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.
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!
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.
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.