Yaara — Friday November 13
“Code Blue Nursing Station, Code Blue Nursing Station.”
Our clinic in Yaara had barely begun as these words rang out over the walkie-talkies. Something else out was ringing out too. It was wailing, the wailing of a mother who had lost a child. Iddrisu, a 5 year old child from the Fulani tribe, was our first patient in the nursing station. Somehow Leslie spotted her in a crowd of about 500 people (she saw her foot hanging at a funny angle from behind a tree) and carried her to the nursing station. Lynda’s bedside malaria test was positive, and Dr. Norman and our incredible nurses Joan, Inessa, Ang and Kim had had already started an IV, given Tylenol for a fever of 40.5 and injected her with antimalarials. Now this tiny child had become unresponsive and was having a grand mal seizure and we were running a code blue on her. One of the things the local nurses have taught us here is that a child’s glucose level will drop precipitously in severe malaria. Iddrisu’s sugar level was 0.8, which is incompatible with life. As concentrated sugar was pushed through the IV and Valium administered, the seizure stopped and so did the wailing. By the end of day, the child was eating rice, walking around and ready to go home to the bush where this child lives. Can you imagine? My translator told me that the mother was going around the village saying, “These people bring our children back from the dead.” We thank God that we were in that village on that moment of that day to save this little life.
I don’t tell this story to pat ourselves on the back. We just did what we would have done in any emergency room back home. I tell it to remind us and remind our supporters that this region needs a hospital. We must help them.
That was the beginning of the biggest day we had ever had with our mobile team. Twelve tribes gathered for this clinic travelling long distances to get to Yaara. Carol, who leads our logistics and operations, shared with the team that today’s clinic was like a symphony. Everyone did their part so well that a beautiful harmony was created. This symphony managed to see all of the twelve tribes that came, and our preliminary numbers indicate that this was 650 people. On top of that, hundreds and hundreds with minor complaints were treated and released by our triage nurses.
Martin and team had a very special case in the eye clinic today. David requested drops for a patient with recurrent eye ulcers. Martin said he had better see the patient. The patient came to the clinic but ran away in fear when he saw Martin. He was retrieved and he finally sat quietly on Moses’ lap while Martin examined him and provided the medicine he needed to heal this eye ulcer. David was so happy that his dog wouldn’t suffer any longer. Yup … even the dogs need us! Martin said the look on the face of the next patient waiting to be seen after the dog was just priceless.
Tony reported that the surgical team had the biggest day ever. Due to some accidental “double bookings,” the team didn’t even get to dinner until 9:00pm. The patients had come from so far that they just decided to keep operating. The were “knackered” and they were “gutted”. (These are two of my new favourite words I’ve learned from our British friends that reflect a very special level of exhaustion.) We are thankful that all the surgeries, including two children, went well with no complications. Tony is one star anaesthetist having to adjust and adapt for the many challenges that a Ghanaian OR presents.
We say goodbye to our photojournalist Erika today. She has taken 17,000 pictures of the incredible work being done in this place. We will miss her but know her work will be used to tell the story of NEA so that more and more people can get involved and so that our dream of a hospital will become a reality.
I was going to close with one of the inspirational quotes that are handed to every team member and volunteer at 3:00pm every day. However, Kyle and Carly in the dental station received their own inspiration message from a patient that trumps any quote from any famous person. A woman from one of the twelve tribes approached Kyle with these words:
I pray you will have a safe journey home and that God will protect your family. I thank God that he has given you a good life so that you can come to Ghana. And I hope you will come back.
Much love to our friends and families and colleagues back at home. Your comments continue to be texted to me so I can read them out at breakfast and dinner, and they make us all well up with emotion as we are missing all our friends and family very much.