Preparing for a medical mission brings to light the “little-known” deep complexities of the experience. There are so many things to think about. Our supplies are gathered by efforts of participants and their families, immunizations addressed, visas must be requested, and transportation organized.
Coordination and communication amongst the group are “musts” when confronted with airline luggage restrictions including weight, size, and number of check or carried on bags. As many Ghanaians go barefoot and subsequently battle parasites and/or infection, light weight footwear donations such as crocs and sandals collected by Dara Lamson, Brenda Beckett, and Lindsay McKenny will be distributed through the clinic. Light and squishable, this footwear packs easily but other heavier objects such as vitamins and medications must also be packed. Other items must be packed with care, such as the reading glasses collected by Stephanie Bliss. Ensuring safe and easy passage through the airport with our full bags meant we needed another group meeting.
To facilitate the distribution of weight amongst our baggage we held a packing party! Each participant saved at least a third of the space in their one checked bag to pack the items collected. In addition to our supplies, we also are bringing 300 water bottles for participants in a study on clean water being conducted by Professor Jen Morton.
To apply for a visa from Ghana, we all had to receive the required Yellow Fever vaccination. Most of us also received several other recommended immunizations including Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, a Polio Booster, and Meningitis. Although I had the option of returning to spread out the pain over time, I opted to receive the four injections I needed at one visit. Ouch! To add insult to injury, the Yellow Fever injection is a live attenuated virus…meaning you can get sick after receiving it. No one enjoys being sick, but I think knowing you will become sick may be worse than simply catching a virus. I came home from my visit and waited; within four hours I had a fever that lasted two days. But this trip will be worth it.
After attaining the required immunity to Yellow Fever, we could then apply for a visa to enter Ghana. This was complicated as well. The visa is only good for three months and there was a possible six week processing period. So, we had to apply no less than six weeks from the date we planned to arrive in order to assure receiving our passport back in time, but no more than two months in advance because we could then possibly miss our window of entry. We all successfully completed this process with visas valid for our date of entry. In addition to our vaccines, we also acquired prescriptions for an anti-malarial and antibiotics with the option of requesting a light sleep aid.
Our clothing will be washed for us every day so we only needed to pack about 3 sets of clothing each. Other items on our personal packing lists included toiletries, a towel and washcloth (I’ve been told we will get a cold shower about every other day), camera, comfy footwear, a water bottle, and snack foods.
We will be flying from Logan Airport to JFK to Accra, Ghana. We leave JFK at 5:15PM and arrive at 8:20AM the next morning; I think we’re all hoping to get some sleep on the flight. From Accra, we will take a bus down the coast to the twin cities of Sekondi and Takoradi where we will be setting up our clinic at the International Mission housed in a local Pentecostal church.
I cannot believe that we leave tomorrow. I hope to send a quick update from the airport. Keep all your fingers crossed that our travel goes smoothly and we will update soon!