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.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


So I haven’t had much to blog about lately since I’ve been exhausted from community work in Takoradi. This week we have consistently screened over 150 patients each day. We open are clinics at 8am and stay until the people stop coming. Everyday this week people have been lined up waiting for us when we arrive. It's still a bit odd for me to think about how much these people respect us. They arrive early and patiently wait for us.  We probably even saved one women’s life. She was complaining about abdominal pain, shortness of breath, her blood pressure was sky high, and her feet were severally swollen. Thankfully James recognized her symptoms. Dr. Anderson made a call ahead to the hospital and our driver with James rushed her to the hospital. She was having a heart attack with classic symptoms for women. (FYI men and women have VERY different heart-attack symptoms.) We have not heard from this lady, so we are assuming she is okay. Also yesterday I got measured for a dress. We are attending Dr. Anderson’s grandfather’s funeral on Friday and I needed a black dress. So with Claire I went to the market and bought the fabric. We then took it to the seamstress to get the dress made. The entire dress was only 23 cedis. As many of you know I’m not much for shopping so picking out a pattern for the dress and then the fabric was a bit overwhelming. I’m very glad Claire knew exactly where to take Emily and me, otherwise I would have been completely lost. I’ll keep you posted on how the dress turns out. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Random Things

While in Ghana I’ve seen my fair share of random things that haven’t really fit into any of my blog posts. So here’s a list of them
1.     I saw my first albino baby. I was confused as to why this black mother was breast-feeding this white baby. Then we realized that he must be albino.
2.     Mother’s breast-feed everywhere in the complete open from Church to the market.
3.     One little boy at the immunization clinic had on Obama underwear. The Ghanaian’s LOVE Obama. They have Obama everything even a hotel and a college.
4.     Goats, sheep, and chickens roam everywhere.
5.     A Nigerian movie. It was basically a Lifetime movie with lower quality acting. We watched it with Jenifer – one of the older sister’s that lives with us.
6.     Men urinating anywhere and everywhere. With signs that read “Don’t urinate here.”
7.      Water comes in pouches not bottles.
8.     Ghanaian people are very early people. By 5:30 everyone is awake. This is beginning to rub off on me and the other girls. We had the opportunity to sleep-in today and we were all wide-awake by 6:15.
9.     Dogs here are scared of white people. The dog, Peace, that lives with us runs frantically away from everyone except Tyra.
10.   The power gets turned off on purpose during storms. It saves the power company money since less damage occurs. 

Canopy Walk

Yesterday was one of my favorite days so far in Ghana. We went for the canopy walk in the rainforest  at Kakum National Park. It was AWESOME. You walk on rope suspension bridges from tree to tree. The bridge is made of a ladder with a wooded board over the ladder with nets on both sides. There were 7 bridges in total suspended about 130 feet above the ground.   We were above some of the treetops. I LOVED it. Only 4 of these specific bridges have ever been constructed – one here in Ghana, Malaysia, China, and Peru. If you ever make it to Ghana I highly recommend visiting this park. We had fun just walking through the rainforest. I saw the largest bamboo tree I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals, but if I ever return I want to stay in one of the tree houses over night. Most of the jungle animals like leopards are nocturnal so they lead tours at night from these tree houses deep in the forest. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Update on Mercy

We were unsuccessful in getting the IV started. With severe malnourished children getting an IV started is very difficult. Our Pedisure shipment still hasn’t arrived, but we were able to give Mercy Gatorade and some soup with fish protein powder. Although some food is better than nothing Mercy still needs a lot of care. The dietician tried getting a feeding tube started, but Mercy kept pulling it out. I’m not sure I’d like someone trying to put a tube up my nose and down my throat either without being sedated. Please continue to pray for this little girl. She is truly alone in this world. Her father stopped by today and greeted Mercy with  “I’d thought you would be dead by now.” What a horrible thing to say to your daughter who is dying – a daughter you neglected. I have never been more thankful for our child protection services in the US. This horrible father, if he even deserves this title, would have been arrested for child abuse and Mercy would at least be put into foster care. (I know our foster care system is far from perfect, but it by far surpasses the system here in Ghana.) Here since the father refuses to give up his rights and refuses to care for Mercy she is stuck in the hospital where the nurses have begun giving up on her. Mercy’s only hope is a miracle. She needs someone to care for her, encourage her to eat, take her HIV medication, and love her. Please keep Mercy in your prayers. We are only at the children’s hospital for tomorrow then we return to running community clinics.  Dr. Anderson knows the hospital’s dietician so I’ll be following Mercy’s story closely. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


            We visited the only children’s hospital in Ghana today. My heart broke as we walked into the malnourished floor. I couldn’t even hold back the tears. The children were broken. Some of them were even alone. One little girl named Mercy has been in the hospital for over 2 months. Mercy is 14, HIV positive, alone, and severely malnourished. She looked to be about 4 or 5. Her mom is deceased and her father rarely comes to check on her. Mercy is too weak to even walk, so she sits with her diaper on in a crib made for a baby. I asked the one dietician for the entire hospital why Mercy wasn’t gaining weight. Mercy has only gained 2/10ths of kilo in 2 months. The dietician told me that the HIV medication upsets the stomach and many children begin refusing food. The hospital doesn’t have the resources for better medication or more food options. Apparently in the US most HIV positive children are given Pediasure with their HIV medications and this combination is easier on the children’s tummy. Here Pediasure is basically nonexistent. We have a shipment of Pediasure coming from the US, but it hasn’t arrived yet. After seeing Mercy and asking many questions I went and explained everything to Dr. Anderson. He agreed that she needs an IV. We brought IV supplies with us since here in Ghana only the wealthy get IVs. We had to leave the hospital before we could find one of 8 doctors for the entire children’s hospital to ask about getting the IV started. So tomorrow Mercy will hopefully be receiving IV fluids and food.  This little girt is terribly sick. With out HIV medications and food Mercy will likely die. Unfortunately, Mercy isn’t the only child in this situation. Most HIV positive children face similar fates. Tomorrow we are helping run the HIV clinic at the children’s hospital. We will counsel the parents on how to feed the children with the antiretroviral medication. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Washing Clothes

       So after two weeks I caved in and decided it was time to wash clothes. Here that means washing them by hand and hanging them on the clothesline. After working the clinic and eating lunch I mentioned that I was going to wash clothes. The boys immediately asked if they could join me. Of course I said yes and headed to grab my clothes and laundry soap. I asked Claire (one of the sisters that lives at the house) where we could get the washbasin, she went and got it for us and we headed outside to wash our clothes. Explaining how to hand wash clothes to two clueless college boys when I barely know how to was an epic failure. After about 5 minutes another sister, Jennifer, came out and said, “Just wash your underwear. I’ll do the rest tomorrow. You look like your suffering.”  This was only after the family watched from the kitchen hysterically laughing. I’m glad I could be someone’s entertainment!

Favorite Things

It has come to my attention that I haven’t really shared my favorite things about Ghana. So here's a few. 
1.     The mangos. They are triple the size of American mangos and much sweeter.
2.     The friends I’ve made here. With only 5 students we have bonded quickly.
3.     The family we are living with. They have graciously invited us into their home for 4 of the 6 weeks we are here. The mom is dr. Anderson’s sister. They feed us twice a day and even hand wash our clothes. (Please read the next post.)
4.     Getting to improve the quality of the people’s health care. I really enjoy screening the people here. 
5.     The children that light up when you give them a mint.
6.     My cell phone. If you ever travel to Ghana, Vodafone works everywhere. Even in the most remote villages. Their internet card also works everywhere. Hints the reason I am able to update this blog so often.
7.     The cheap prices here. One American dollar equals about 1.7 Ghana Cedis.
8.     The awesome views from our home. We are staying in the mountains about 30 miles outside the capital. It is much safer and very clean compared to the capital.
9.     Milo. It’s a type of hot chocolate the Ghanaians drink every morning. Its not as sweet as American hot chocolate and its caffeine free. It’s my coffee substitute while I’m here.    


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

Today I’m missing home. I miss the food and celebrations. Mostly the food – I haven’t found any Ghanaian food I like which is surprising since I like a wide variety of favors. We went to the local pizzeria to celebrate the 4th and in the words of Gene “That pizza was Fear Factor worthy.” It was disgusting to say the least. I’m pretty sure I’m losing weight. Thank goodness for the American snacks I brought – instant grits have NEVER tasted so good.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Community Work

           Today was our first day of community work and it was a success! We set up our clinic in a local Methodist Church from 8am to 1pm. Ghanaian’s are very early people, so by afternoon people stop coming. We screened over 100 people – mostly women from age 19 to 80 something. The lady couldn’t remember her age. I guess that happens if you live long enough! Over all the women were fairly healthy. Hypertension is the biggest health issue facing Ghanaians and other Africans even African-Americans. I was running the glucose and hemoglobin station with James and Gene. I can now confidently prick just about anyone’s finger. Our equipment is not the latest technology hence we have to collect a good amount of blood to run these tests. By using older technology we are allowed to screen more people since the tests are cheaper to run.
            It has poured down rain here all day long and our electricity has been out. As I write this we are all sitting in the living room reading by book light or on our laptops. Hopefully the power will return soon and the rain will stop before tomorrow. Tomorrow we are setting up outside in the town square. Muddy streets and wet clients will nota provide the best environment for wellness checks. Pray for dry weather!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beaches, Nasty Beaches

Yesterday, we decided to adventure to the beach in Accra. We thought a relaxing day at the beach would be nice. So, we got a ride with Dr. Anderson to the beach since he was already going to his family’s meeting in Accra about his grandfather’s funeral. We arrived at the beach and my picture of a relaxing day at the beach instantly vanished. Trash, piles of trash were waiting to greet us. Along with locals trying to rip foreigners off by charging to walk this nasty beach. We ignored the locals and walked a short piece of the beach before leaving. Dr. Anderson conveniently forgot to mention that he hasn’t been to the beach here in over 15 years.
To all my Athens friends – I am so sorry that y’all suffered through 106-degree temperatures. I guess I will quit complaining about the horrible humidity here since the high is only 80. We don’t have AC, but 80 is nothing compared to 106.
Tomorrow we start community work. We will be checking glucose, height and weight, hemoglobin, lipids, and blood pressure. We practiced on each other today. Pricking each other’s fingers was the easy part, getting the blood onto the slide and into machine is the tricky part. I think we all have it though. Please, pray for us. There is a slight language barrier because of the different accents and some of the patients might be HIV positive. Pray that we are focused. Last year one student accidently stabbed her self with a used lancet. She had to be tested for HIV and thankfully she was negative.