This is my last week in Ghana, and I’m thinking back to the first week as if it was a million years ago. It sure feels like it was. I’ve had a lifetime full of experiences in the last four weeks. Even in the last several days! The title of this blog post is both the perfect and the only way to describe this week. It. Was. Nuts. I don’t even know where to begin describing my time at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.
Our first full day shadowing, I was in the operating room. Before that day, I had never stepped foot in one, only having seen surgery on TV thanks to Grey’s Anatomy. P.S. It’s so much better in real life. Anna and I walked in during the middle of an umbilical hernia repair on a 5-year-old girl. Throughout the rest of the day, we got to watch (up close and personal): an inguinal hernia in addition the surgeon deciding to also pull the patient’s testes down into the scrotum; an excision of a huge mouth polyp in a 7-month-old; the tying of a leaking peritoneal tube; an intestinal hernia repair in a grown man; and the removal of a literal 6-inch-long umbilical hernia that looked like an elephant trunk hanging from a toddler’s belly button. Yep. Six surgeries in one day. That was only Tuesday.
The next day, I was in the labor and delivery ward and stayed with a patient from 5 cm dilation to when she decided to take it upon herself and start pushing at only 8 cm dilation instead of waiting until 10 cm. That sent the poor midwife into quite the frenzy. I saw a live birth, heard the baby girl’s first cry, witnessed her first snotty little sneeze, saw her mother hold her child for the first time. I cried when I saw a husband see his son for the first time.
Thursday, I saw another four surgeries: A breast lump biopsy, an open examination of the knee tendons/ligaments from a man 5 days post motorcycle accident, the removal of a peritoneal sac that had filled with fluid in a woman’s inguinal area, AND the freaking amputation of an index finger.
Friday… Oh. My. Gosh. Friday. The day that tops all the other days. I scrubbed into surgery. A C-section. It was the whole shebang—changing into boots and a plastic apron, scrubbing my hands, not touching anything unsterile, getting tied into another outer gown, putting on two layers of gloves. Our surgeon, Dr. Dadzie was so incredibly patient with Anna and I as we were learning. He included us in the surgery way more than I ever dreamed. I not only held the clamps, but I also assisted in ripping the muscle (WAY harder than it sounds…Almost knocked me over) to get to the uterus. I not only cut the sutures, but I also held this woman’s uterus in my hands while the surgeon was suturing. I saw him pull the baby fresh out of the oven and handed him to Anna. I CANNOT explain to y’all how amazing that was. I wish I could relive that hour over and over again. It was fascinating and surreal and I am still on a high from it.
How could I see all of that and not have anything to say about it?
Takeaway #1: The human body is T O U G H. My first thought in surgery was how amazed I was that surgeons had to use so much force and the body completely withstands it. A girl’s small intestines were coming out of her stomach during a hernia repair, and the surgeon just pushed them back in and sewed her up and she’ll be just fine. A woman literally pushed a human being out of her body on pure willpower and both of them are perfectly healthy. I held a uterus in my hands before Dr. Dadzie just put it back in the abdomen. How is that even possible?
Takeaway #2: TV glamorizes birth way too much. Natural births AND C-sections. Even the most dramatic portrayals with crying, sweating women going into labor—that’s NOTHING. I’ll spare the details, but geez y’all, don’t rely on the movies if you want to know what really goes on. It’s nuts.
Takeaway #3: My mind is blown. Absolutely 100%, over the top, filled with awe and thanks. I can’t even say that this week has exceeded my expectations, because how could my expectations even come close to watching 10 surgeries, a live birth, and assisting in a C-section? Are you kidding? Am I dreaming?
The past 4 weeks… This has been the trip of a lifetime. No doubt about it. This is a time in my life that I’m going to look back on and wish I could relive every moment. I’m already looking back on what I’ve experienced and I can’t believe that this is my life. My real life. In no way can I put all of my thoughts into words. There’s no shot. But I am so beyond thankful: To my “black dad” and professor, Dr. Anderson, for setting up this trip. Yes, to UGA (but still, go jackets always). To my new friends that lifted me up and lived through every single moment with me—I will forever be thankful to you 11 girls and the friendships we’ve made. And of course, thank you Ghana. I will never forget you. Medaase.
Final Day at Ridge Hospital
How the last four week transformed me as a person and a student
Climbing mountains and surviving in the hospitals
A summary of my time spent in the Greater Accra Regional Hospital
The various lessons I've learned for these miracle Ghanaian babies