As I write this, our last update to you, we are on the bus returning to Accra. Our work is now complete and our thoughts are turning towards home.
To say it was an intense final day of clinic in Carpenter would be an understatement. Volumes of patients hit an all time high. 700 patients were seen by the combined medical/dental/eye team and our surgical team concluded the mission with a total of 271 surgeries! Our “gazebo nursing station” had IV’s hanging down from many rafters as seriously ill children were being treated.
One severely dehydrated child was brought to our dear Dr. Gillian who immediately took her to our nursing station as she required emergency resuscitation. She was too dehydrated to find a vein for an IV so Dr. Jerry our ER doc put in an interosseous line (needle through the lower leg into the bone marrow) so that life saving fluid and medication could be administered. The resuscitation team also included my Olivia who, together with nurse Margaret, translated for the french speaking mother. That gazebo full of very ill children from diarrhea and malaria was such a reminder to us that these two illnesses alone are two of the leading causes of death under age 5 in most African countries. Many of these kids in our gazebo would have died that day. Our nurses conduct so much education with mothers on the principles of clean drinking water, proper hand hygiene, and of ORS (oral rehydration solution) so that they will know how to prevent and treat diarrhea next time.
The surgical patient that required a bowel resection is doing miraculously well. His bowels started moving yesterday for which we all heaved a collective sigh of relief and he is now stable and eating. He will be left in the care of local nurses until he is fully recovered. Our medical colleagues here in Ghana keep repeating that this man should have been buried by now. None of the district hospitals could have handled this surgery and the doctors in the major hospitals are on strike … not that he would have ever made it to hospital. This was not his time to die.
Yesterday the entire team inventoried and packed all our supplies and equipment to be ready for the next mission. Duffle bags of medicine and supplies were distributed to all the local village clinics. In the middle of all of this, a man with a massive dental abscess that was starting to block off his airway arrived. Dr. Charlie, working together with our dentists, conducted a massive I&D (incision and drainage) and extraction of teeth in the corner of our packing room while we all tried not to notice the smell. He was kept overnight for observation and will be left in the care of one of the local nurses Mariamma in the next village.
Last night we had a wonderful but bittersweet party with entire NEA staff and every single volunteer who helped us on our mission. It was a beautiful sight to see Ghanaians, Canadians and British team members sitting at the tables together as we dined on goat, beef, fufu, pancake soup, grilled vegetables and fresh avocado and pineapple. Dessert was like ice cream which shocked us all as it was the first cold food we have eaten in 2 weeks. Speeches were made and gifts were exchanged. David’s mother stood on behalf of the tribe to thank us for bringing life to their doorstep. She blessed us and she blessed our families and friends who helped make it possible for us to come. We thought the night was over but then local drummers arrived and we all danced together under the stars. It was quite a sight watching these people dance and watching us TRY to dance.
I have two closing thoughts:
It really is incredible what a small, committed group of people with a common focus can accomplish when everyone plays their role to the best of their ability. This mission really required the combined expertise and skills of all our physicians, surgeons, anesthetist, dentists, eye team, nurses, pharmacists, volunteers, pastors and local Ghanaian health professionals. Every single team member was needed on this mission. “No one can whistle a symphony,” and this truly was a symphony. It has been such a privilege to work together in this unique way.
My concluding observation is that we are now connecting and networking and partnering with the medical system in Ghana in a deeper way. This year we were so privileged to work with a team of local nurses, a medical assistant, an optometrist, an optician and Dr. Nina, the first doctor to join us. She said it felt like an internship working with us and she was so grateful for all she had learned. The Medical and Dental Council of Ghana and well as District Medical Directors visited us this year and toured our clinics. They seem very committed to working with NEA to find a way to allow more of their doctors to train with us. This is a very important step toward the ultimate goal of sustainable health care in this region.
So, we are en route home and everyone is healthy. We will all take our deworming tablets tonight so we will be fresh and ready to greet you all soon!
Thank you so much for following us along and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers that so significantly contributed to the success of this mission. We are thankful to God for every good thing that has happened in this place at this time.
on behalf of the entire team