Writing a blog about our final day is very difficult. I have run out of time to say all that I want to say about this remarkable team and our remarkable 2017 mission.
Preparation for our last clinic on Thursday began at 0200 when NEA gave out 180 tickets to the elderly, the women and the children sleeping on the ground outside the gate. In a lovely gesture, they moved this large and vulnerable group inside the gate to ensure they would be seen before the big crowds arrived in the morning. Dr. Perry looked great in his birthday tiara at breakfast, but the party was cut short. With crowds swelling at the gate, we were at our workstations by 0730 to begin what would be the largest clinic we have ever run in Ghana. Each team cared for record number of patients and by day’s end, this compound provided high quality health care, surgery, dentistry and eye care to over 900 patients in one day! Our surgical team finished this mission with 296 procedures performed. I still don’t have final laser numbers as the entire eye team rushed out of dinner with an “all for one, one for all” cheer to help run an after-hours clinic. This total also does not include the patients treated and sent home for minor ailments, or the lines of patients who received acetaminophen for their joint pains, or the hernia patients seen and listed for last year. What a day it was!
I could write a book on the stories that happened on this day alone: a visit from the District Chief Executive from the Ministry of Health; a visit from a NEA hospital board member; a thermometer that read 43 degrees in the sun; a visit from a little boy born with a stump for a left leg who was proudly running around playing football with the prosthetic leg that donations to last year’s team supported; a final emergency whistle call as a woman started to seizure in the clinic; a very ill 5 month old baby that our nurses Esther, Renee, Kathleen, Rita and Dr. Anne literally provided ICU care to until we could transfer the baby to the nearest NICU.
The funniest moment of my day came when I popped into the David theatre at the end of the day where Dr. David Hunter was operating. He looked up at me and through his surgical mask said “One more kiss, Jenn, one more kiss.” It was an awkward moment … until I realized that an Irishman pronounces ‘case’ exactly like ‘kiss.’
At 3:00 pm I received my inspiration quote from Caitlin while I was consulting on a patient. I glanced down and what I read made me start to cry:
‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte to Wilbur. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’ – E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web.
This little line from this famous children’s story tugged at my heart in a big way and my poor patient and my poor translator thought I was having a mental breakdown. These words, said by a spider to a pig, crystallized for me why this mission has been such a tremendous thing.
The growing friendships amongst our leaders and team members, our deepening friendship with NEA staff, and the professional friendships we have developed with our Ghanaian colleagues all while serving wholeheartedly together is very unique and very special. So it seems really fitting to me end off with a tribute to our Ghanaian health care colleagues who will continue this work when we are gone.
These are our colleagues. These are our friends. And these are the tender hands into which we will leave our patients when we leave. These heroes are the future of health care in Ghana and they are ready to change the way health care is delivered in Ghana. They all believe, as do we, that under NEA’s leadership, with ongoing support and training from their friends in Canada and UK and around the world, that this NEA hospital will be a model for the entire country that could impact generations to come.
And so, together, this enlarging group of friends eagerly await the opening of the doors of the NEA hospital. Everything is in place and everyone is ready to move full speed ahead. Momentum and excitement are at all-time high. If we could raise just raise a few more million dollars (obvious fundraising pitch), the capital campaign will be complete and this self-sustaining, model hospital can open its doors to meet a critical and desperate need. After what we have witnessed these two weeks, we collectively agree that the day cannot come soon enough. Until the time that our Ghanaian colleagues and friends can stand on their own, we, the enlarging “NEA fan club” … or perhaps I should say “NEA friendship club” … will continue to do what we can to help, by all means, because that is what friends are for.
Friday we will spend packing up, inventorying everything and distributing left over supplies and medicine to the local clinics and hospitals. A big party is planned for Friday night and Esther has made a record number of dresses and shirts so we should all be quite a sight. Now that our work is done, we are all missing our loved ones and ready to begin our long journey home. This is a great opportunity to say a big thank you to all our families, friends and colleagues who have made it possible for us to spend these two weeks in Ghana. Without your love, practical support, and financial support, this could never have happened. Thanks for journeying with us!
I’ll close off this mission with one of my favourite little prayers by John Bailee:
Make me a more worthy following of the One who cared for the sick and the oppressed. Let your power, O Christ, be in us all, to share the world’s suffering and redress its wrongs. Amen.