Monday, August 12, 2013

WHAT A WEEK IT WAS!

The Ghana Cross Cultural Health Immersion team is home, but what a week we had. Since our last post, we have spent a week in Sekondi, Ghana setting up medical health clinics for the local population. After our travel woes over the weekend, we were up early on Tuesday for breakfast and to set up the clinic. By 11:00 am we were ready for our first patients. That first clinic involved nurses, pharmacists, public health professionals and physical therapists getting accustomed to the flow in the clinic. By the middle of that afternoon, we were running like a reasonably well-oiled machine.

We continued with our clinics on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, getting smoother and more efficient each day. Many of the patients had walked long distances to reach the clinic, and the line began to form as early as 3:00 in the morning. Final statistics showed that we saw over forty patients each day with medical issues ranging from back and neck pain to open wounds and malaria. Many of the patients were babies and young children, with many elderly also seen. Because we had eleven physical therapy students, some cross trained on triage and working in the lab, where most mastered the techniques of the malaria test kits.

University of Cape Coast Collaboration

We were very fortunate during the week to have five physicians from the University of Cape Coast Hospital. Two were seasoned physicians, with Dr. Aziz being the top administrator at the hospital. Three of the physicians were recent graduates of the medical school, and they were joined by three medical students. These doctors were able to help us see more patients than we would have on our own, and provided a rich learning opportunity for all as we learned from each other, and co-treated using our Ghanian or American medical training backgrounds.

We were also joined by Isaac, a physiotherapist at UCC Hospital, for the week. On Wednesday and Friday, groups of physical therapists traveled to Cape Coast to tour the hospital, as well as the Central Region Hospital, also in Cape Coast. The collaborations between UCC Hospital and UNE will continue to be developed in the future.

Cultural Immersion

Where do I start? On Tuesday after lunch, most of the group went to the town of Takoradi to purchase fabric. Fabric stores are plentiful in Takoradi, as many Ghanians make their own clothing. Magdalene, with her three-month old infant on her back, gave advice on amounts to purchase, and then met our group back in Sekondi to take measurements and orders for shirts, tops, pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. Later in the week, all the items showed up in time to be worn at the drumming concert on Friday night.

The drummers are an essential part of the UNE experience, and are very impressive with the various drums and the African dancers. Some in our group (Gia) took to the dance floor and were almost hired on the spot! Our group also fed the local economy at the wood-workers shops and other local businesses as we made many purchase of souvenirs for friends and family back home, as well as ourselves. From small pieces of jewelry to four-foot tall wooden giraffes, we got it all. On Wednesday afternoon, we walked through the Sekondi market, a maze of paths through tightly congested shops selling foods and other essentials.

After the tour, we attended the Sekondi Inter Community League soccer game, played on a dirt field with many spectators and very skilled players. Besides all of these group trips around town, much of the immersion took place as we were able to sit and talk to the community health workers with us during the week, and learn of their lives and their dreams. Finally, on Saturday, we packed the bus and departed at around 9:00 am. On our way to the airport, we stopped in Elmina Castle, an important slave castle that is now a national landmark. The guided tour put into reality the incredible human toll of the slave trade. Between 26 and 30 million slaves passed through this castle. It is an incredibly moving experience.

After more shopping in Elmina, we traveled the short distance to Coconut Grove Beach Resort for lunch and relaxation. We were met there by Dr. Aziz, his wife, and Reverand Andoh. Dr. Aziz brought a large supply of Fu Fu for lunch, and Reverand Andoh showed us the traditional way to eat this meal (no spoons and forks allowed! Keep your hands clean!). It was then back on the bus for a four-hour ride to the airport, which included four-wheeling down a pot-holed and rutted detour along the way. But with the skill of our driver we finally reached the George H W Bush Highway which brought us right into the airport.

The travel home was uneventful. Accra to London, four hour layover, and then to Boston, arriving nearly on time. After hugs and good-byes, we all went on our separate ways, holding the memories of Ghana and each other in our hearts forever.

Dennis Leighton

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