Blog 6

August 19th, 2008 by njandreau

Spirituality/religion is a very important part of people’s lives here. We were special guests at Sunday’s service. African dresses were made for all of the participants to attend this service (Stay tuned for a colorful group photo of batiks and tie-dye).  This service, a tradition for Ghana Health Mission participants, includes dancing and an inspiring service by Reverend Andoh. Laura Seeger, RN was amazed at the “resilience that this culture has built from religion and it has been a powerful and enlightening experience.”

This will be the last blog entry for this cultural immersion experience, for on Thursday morning we will begin our journey back to the United States.  First, we will a stop at Cape Coast to visit Elmina Castle, one of the original slave holding stations built on the coast of Ghana by the Portuguese.  Following that, we will forge on to Accra, check in to our hotel, and then visit the Accra craft market – a last chance for students to shop for woodcarvings, mud cloth, Kente cloth, paintings and more!  Our flight leaves at 10:15 on Friday and hopefully, there will be no delays and/or cancellations.

The overall experience has impacted us tremendously.  It is inexplicable how different our cultures are.  We look forward to sharing our experiences with all of CHP.

Blog 5

August 19th, 2008 by njandreau

Beth DeGarmo and Kate Keller, second year PA students
“Lowering Blood Pressure and Saving Goats: Helping Ghanaians One Day at a Time”

We wish we could take our experiences, our thoughts, our memories from this trip and give it to people so they can learn what we’ve learned and understand what it’s like to be here.  Even if we could, we don’t think people really know what it’s like until they experience it for themselves.  It’s been an incredible experience, humbling to the core.  People are grateful when they walk away with multivitamins, all we can offer them for their numb hands and feet.  It’s amazing that beside the language they speak and the color of their skin, they are so similar to the patients we see in the states.  They come in with high blood pressure, aches and pains, asthma, etc.  We hope that with what little we can offer them they leave with a hint of a smile.  The kids never stop smiling – they always remind us how far a smile can go to make someone feel better. Even if we can’t offer them much, we can offer them hope – hope that their aches will get better, hope that the fever from malaria with break, hope that the world contains people who care about them.  And as the quote goes, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
P.S. With the help of a community worker, Kate saved a baby goat trapped in a fence – Reverend Andoh says she is going to be remembered.

Blog 4

August 19th, 2008 by njandreau

Student’s input as reflected by Jen Lockman, MSW (UNE ’08):

In Takoradi, as the political rally (New Democratic Party led by Nana and Papa) continues, people were dancing and singing to the music.  Others from the market looked on, but vendors were still eager for us to visit their shops.
Emily, an HSM student, was impacted by the need for health care in Ghana.  Although this saddens her, she is amazed by the happiness and sense of community.  Emily had the opportunity to participate at the kids table, the triage stations, and the pharmacy.  “People are so happy to get help and talk to you about their health problems; each person makes you feel like you have saved them.”  Chelsea Paterson’s experience has been similar in that she is amazed at how humble and joyful the people of Sekondi are.  Her favorite sound is children’s laughter and she had been able to surround herself with it several times.  The locals “are so thankful for what we can do.  We give them the bare minimum, yet they bless us as if we made them rich and completely healthy.”

Nancy Thach, R.N., encountered a diabetic patient who has leg sores “tunneling the length of the cotton tipped swab.”  Typically, diabetic teaching is a lengthy process.  Nancy worked diligently to convey the necessary aspects of diabetes education as well as take into consideration the diet and availability of food that are relative to Ghanaian culture.

The OT students were able to gain educational experience at the local hospital in the PT sector. Amanda Rhan worked with a patient who has been living with sciatica.  Because of this, he has pains in his back and legs and she was able to teach him some valuable exercises and techniques to decrease his pain and increase his mobility.

Jamie North and Vanessa Sherman were particularly moved by one young gentleman. He is a 22 year old who has suffered a spinal cord injury.  He set a record today for standing without feeling dizzy in a tilt table position.  This patient expressed interest in learning to feed himself independently and they will share a home made universal cuff with him tomorrow when they see him. This should help him with feeding and writing.

Other students were impacted by the community itself.  Carly Xiaz (Utah student) spoke some about the fishing village and the extent of poverty that exists all around.  She commented that the “horrible conditions made us realize how lucky we are to live where we do and have the possessions we have.”

Blog 3 – Days 4 and 5

August 18th, 2008 by njandreau

Day four and five represent the last days spent providing health services at the international mission in Sekondi.  On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week we will move the daily clinical operations about 8 miles out of town to a rural village called Konsu.  If one could imagine, the patients tend to be much sicker.  Although the clinic is set up according to the same model as the one in Sekondi, often fewer patients are seen because of the acute, chronic, and varied health issues they possess.  Unlike Sekondi, a Fante speaking community, many in the community of Konsu are French speaking, therefore the community health workers have to be trilingual (English, Fante, and French).

We could not run the clinic without a steady supply of community health workers, who often spend 8 or more hours per day with us. They are members of the church where is mission is housed, and are completely dedicated to the success of the mission.  Most are in their early 20’s and are students.  They take time off from their school or job to work at this two week mission and do not receive payment for it.  Their dedication to the mission is apparent in all that they do.  This includes interpreting for triage (intake) workers and providers, helping to set up and tear down the clinic, and organizing supplies, keeping order in the wait line, and escorting the students and participants in and around Sekondi/Takoradi in the afternoons.

Jen Lockman, MSW and recent UNE alum, has utilized a community worker in her important case management role that involves daily runs to the chemist (pharmacy) and bank, as all transactions are on a “cash and carry” basis.  Cedis (Ghanaian currency) are used in the clinic to pay for transport of acutely ill patients to the local hospital, their hospital fee, as well as any medications they may need.

Beth DeGarmo and Kate Keller, second year PA students, have transitioned beautifully into supervised provider roles.  They have seen a full compliment of patients of varying developmental ages and health conditions.  Like many provider students who partake in this experience, they have expressed this is a most amazing review in total health assessment as one must rely on their own skills without the technology that western medicine affords us.

Nurses Chelsea Paterson, Laura Seeger, Katie Firth, Kayla Baker, Nancy Thach and Deb Murray have not only served in triage (intake) roles, but have also worked directly alongside providers to help with treatments and medication dispensing.  They are already exhibiting the intuitive skills that great nurses possess, instinctively knowing and predicting what may be asked of them, and offering suggestions that assist the providers.

Hilarie Jones, MSN, APRN is a name we would like to introduce to blog readers.  She is the Ghana Health Mission group leader for this trip.  Her experience as an adult nurse practitioner in an internal medicine practice in central Connecticut and her passion for global health has prepared her to both mentor participants/students and to provide safe and culturally competent health care to the citizens of Sekondi.

Blog 2 – Day 3

August 15th, 2008 by njandreau

Day 3 in the International Mission was very busy.  We saw 70 patients for various illnesses.  The community health workers have been instrumental in the smooth flow of operations although they are exhausted because there is a spiritual revival happening simultaneously in the evening.  As a result, the clinic is torn down and set up every day.  Needless to say life at the mission is very lively. Patients ranged in age from 2 weeks to 85 years with a multitude of disorders, some of which are specific to developing countries (malaria, worms, etc.) and some that are common in both but well understood by students (ear infections, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, developmental delays, and more).

Regi Robnett, 3 (occupational therapy) OT students, and 1 nursing student went to observe and provide OT services to the outpatients in the PT clinic with Miss Hanna Napier, PT. We are told that there is only one OT in Ghana, at the military base in Accra. The PTs were eager to teach us and have us help with a variety of patients including those with stroke (several months post as well as a person who seemed to be having a stroke at the PT clinic who was taken to Effia Hospital by taxi – no ambulance service in Sekondi).  They also worked with a person with back pain, and a boy with a broken arm that did not heal properly. The students called the experience “amazing.”

Students have verbalized powerful statements with respect to how meaningful this trip has been for them. Many have already talked of fundraising for future trips, now understanding the magnitude of needs.  Jen Morton stopped in their room this evening to say hello and found OT students, Malori, Loren, Jamie, Ericka, Amanda, and Vanessa sewing a reduction splint to keep a 5-year old boy’s umbilical hernia in reduction while he awaits his surgical consult, which could take up to a year. The word then got out and they have been asked to sew a second one tomorrow. They used formed splinting material with slits (using a pan of boiling water in the restaurant kitchen), a strip of T-shirt, and Velcro to fit around the abdominal area.

Nurses, Chelsea Patterson, Nancy Thach and HSM student Emily Lambert have dedicated energy to providing meaningful activities (coloring, playing with toys, and games) for children who are waiting for their parents/caregivers to be seen in the clinic.

After the clinic, Magdalena (a local seamstress well known to the mission) came to the measure students/participants and collect the fabric that had been purchased during the previous days.  In a matter of one day, she returned 6 articles of clothing, beautifully sewn.