July 14th, 2017
About four weeks ago I arrived at the Atlanta airport with two bags stuffed to the brim with clothes, supplies, and more snacks than should have ever been allowed. I was ready to start an adventure I hoped was going to shape me both as a person and as a student. As I said in my previous blogs, there have been so many times during this month I saw something or had an experience with someone that helped me mature and opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world. However, I have not truly shared how this experience has shaped me as a student. I came on this trip knowing I am interested in the medical field, enjoy helping others, and want a career in a fast-paced environment. However, I hoped our time administering the community health clinics and shadowing in Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital and the Greater Accra Regional Hospital would give me better insight to a more specific department that caught my attention.
The clinics throughout our second week showed me that I enjoy that task of setting up and running a clinic from the start of inpatient processing through the final counseling phase. I loved having to work as a group to find the most efficient and effective way to get patients through the line. The shadowing at PML Children’s Hospital also gave me an amazing opportunity to shadow a public health doctor establishing a health education program in local schools, dietitians working with malnourished children, and in a newly established physical therapy department that works with about twenty-five children every day. Additionally, our time in this hospital gave me insight in the differences in healthcare between a developing country and the United States. One of the most prominent lessons I learned this week is health care should never involve excuses. The health professionals in this hospital are always innovating new ways to make the most of what they do have. Although there were times the newest technology or advanced equipment would make their jobs easier, they never stop working to offer the best care possible for their patients.
Finally, we are spending our last week shadowing in the new Ridge Hospital in Accra, which opened its doors to patients a little over two month ago. Within this state of the art facility, we have the opportunity to watch emergency, general, and pediatric surgeries, observe labor and delivery, and work with patients in the NICU and pediatric departments. These are opportunities that an undergraduate in the United States would never dream to be possible, but the doctors at Ridge were more than excited to involve us as much as possible. This became extremely prevalent to me on Wednesday. When we got to the hospital, Kerri, Chelsea, Jenna, and I headed to the labor and delivery ward with hopes we were going to learn more about pregnancy and the labor process as a whole. However, we left the hospital with a lot more than simply gaining new knowledge.
When we got to the ward, there was one patient, Philipine, in active labor. Ernestina, the midwife on duty explained to us that when she arrived to the hospital about three hours before she was five centimeters dilated and started the active labor phase. By the time we entered the room, she had progressed significantly, was now eight centimeters dilated, and was experiencing intense contractions. We spent the entire day in the room with Philipine, Ernestina, and a few nurses watching the labor progress and seeing first hand the process the body goes through. Although it was hard to watch the amount of pain she was in, it was amazing to be bedside with Philipine from the start to the end.
After about four hours, a doctor came to assess Philipine because the progression stopped after she was eight centimeters dilated. With the intense contractions she was experiencing and the minimal change in dilation, her cervix was beginning to harden and they debated moving her to the theater for a C-section. However, just minutes after the doctor left the room, Philipine had the most intense contraction we had seen all day. Seconds later, Chelsea, who happen to be watching at the right time, notified Ernestina that the baby’s head was beginning to come out. Even though she was not fully dilated and the staff was not prepped for birth, Philipine was determined to start pushing. Ernestina and nurses sprung into action, and without the slightest look of panic, they had Philipine holding her baby in minutes. Coming into this day, I never imagined that I would have the ability to stand directly over the shoulder of a midwife, watch a baby being brought into this world, and then aid the nurses tending to the baby after. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and I am still in awe at the fact this all took place during a day “in the classroom.”
These last four weeks have given me hands-on experiences that I believe are what truly shape you as a student. These experiences and the ability to talk with doctors, nurses, and administrators, who are so willing to help, have taught me more in a month than I could learn in years behind a desk. I feel as though I have transformed to a student who will also be the first to ask questions, will do anything to get my hands dirty in the work I am passionate about, and will never stop pushing myself to continue to learn. For this transformation and the life changing experiences I have found this month, I just want to say thank you, or better yet Meda ase, to the Ghana Service Learning Study Abroad Trip.
See you in a few days America!
Final Day at Ridge Hospital
10 surgeries, a live birth, and scrubbed into a C-section....what a time
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