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.


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.


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


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.


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