Ghana Blog: Discharged

July 11th, 2018

For the third week of the Ghana Service Learning Program, we spent our time shadowing at Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital, locally known as PML. The children’s hospital is 92 years old and was the very place that Kwashiorkor, a disease that results from severe malnutrition and protein deficiency, was first discovered and diagnosed. Because of its historical past, the hospital specializes in the treatment of malnutrition cases in children seventeen years and younger. I chose to focus my time at PML shadowing and learning about things that were more unique to Ghana, like the malnutrition cases, that I will most likely not be exposed to in the United States. My week at PML was split up between the malnutrition ward, the HIV clinic, and the rehabilitation clinic for mothers with malnourished children. 

In the malnutrition ward earlier in the week, I was able to learn ample information about the causes, treatment, and clinical symptoms of malnourishment as well as experience the severity of some of the cases and the tender care that the nurses and dieticians provided to their patients. On Friday, I shadowed in the malnutrition rehabilitation clinic for mothers with malnourished children. The purpose of the clinic was to track the progress of the malnourished patients and provide mothers with the nutrient dense products used for treatment. Weekly weight and arm circumference measurements, edema examinations, as well as temperature and respiratory counts were used as the means to track the child’s progress. The arm circumference measurements were the main determinant for how malnourished a child was. The red section signified severe malnourishment at less than 12 centimeters, yellow was moderate malnourishment between 12 and 12.5 centimeters and finally green, more than 12.5 centimeters meant that the child had been cured and could be discharged from care. 

One of the last patients that I evaluated for the day was able to be discharged. I took the baby’s arm circumference then recorded it onto the patient folder without even realizing the importance of the number I was writing down. Upon reporting the number to my supervisor, he excitingly said “This baby is cured!".  I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of joy and was almost moved to tears looking down at this now healthy baby. Being able to witness the fruits of the doctors, nurses and dieticians labor was an enlightening experience because despite the challenges the hospital faces due to lack of resources, the treatments are working and lives are being saved. In that moment, the preconceived notion I had of hospitals in a developing country were broken down and I was able to marvel in the fact that although this hospital had differences from U.S. hospitals, the underlying motive was still the same and that was to save lives. The ingenuity the staff used when they were faced with a challenge truly revealed their skill level and ability to do their job. I aspire to obtain that level of skill in the future especially if I decide to practice in a rural area and may be faced with some of the same types of challenges. Observing the work being done at PML sparked an interest to look into different kinds of medicine or to even do non-profit work in developing countries after I become a licensed physician. The sense of passion carried throughout the entire staff at Princess Marie Louise Hospital was truly inspiring and at the end of the week I left excited to pursue a future in medicine with hopes to make a difference like the one being made at PML. 

Cheyenne Grooms

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