Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Theater (Surgery in Ghana)

          On Friday I observed surgery at Ridge hospital. Here operating rooms are called theaters.  I watched two hernia repairs and two c-sections. Surgery here is done while the patients are awake. When I first walked into the OR it was strange hearing the patient talking to the surgeon. The patients are awake since it requires less observation and removes the risk of side affects from general anesthesia. The c-sections were awesome to observe. I think I liked them more than any other surgery I’ve even seen. I did learn that I can handle a significant amount of blood. In one of the c-sections the mother started bleeding. The blood was everywhere even the floor, since the surgeon couldn’t suction the blood out fast enough. The mother received a transfusion and she and the baby were fine. I guess it’s good to know that blood doesn’t bother me.   

Life Happens Even in Ghana

Life here in Ghana has been a little unpredictable since my last blog post. Dr. Anderson’s mother died very unexpectedly late Friday night. So life here has been a little different than we expected. I didn’t really know his mother well since she didn’t speak much English, but I have gotten to know the other members of the family. Saturday was very difficult for everyone. People traveled from all over Ghana to our house to pay their respects. Its difficult to see people you have grown very fond of grieve such a significant loss, especially after they just lost their grandfather in May. Please keep the family in your prayers. The one-week celebration of life is tomorrow and then the funeral is on August 18th. Dr. Anderson will be staying in Ghana until then. Also, pray for safe travels for his brother, wife, and sons that will be traveling to Ghana from the US.
Monday and Tuesday we worked in Accra with the radio station screening people. I have really enjoyed the community clinics during the trip. I always felt like I was making a difference in the people’s lives. Hopefully the people will take our advice and change their diets and exercise more. The people of Ghana are beginning to face the same chronic disease that many western countries are also facing like hypertension and diabetes.
           Today and tomorrow we are just relaxing and preparing for the trip home on Friday. I can’t wait to get home. I’ve missed my regular diet, hot showers, a washing machine and dryer, Mom and Dad, Penny, and reliable running hot water. I am so thankful for this experience. I learned more than I can write about on this blog. I know now that pursuing a medical degree is defiantly for me. I have the resources, the intelligence, and drive needed to earn my MD. So the way I see it I’d only regret pursuing another career. The journey will be long, just like the people in Ghana live one day at a time, if I take it one day at a time I know I will eventually achieve my dream.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


            I spent my day caring for 29 babies in the NICU. It was interesting learning how to care for such tiny babies. I got to feed them and hold a few. We feed them formula in a cup every three hours. Some of the mothers come in and breastfeed but many of the babies are too weak to feed naturally. I also learned that baby boys can lactate. I saw a nurse actually removing “milk” from one of the boys. I was somewhat horrified at first, but the doctor said it’s from the mother’s hormones and it stops after the first two days or so. The babies share incubators and heat lamps that were mostly donated from the US. The babies in the incubators are so tiny. I knew babies could be that small, but I have never seen or held a baby that only weighs 2.2 pounds.
One little boy is completely healthy, but his mother doesn’t want him.  She told the nurses to call a social worker. I know I haven’t walked a mile in this mother’s shoes, but I don’t know how you look at your baby and decided you don’t want it.  I held him most of the day. He is starved for human contact and love. The nurses and doctors are severally over worked, so the babies are only held or touched if they are being fed or checked. Most of the time the mother’s have to work or care for their other children – leaving the NICU babies in the care of the nurses.
            Side note – as I write this I have just gotten out of the “shower” and by shower I mean a bucket of water filled by opening 500mL pouches of water. The running water here has been cut off. We are not sure when it will return or if it will return and the house’s personal tank is empty. Please, pray that the water returns quickly. I can easily live with out electricity here, but running water is a different thing. Mostly we need to be able to flush the toilets. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


This week we have been at Ridge Hospital in Accra. On Monday we were given a tour and introduced to all of the head nurses in each department. This hospital has many more departments than the children’s hospital, everything from surgery to dental and even a VIP ward. The set up and building are very similar though. The first stop on the tour was the administration’s office, while we were waiting to meet with the nurse that coordinates everything for us we met two foreign trained nurses from South Africa and Norwey.  We talked for a bit about the differences here and our and their home countries. I was somewhat surprised that the Norway nurse decided to move here alone. She said that she met some really good friends and just decided to stay. Friends are better than have material possessions. The tour through the hospital was very interesting. The hospital is fully to capacity and beyond.  Beds are crammed in everywhere, even the hallway. In the NICU four babies all share one incubator. The only equipment in the radiology department is an X-ray machine. No CT or MRI. In fact there is only one CT scanner in the entire country.
            I spent Tuesday in the physical therapy department working with stroke victims and babies with birth injuries. It was quite inspiring watching the stroke victims learn to walk again. The youngest stroke victim was 36. He wasn’t overweight, but unknowingly had severe hypertension.  Helping the children was also interesting. Many of them had a week arm since their shoulder was dislocated during delivery. I have defiantly learned how awesome the miracle of birth really is. We should praise the Lord every time both baby and mom are healthy after delivery. It truly is the miracle of life. Today, I helped immunize over 150 six-week-old babies. After today I’d like to give a huge thank you to every mother and father that has cared for a baby cries non-stop. After six hours of hearing babies scream from getting their shots I knew I had lost my sanity.
            I am very thankful for these past few weeks in Ghana. I have learned more than I could ever share on this blog. The biggest lesson I have learned is to be content. I have been given much more than I need. I was born to loving parents that had a stable income in a country where my every need and more is met. I have access to some of the best medical treatments in the world. I drive on perfectly smooth roads in a car I was given. I am earning a college education thanks to HOPE and my parents. Yet, I have grown up in a culture that tells you to want more so I have fallen into this trap far to often. I recently read a book called Radical by David Platt and he asks the question “What would happen if we began to give what it hurt us to give?” I have seen the need first hand. The hospitals here are choked. They don’t have the resources to treat every patient. Some people are turned away since they don’t have the money. I know I can’t change the situation of every person in Ghana, but we are trying to change the lives of a few children by raising money for a new swing-set at the Children’s Hospital. (If you’re interested in donating please email me. 

Misery Does Love Company

            We stopped at the Mall today to eat Chinese before dropping James off at the Airport. (He’s starting Medical School on August 1st) After eating Emily and I made a quick stop in the bathroom. We walked in and I couldn’t tell if there was a line or not so I asked and one woman kept looking at me. It was somewhat awkward having her watch me like a hawk, so I finally asked her how she was. A conversation started immediately. She was a woman from California. She asked the usual like “why are you here” and “when do you go home”, so we returned the questions and quickly discovered that she was severally homesick. Oddly enough the first thing she complained about was the food.  (Sound familiar?) She said she had been sick entire time. Obliviously she was ready to go home and was just looking to speak to other Americans. I later realized she probably recognized my accent and that’s why she was starring at me. 

Other random facts I forgot to mention

1.     Mortgages don’t exist here. If you want a house you have to pay cash for it. This is part of the     discrepancy between housing for the poor and wealthy. Houses here also take a very long time to build. As does everything in Ghana – one road that is basically the artery of Accra was started over ten years ago and they are still nowhere near finished.
2.     Mother’s here that give birth naturally are sent home the same day. If you have a C-section you stay for two days. Maternity leave is 3 months long. Mother’s also dress in white for the first 6 months of the baby’s life.
3.     Girls must keep their hair short like a boy’s to attend public school. Girls also get their ears pierced the same day or shortly after birth.
4.     An “A” in a class at the University of Ghana (where Dr. Anderson attended) is an 80 or above. The students here don’t believe that an “A” at UGA is a 93 or above.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Funeral, One wedding, Two Days

           On Friday we attended Dr. Anderson’s grandfather’s funeral in Accra. His name was Kwesi Cato and he passed at the age of 91. The service began at 8:30 am and ended around noon. The service consisted of singing many hymns, tributes from friends and other organizations, a sermon, and the closing of the casket.  The church was standing room only with about 1,000 people in attendance. The program for the service was 50 pages long. Mr. Kwesi was a very influential man. He was wealthy and highly educated. People traveled from all over Ghana to be in attendance. The service was very nice. People spoke from the heart about a man full of integrity and honor. His children and grandchildren spoke of his wisdom and love. I was glad to be in attendance. After the service we went to the cemetery. Here in Ghana they actually lower the body into the ground while everyone watches. Watching the casket being lowered was unsettling. It made his death real. Memories from my grandmother’s funeral last year came flooding back to me. After the graveside service was over we returned to the church for a thanksgiving service. They catered lunch so people ate, danced, and celebrated Mr. Kwesi’s life. Around 4pm we headed home. The celebration of life services continued Saturday and Sunday, but we didn’t make it since we were attending a fellow UGA student’s wedding.
            On Saturday we went to a wedding for Fedel and Sandra. It was great. It was probably one of the happiest weddings I’ve ever attended. The congregation celebrated this couple and their union. The wedding lasted just over three hours. We sang and danced. The couple exchanged vows, signed their wedding certificate, and the minister preached. The minister’s sermon was my favorite part of the wedding. He spoke to the family about supporting the marriage and ways they pull the husband and wife apart without even realizing it. He advised the friends to give them space during the first year. He charged the bride and groom with their responsibilities to the marriage. Basically the minister said all the things that too many people are afraid to say – marriage is serious and something to not enter lightly.  Maybe if more people heard what this minister had to say our divorce rates would be lower.  Tyra also sang at the wedding (she is good friends with the groom). She did an awesome job! Two interesting facts about Ghanaian weddings – the groom still removes the veil to ensure he is marrying the correct women and they still ask, “if any one knows any reason why this man and women shouldn’t be married speak now or forever hold your peace.” I though they only asked that in movies. I’ve never heard this asked at a real wedding before. Also, the bride and groom don’t kiss – they hugged and he kissed her hand. If my wedding one-day is half the celebration of this one, I’ll consider myself lucky. I have to say Ghanaians know how to celebrate.              
            This week we are working at Ridge Hospital in Accra. Pray that we have safe travels each day and clear discernment about where in the hospital we should be working.