Fanta, Footballs, Fire and Foolishness


By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today was paediatric day in our surgical theatres. Our Ghanaian anaesthetist Eric suggested we consider giving the children a touch of sedation before bringing them in for their anaesthesia so that they would be less scared of our white faces. Dr. Karen, who does a lot of paediatric anaesthesiology at home, took charge and the team made arrangements for all the kids to receive a brand new football along with small drink of Fanta laced with an oral sedative prior to being wheeled into the theatre. Let’s just say that a very happy group of kids came in and out of their surgeries without any complications and barely a cry or whine was heard.

Happy patient

Happy patient

Our anaesthetic nurse Debbie has been just brilliant. We are thankful that these kids not only had their hernias repaired but they and their families had a very positive health care experience overall.

The only complication of the day involved a sterilizer which sort of caught on fire. Apparently Dr. Dan didn’t blink an eye and just kept operating whilst singing his jazz tunes. Thankfully the fire put itself out and no harm was done (except for the sterilizer).

Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Miraculously, one of the NEA staff remembered there was another sterilizer on the compound. Before they knew it, a four foot tall industrial sized autoclave suddenly appeared and was in working order. We have no idea where it came from but Ashley and Sara can now sterilize the entire team’s instruments in one batch, saving hours of work.

The medical team was on the road at 0630 for the long and bumpy ride to the remote village of Yaara. Stepping off the bus in Yaara is always one of my favourite moments of the mission and this year was just as special as ever. The drums were beating, the women were dancing in a circle and David’s brother Chief Joseph, the Queen Mother, elders, and women leaders were all ready to greet us. Many of us joined the circle and tried without much success to find the beat of the drums. The village presented our team with yams, bananas, oranges, papaya, watermelon and Jessica received her own yams and a chicken.

Yaara drums

Yaara drums

Abraham tried his best to keep the welcome festivities and speeches short so that we could go straight to work as the crowd was enormous. What amazed me about today is how our team is just so committed to providing the most thorough and compassionate care to each and every patient they come in contact with despite the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other people who are waiting.

There are many amazing stories that could be told about this day but there is only one that I will share tonight.

Word was received that a very ill young woman in the village was too weak to get to us. Our paramedic Greg made a house call to the far corner of the village and when it became apparent that she needed immediate care, a taxi picked her up, drove right through our crowds to the door of our nursing station. Our doctor of the day was Dr. Andy and he was faced with a difficult and heartbreaking situation. It is cases like this that, quite frankly, cause an anger to rise up within me. A situation like this would never happen in Canada or the UK and it is unacceptable that a young mother in a village in Yaara is not given the same opportunity for health and life that we have. If the doors to NEA’s hospital were open today, I have no doubt that this situation would have looked very different for this woman and her three young children. Those of us who came in contact with her today will not soon erase this injustice from our minds.

Every afternoon around 3:00pm each team member, volunteer and translator on the medical, surgical, dental and eye team are handed a quote. This Franciscan Blessing was handed to us yesterday:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at poverty, injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for health justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.