Together, we have done it. Today we completed our final day of providing health services to the Carpenter area. It was wonderful for all 61 of us and all our Ghanaian volunteers to be together on the compound for two days. With no need to travel, our clinics ran an extra 2-3 hours, allowing us to serve the massive crowds. Patience, our chef extraordinaire, ensured the 30-cup coffee perk was brewing all day long to keep us going! Having washrooms and running water was a luxury!
Together, we have extended compassion to Northern Ghana. When we met a young 5 year-old boy with a congenitally small stump for a left leg in our clinic four days ago we felt helpless. Our team had compassion for him and we discussed what could be done to improve his quality of life. A referral was made using our team funds to a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon 10 hours away in Accra where we hoped and prayed a prosthetic limb might be available. We were doubtful. Yesterday, our little lame friend ran into the clinic to greet us with a new prosthesis. This boy, who had never walked on two legs was now running and running and running all over our clinic. He was free.
Yesterday, a young teenager with a very serious complication from a surgery that had gone wrong in Ghana arrived. She was being ostracized from her community. Unfortunately, there was not much we could do to help her. A while later I saw her walking with Ernestina our Ghanaian medical assistant who has been by our team’s side since 2007. Ernestina had taken the child to her own room, cleaned her up, removed her rags and gave her one of her very own dresses to wear. That child was so proud to be wearing a beautiful dress and, for that moment, her suffering was forgotten. Dr. Elizabeth took up a collection from our team so that Ernestina could purchase a new dress.
Together, we have extended care to Northern Ghana. We had the privilege of being joined all week by Moses, a fourth year medical student from Ghana. Today we snuck away from our consulting table and I walked him through our entire clinic and witnessed, through Moses’ eyes, the excellence with which every team member was caring for every patient side by side with their Ghanaian translator. We moved through nursing triage with Sandra, Val and Leslie; registration with Emily, research station; paediatric weight and temperature station with Dale and Jessica; to our lab with Tracey, Lisa and Joan and Lissa. We then toured the physician consulting areas where our ten doctors were hard at work, and then to the nursing treatment gazebo where IVs were running and emergency care being given by Jennifer, Tonja and Colleen; wounds were being dressed by Kelly and Antje; dehydrated kids were being rehydrated by Claudia and minor surgical procedures were being done by Dr. Martin. We toured our state-of-the-art mobile pharmacy and pharmacy counselling areas with Linda, Sherry, Stacey, Mary, Karen and Nicole. We watched a peripheral iridotomy being done to cure glaucoma by Dr. Martin and Marion and hernia operations on children by Magdi’s 18-member incredible surgical and anaesthesia team. We also stopped by our dental tent where Dr. Kyle (here for his 6th time) was pulling challenging painful teeth while Dr. Francois was doing a filling with Laura (while the patient tried not to laugh at his jokes). Final stop was our eye clinic, where hundreds were being seen by Dr. Larry and Dr. Mai and their team of Laurel, Paul, and Jane in the peanut storage facility (AKA the “nut house”). Crowds were controlled and patients were flowing seamlessly through these stations due to the incredible effort of our logistics and operations team of Kim, Bry, Dave together Abraham, Soale and Charles. As we moved through the clinic I witnessed afresh the professionalism, quality of care and excellence with which each team member played their role. Moses could not believe his eyes.
Together, we have participated in capacity building in Northern Ghana. Transferring skills to our Ghanaian medical, nursing and pharmacy colleagues is always a highlight for us. How rewarding to hear from them how much they have learned during our short time together and how our presence has inspired them and spurred them on. How amazing for us to have Nicole, a pharmacy student from University of Toronto working along side Emmanuel, a pharmacy student from Ghana on this very team. Eric cannot stop talking about all he has learned from our anaesthesia colleagues Dr. Tony and Dr. Perry and Nicola. Moses, the medical student wants me to keep “grilling him” even today whilst we pack.
Together, we are standing in the gap extending compassion, care and capacity-building while we pray, plan and work towards what these patients so desperately need and deserve — a hospital. Our day ended with lots of hugs and high fives and pictures being taken as we celebrated all that we accomplished together. Esther arrived with 35 new outfits she had made for our team that they will wear at tomorrow night’s party under the stars with all of the NEA staff and families.
We will all look upon this 2016 team photo with many fond memories remembering our precious partnership with NEA staff and remembering the individual faces of the thousands of patients that we had the privilege of caring for. Tomorrow is wrap up and packing day with a few surgeries and procedures to go and then we can begin to turn our hearts and minds to our journey home to our loved ones.