This was my first trip to Ghana. I was ready, excited and willing to help. The Friday morning after we arrived I was asked to help in the clinic. Wow, I thought we need to get all the children screened so they can have surgery. We started that day and never stopped. It was one big room divided by chairs or an invisible line that consisted of giving each patient a name and number. Next were the vital signs, seeing the cardiologist and then stepping behind the curtain for an echo. Each child had a story, not usually a happy one but none the less a story. More and more faces became familiar and when I asked them where they were from, the question was always “how many hours did take you to get here”. The answer was usually no less than 1hour and up to 4hours. They had all heard about the chance for their child to have surgery, lifesaving surgery. Surely I thought we can help them, but when I realized the scope of how many children needed surgery and just how many our team could physically handle, I knew this was monumental. We saw and screened many children over the week but after the first day I moved to the ICU. We now had to start taking care of the patients that were having surgery the next day. As I walked out of the clinic at the end of the day passing by the many families lined up waiting for hours, I knew this
mission was like no other.
Over the week, I cared for many patients as we learned more about their stories. The young child
from the orphanage whose mom and dad had passed during the previous year only
to be left alone. I remember my colleagues telling me the families had to bring in their own food from home for their children. I thought they were joking, but the joke was on me. Medications
they needed for discharge were all supplied by us because there was no place they could get them considering the distances they lived from the hospital. Any person needing a
prescription had to wait in line outside the hospital with as many as 300
people, but the pharmacy was only open for 8hrs, that meant they may need to
come back the next day. I thought to myself, how would that work if you live 4hours away. Oh yes,
Rhoda, Jethro, Jesse, Abdul and Enoch just to name a few. It is all about the children, their parents
their love of life.
The end of my journey to Ghana can be summed up this way. One heart, one mind, one child, one
nurse, one team who went to a country to help the people who had nothing and try to help them get what we here in the United States expect and will not settle for less. One cannot help but say to themselves “There by the grace of God go I”
Through The Years...
On Sunday, October 14, 2007--the Hearts and Minds of Ghana team performed the
1st pediatric cardiac surgery in Kumasi. It was our first mission to
KATH; so many unfamiliarities, and uncertainties intertwined with strong
feelings of compassion and trust.
And now on Sunday, October 14, 2012--the Hearts and Minds of Ghana team
performed their 81st pediatric cardiac surgery in Kumasi. This was our
7th mission to KATH; the unfamiliarities and uncertainties were less but the
feelings of compassion and trust even stronger.
The date October 14 holds even more significance to me. It is my
husband's birthday. He has been my rock, my foundation and without his
unconditional support and everlasting love--none of this would have been
possible for me----from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Paul.
Happy Anniversary Hearts and Minds of Ghana!!!
Recycling Ghana Style
I am honored to be a part of this fabulous mission. Each year as we work so very hard to teach, evaluate, perform operations and give exceptinoal care to the children, I am unable to process my feelings in the moment; mostly because I am exhausted, both mentally as well as physically. It takes me some time at home with the experiences fresh in my mind to process my thoughts. As always, I am in awe at the patience, resilency and creativity of the Ghanian people, the patients, their parents and our co-workers. I am struck as well by my individual blessings and how much I appreciate them; a warm home, electricity, running water, goods and services at my disposal whenever I want them.
In the operating rooms at Children's Hospital, we have a recycling program. Different clean plastic, cardboard and paper are placed in a separate container to be recycledd. This program requires some "buy in" from the staff. Effort must be made to keep the product clean, separate the materials that can be saved and "oversight" so that contamination doesn't occur during the procedure. Various members of our staff have different committments to this program; however, I am very passionate about it.
In Ghana, the operating room does its own form of recycling and repurposing. All of the towels we use in the OR which are meant to be disposible in the United States are saved and laundered in Ghana. The plastic containers and pitchers which come on our sterile set up are collected after the procedure, cleaned and used in other areas of the hospital. They even save the plastic bottles the normal saline comes in. The plastic bins that the perfusion/bypass tubing comes in are saved and cherished. One evening when I was leaving the hospital and walking the short distance to the bus which would transport us back to the hospital, I saw a woman with one of our plastic perfusion buckets on her head filled with oranges! I have no idea how she obtained it, but it was being repurposed well.
We even saved the basins that came on our set ups, for the patients. These basins performed many functions after the surgery including: storage, sponge baths, washing cloths and even became a favorite parting gift. On a past trip we were unaware of how popular the basins were until we ran low near the end of the mission and two patients did not recieve their "gift from the OR'. They were non-pump cases so we had not needed to open a basin. The next day the ICU nurses taking care of those patients came to us asking for their basins. The families really wanted them! Needless to say we found two basins and made sure we ordered basins for every mission so that every family would get one.
There was a time in the United States, not so long ago, when we as a society repurposed or repaired instead of replaced goods. My grandmother used to darn socks and made rugs on a loom from cloth scapes. Cloths were passed down from sibling to sibling and TV's and radios were repaired instead of replaced. Sometimes I think we need to get back to that lifestyle, back to our roots where we appreciate everying we touch everyday, like the Ghanians do!