From March 3-10, our small group of three American volunteers (one RN, and two non-medical people) joined with our Ghana team to provide medical care for patients from 3 months to 104 years old! It was just a short trip, as we had all been to Ghana before and we "knew the ropes" and could dive right in to take up our post for the mission.
We're still entering data, so the final analysis isn't ready yet, but here are some reflections on the mission from Lisa, Healthy Villages, Inc. board member and the RN on the mission:
First worksite - Avegato, Ketu South Municipal District, Volta Region, Ghana
Tuesday and Wednesday we set up clinic in a village outside the city of Aflao. It took a while to get organized the first day and there were only a few people waiting for us. But word soon got out that we were there and they started coming! We saw 125 people. The second day there were 75 plus people waiting for us and we saw 180 people. The large amount of hypertension always amazes me. Both young and old walk around with BP’s of 220/130 or higher. They aren’t on any medication. Some have never been told they have high blood pressure. Others have been on medication before but stopped for various reasons—ran out, couldn’t afford to keep taking, didn’t know they were supposed to keep taking, don’t like taking medication, or choose to take herbs instead. A lot of children have skin infections, respiratory infections or worms. We had medication for all of these.
Second worksite - Denu, Ketu South Municipal District, Volta Region, Ghana
Thursday, Friday and Saturday we set up in the village clinic that Philimon, a physician assistant, runs. It was a great set up and ran much smoother than the previous one. We saw 119 the first day, 105 the second day and 201 the third. We were on site and seeing people usually by 8:15 and wrapped up 4:30-5:00 except on Friday when we stopped at 1:00 to attend the local market. Our youngest patient was 3 months and the oldest 104. Almost everyone complained of hurting joints or limbs, headaches and feeling tired. More serious issues that we couldn’t treat were hernias needing surgery, cataracts of which were visible in many, and low vision.
Five clinic days, 730 people seen and treated and we are now headed back home. Sunday traffic was light so it only took 3 hours to arrive back in Accra. We visited the artisan market for treasures to take home and then said goodbye to Godfried and spent the rest of the day at the airport waiting for our 10:30 pm flight to Amsterdam. I definitely felt the prayers from all my supporters on this trip. The gratitude from the people we treated and those we worked with and my gratitude for being able to do this will never be forgotten. Each of you who supported me was a part of this! God is so great and good. Thank you and God bless you!
Though this was just a quick trip, we were able to provide some invaluable services to people who were unable to access medical care otherwise. We tested almost everyone for HIV, thanks to the Ghana Health Service who provided us with test kids. The screening was very successful and we discovered only a handful of new HIV cases, all of whom were referred to the nearby HIV clinic for free medication and counseling. We were also able to provide almost every child from infancy up, with multivitamins and dewormer. Most adults also got multivitamins and dewormer. Intestinal parasites are endemic in tropical regions like Ghana, and the situation is made worse by the lack of proper sanitation. Worms rob the body of nutrients and can lead to GI problems as well. So a deworming (which only takes one dose!) followed by a daily multivitamin can go a long way to restoring and maintaining health.
As the journal notes above indicate, we found so many adults, some as young as in their 20s, with extremely high blood pressures. We suspect that this could be due to the high salt intake from one of the popular "ramen noodle" type foods that is very inexpensive. As we always note on these missions, it would be so wonderful to be able to provide ongoing care for hypertensive patients, along with education about lowering blood pressure without medications. The vast majority of those with high blood pressure were referred to the local clinic for follow up, along with a short term supply of blood pressure meds for those with extremely high readings.
Thanks to volunteers in Virginia and Oregon, USA, we were also able to give out 80 kits of washable and reusable menstrual pads packaged in beautiful cloth bags to women and adolescent girls who have little to no ability to access disposable menstrual hygiene products.
We'll post a full report and data analysis as soon as possible!
We could not have carried out this mission without lots of support. A big thank you to Brother's Brother Foundation who supplied our medical supplies like bandages, thermometers, etc.; to Thrivent Financial who granted us money for cloth for menstrual pads and food for our major fundraiser; to Lisa and the other wonderful people from the Church of the Brethren congregations in Virginia who have been supporting our medical mission activities from the start; to Shere (aka Grami) - second time volunteer in Ghana at age 76, who took vitals in the clinic; to our Ghana medical team (Philimon, Frank, Thomas, Vivian, Joana, Maxwell, Innocent and others); to Godfried who organized all the travel, lodging, worksites, and all other arrangements to take care of us in Ghana; to the Ghana Health Service who advise us on areas where we are needed and supplied us with HIV test kits; and so many more people that I'm probably forgetting right now! We appreciate you all so much.
Stay tuned for more information to come!