We hear many lovely comments from our patients on a daily basis, but I think Dr. Josh received the best one. After his laser procedure, one man looked at Dr. Josh and Johnathan and said, “I can see your face. You look really good”.
Sight was improved, restored or preserved for 24 glaucoma patients in their tiny clinic that is normally used to incubate ostrich eggs. At least the laser team has air conditioning. Their colleagues in the eye clinic are in a dark, damp peanut storage facility and when I walked in to pay a visit today, it felt like I was walking into a sauna. Dr. Pete’s shirt was so wet he needed to change it at 10:00 am. I grabbed some pictures and after about five minutes, I had to get out of there.
In this dark room, patients process through Dan and Barb’s station to check eye pressure and acuity, then they see the eye doctors who do a full eye exam and generate a prescription. Jane searches a massive data base for the exact prescription required and sends a volunteer to storage bins. Marion and Jane spend all year collecting, washing and measuring the strength of every pair of those glasses and entering them into the database. Finally, they stop at the eye pharmacy. A clinic just for reading glasses is also run in parallel to the full clinic.
Today all teams remained on the NEA compound and let me tell you, this place was humming. Patients started to camp out Sunday night to ensure their spot in the line. Taxis, busses, motorcycles were arriving all day long from places as far away as Accra. People were cooking and selling food, and the atmosphere was one of excitement. Huge tents and waiting rooms became jam-packed, and the NEA staff ran a master class in crowd management. We use up to eight different wrist bands to identify where patients are flowing to and from and the system ran smoothly in all areas. Except for the one moment. Someone in the waiting tent had the bright idea to pick up their chairs to attempt to form a big circle closer to triage after which hundreds thought they would do the same. Leslie’s voice boomed out over the radios “ Anarchy, Anarchy!”. NEA came to the rescue and peace was restored. And some ropes were put up.
Speaking of NEA, they truly have been the foundation of the success of this mission. During this fortnight (I’ve officially decided I am never saying “2 weeks” again!), most of NEAs development activities “go to sleep” as every staff member becomes a health team member. The kitchen team not only cooks for us, but they are also preparing food for the hundreds of volunteers and translators and surgical patients all week. There is a laundry team, cleaning team, driving team, security team and clinic set up team. The entire pastoral team is involved too and they help wherever help is needed. Every evening after a long hard day, I see them sitting together and praying — I mean really praying— for us, our families and our patients that were seen that day. This NEA staff just love us so much and take such amazing care of each and every one of us. We are so grateful!
Our physicians had a really fun day today because we were all in one room together with pharmacy and..wait for it…with air conditioning. Strategies were put in place to minimize noise and it was a very efficiently run clinic. One by one, we worked together to visit the sick, many of whom arrived Sunday night and camped out in line. One of the great things about all of us being on the compound is that it allows us to visit one another’s areas and to consult with one another. Consultation requests were constantly flowing between doctors, surgeons, eye doctors and dentists. Dental had its busiest day in the history of the team, caring for 60 patients. Our surgical theatres were full-on all day completing 37 surgeries. Dr. Hicks had a special honour of his daughter Elsa observing her first ever surgery — a very proud dad moment!
By 7:00 pm, we’re all back together in the dining hall to enjoy a meal together, hear the blog comments from home (we love them — especially Charlotte) and listen to team reports. One of the sweetest stories from today was shared by Graham. A very elderly woman over 90 came to triage. She didn’t have any major complaints, but she told Val, our triage nurse, that she waited for two days at last year’s clinic and was never seen. She wasn’t upset as she was happy we cared so many of her people and was happy to wait the year to see us. Usually, our triage nurses will deal with minor illnesses and will send well people on their way, but Val felt compassion for this sweet elderly woman and decided to make her a VIP. She spent the day in the clinic being seen by the physician, dental and eye clinic. At the very end of the day, Graham was on the driveway and the team bus started approaching. There was one lone patient sitting halfway back on the bus. This tiny lady was waving at him out the window. NEA was chauffeuring her home.
Dr. Jennifer Wilson, MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP, DIMPH