Ghana Blog: “Ete Sen”

June 29th, 2017 Contact: Alex Anderson  |  706-542-7614  | More about Alex

At the end of the last blog, I briefly mentioned that we had started our community work. Doing community work just means holding free health screenings in different communities every day. I also call these days, clinic days. Something to note is that we always do our clinics in a church. Religion is very big here in Ghana, so it makes sense that town events would be held in churches. Holding the clinics does not offend anyone in our group as it isn’t like our professor or the church are imposing their views on us. Sometimes the pastor of the church will pray for us which I think is very thoughtful. I asked Dr. Anderson how he is able to hold these screenings in the churches and how he gets the supplies. He told me that he has connections and our program fee pays for the supplies. I feel happy knowing that our money actually pay for supplies to aid these communities.

Our second clinic day was in Suhum. The first day went very well, so I knew this day would go just as well. My first station of the day was height/weight/BMI. I always like greeting people in English and in Twi, and sometimes I ask how they are doing in Twi. I realized very quickly that while some people could speak English very well, others could only say a few phrases. At the height/weight/BMI station, asking for one’s age occasionally posed a problem, so I learned how to say it in Twi: Wadi nfi ahie [waydi-infi-ah-hin]. Once I knew I was saying it correctly, I asked it for almost everybody. It worked out perfectly. The only downside was that sometimes the person would answer back in Twi and I did not get that far in my lessons. I would have someone else translate the number. The next station I did was blood pressure. That went well. There is an ongoing debate about which location records the most accurate blood pressure reading – arm or wrist. The next station was bloodwork. I think that station is my favorite. I developed a system on how to maximize the amount of blood squeezed without pricking twice or hurting the patient. We had a ton of children come in that day. It was a holiday, so parents took advantage of the time off to make sure their child is healthy.  

By the third clinic day in Tutu, I felt like I had been doing medical screenings for a long time. I know that sounds crazy, but we have a routine for rotating around the stations and we can do each medical test with ease. Our team works very well together. We are communicating and creating some lasting bonds. Aside from bloodwork, I really enjoy being a floater. Floaters are greeters, aids, errand people, and entertainers. They do everything. I like that floaters multitask and go where they are needed. One thing I noticed at the blood station is that people always want to know what blood group they are (as in A, B, AB, O). I wish we had the test to show that. I think for future trips, Dr. Anderson could incorporate that into the screenings. I think that will be very useful information for the patients. At the consultation station, one lady had a blood glucose level of 379! That is insane. Normal blood glucose levels are less than 126. It turns out that she developed gestational diabetes. Dr. Anderson informed her that if not managed, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes. I enjoy learning about various health information from the professor during and in between patient consultation.

Our most recent day was clinic day #4. That was in Mampong, our home base and prof’s hometown. The screening took place at the Methodist Church Ghana – Ascension Society. This is actually the professor’s church. We expected a huge turnout, but we saw less than 100 people. I was shocked. I was very curious as to why we had so few people when prof knew a lot of people in this town and he made an announcement in church. Maybe because it was during a work day, so people could not leave work. The other possible explanation could be because the church was not in a central location. We had one blind man come in. We had floaters guide him through the stations. At the time I was doing bloodwork, so when we came to my station, I explained to him what we were doing and grabbed his hand so he could follow along. That was a really good experience for me because I gained some exposure on how to take care of patients with disabilities. The most profound event of the day was when a woman who was 100 years old came in for the screening. She was in great shape – she walked slow and walked with a cane – and she was happy and energetic. I love when I see people live to be so old. I would have loved to hear her story that spans a century. I helped her throughout each station. My mind kept wondering what her life has been like and how much change she has seen. She did not speak a lot of English, but our interaction was friendly and familiar. Because of my Nigerian background, we call older women: auntie, mama, mummy, or grandma; it felt like I was helping my grandma. I noticed in Ghana people in the community will assist elderly people in daily activities even if they are not related which is what they do in Nigeria too. I just smiled at her the whole time. Overall, day 4 was slow, but is successful because we provide the best care possible and always with a positive attitude.

Tourist Tidbit:
There have been a couple of adventures outside of health screenings. The biggest one was visiting a market in Kumasi. What a day. I feel like the words I will use to describe it, just will not do the visit justice. I knew how crowded markets in Ghana can get because they are crowded in Nigeria and in other parts of the world. The market progressively shifted from open streets, to backway slums, to a market town made of tin. The marketplace is a community within a community, a world within a world. The atmosphere in the market is different than any other place. So many sites, sounds, people, smells, and items are all being taken in by your eyes and ears. The journey to the depths of the market started out as a quest for traditional fabric. Our leader, Marina asked around for the places with the cheapest prices. We moved from being on the main roads to backway alleys. The alleys gave way to the slums. This was a very poor part of Kumasi that was surprisingly still apart of the market. The smell of livestock and feces completely took over my nostrils. It felt like I ran nose-first into a stinky wall. The ground was muddy and there were people everywhere. There were also several big crates/cages full of chickens. Amid all this, there were tons of food and cosmetic stands with people yelling out what they were selling. How could they sell in this stench and chaos? The smell became so bad that I held my nose as we sped through there. The scene then changed into a town within the market. There were little shops made of tin material that looked like over-sized metal cabinets. The tops of them stretched so far up that there was only a tiny sliver of sky light peeking through. At every point in this market there were people that kept trying to grab me and call me to them. I would politely say no thank you and keep going, but it became somewhat overwhelming. We went so deep into the market that we forgot the way out. Luckily, Dr. Anderson and Marina helped us out. It was quite the experience. 

I look forward to next week. We will be wrapping up our clinic days and moving on to hospital observations. There are several hospital areas I am interested in such as pediatrics, women's health, labor & delivery (midwifery), and neonatology. Luckily for me, most of these areas overlap, so I will have a chance to see all aspects of maternal and child health. 

Chelsea Murphy

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