the following tasks won: opening 5 boxes of wormee, putting on a glove that is too small, squatting 10 times on a latrine, wrapping a baby onto your back and carrying a heavy bowl on your head across the room. Francois, Katie, David, Greg, Anne, Ashley, Elise, Elena, Jo, Nicole and Kathleen were fabulous and they had us literally rolling in our seats with laughter. The evening closed with a ballad that Abraham wrote for us with the lyrics “what our skills could not do, you have done for us. What money cannot buy you have done for us.” It was touching. Finally, executive producer Sue sang a beautiful song (with Dr. Andy as her back up on the water bottle shaker) as a tribute to David Mensah.

Time with old and new friends. No clinical duties (except for Rob making his surgical team clean their store room). No distracting technology. A soccer ball. A football. A talent show. Some candy. It was such a simple day yet so profoundly refreshing and rejuvenating to one and all as we reach the halfway point of this mission for which we are running out of adjectives to describe.