Ghana Blog: The Case of John Doe

July 14th, 2017 Contact: Alex Anderson  |  706-542-7614  | More about Alex

Ridge hospital is also known as the Greater Accra Regional Hospital. They just had renovations done in May, so when we pulled up to the front, we pulled up to a state-of-the-art hospital. One of the doctors told us this hospital was comparable to any other hospital in the world. We just did a tour on the first day. I was very impressed with the architecture and amenities of this building. I expected the building to be similar to the children’s hospital where parts of the hospital were run down, but Ridge was far from it. Everything about Ridge said modern and futuristic.

On my first day of shadowing and observations, I was stationed at the NICU. This is where I met baby John Doe. The NICU ward has two high dependent room for pre-term babies, one room for full-term babies, and one contagious room for babies sent to Ridge from another hospital. The NICU also has a milk prep/lactation room and a baby wash room. It was good to see that the hospital has a lactation room because that indicates they promote breastfeeding. From all the nurses I’ve talked to, they all encourage mothers to produce milk and breastfeed. For most of the day, I stood behind doctors performing CNS exams on the babies and midwives feeding the babies. The peak of my day was entering the room where John Doe stayed. He was in the general room for full-term babies. When I entered the room, I saw around seven soundly sleeping babies and one baby screaming at the top of his lungs. That baby was John Doe. I thought that was a peculiar name for a baby since 1) Ghanaian babies are not named immediately after birth and 2) I only hear that name for missing people and found people who have not been identified. I asked the nurses what happened to the baby and they said the baby was abandoned in a public bathroom and someone brought him to Ridge. I was so heartbroken. It made me wonder how often that happens here since having children of your own is of such importance. Anyways, the nurses in the NICU saw that he had a soiled diaper and changed it, but he was still crying after. One of the nurses picked him up, but saw how interested I was in the welfare of the baby, so she passed him to me. It was one of the greatest moments ever. I felt like a mom, nurse, friend, relative, and doctor all in one. It was one of the most peaceful things I have done in my life. I held him to help him stop crying and then he fell asleep in my arms. Holding that baby for 40 minutes and interacting with the midwifes, made me rethink my career interest. The idea of being a midwife is becoming more appealing to me, but I would still like to be an OBGYN or neonatologist. The only thing that I am certain of is that I am interested in pregnancies and babies. The midwives in Ghana work right alongside the doctors and they do most of the natural deliveries which is why midwifery became a big interest of mine. The doctors in Ghana usually will do the C-sections. In America, the midwives are more for private and home deliveries outside of the hospital. In that case, I would rather be an OBGYN or neonatologist.

I had two more amazing days. On the first day, I witnessed a live vaginal birth! I was right next to the midwife delivering the baby. I learned so much about the process of labor and what happens as the baby moves down the vaginal canal. I learned about how they measure how many centimeters dilated a woman is as well as how to deliver the placenta after. The woman who we were observing was named Philipine. This was not her first pregnancy, so the midwives told me labor would go quicker. Even though it was not her first child, her contractions were so intense. She was yelling and thrashing and wailing. I was scared for her and the nurses. We stayed with her for hours until she delivered her baby girl. She actually had her when she was 8 cm dilated because she kept pushing even when the nurses told her not to. The baby was beautiful and I held her in my arms (See blog picture). Holding her made me tear up from happiness because I was there to witness life being brought into this world. The task of the doctors was finished and it was up to the mom from that point on to create a life for the child.

On the second day, I was an assistant surgeon in a C-section in the Obstetrics Theatre. I would never be able to do that in America as a third-year undergraduate student. The surgeons actually allowed me to help deliver the baby and help tie the sutures after delivery. One of the head surgeons, Dr. Davis, passed me the baby as it was taken out of the uterus! I cannot believe it. I held the baby just a second too long because the midwife yelled at me to put it down into the rolling cot. Then after the baby was taken out, the surgeon showed me how to tie the ends of the sutures. I have not even applied to medical school and I am assisting in surgeries! I will never forget that. I also witnessed two other C-sections. I am very grateful to the medical staff for teaching me as they performed each delivery as well as allowing me to participate. I learned about the levels of suture for C-sections. The surgeon also allowed me to touch the uterus and told me the names of the different parts. I was very excited.

This was a wonderful way to end my stay in Ghana. Every day, I was exposed to what each of my careers of interest would be doing. I saw what an OBGYN, midwife, pediatrician, and neonatologist would be doing daily. I am excited to start my classes in the fall and to go back to America to find my health-related experiential learning opportunities.

Chelsea Murphy 

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