Ghana Blog: My Friend Mahirah

July 10th, 2018

         Starting hospital work and shadowing last week was a little nerve-wracking. I was jumping into a running hospital with real patients who needed care, and I didn’t want to get in the way. I also didn’t know how the patients would react to a stranger especially one that looked so different. I walked into the 2nd floor ward full of 0 to 12 month old children with mixed emotions, but within the first hour I had made a friend. Mahirah, a 2 month old baby, had been hospitalized a couple of days before for a high temperature, but her very low weight was very concerning too. Her parents allowed me to start a conversation about why they were at the hospital, how long they had been there, and about her current health. I was then able to hold her and truly feel how light she was. Over the next 3 days, I checked back in with Mahirah and her mother to see her progress, hold, and feed her. Each day I would be hopeful that the number on the scale was larger so that the sweet little girl could be stronger and able to go home. By our last day, I had such a hard time telling Mahirah and her mom goodbye because of the bond that we had made so quickly. Leaving the hospital on Friday made me realize just how much I love patient connection and being able to stick with a patient for a longer period of time.

          Mahirah was admitted to the hospital for a high temperature, but the fundamental issue was that she wasn’t getting the nutrients and food she needed to grow and develop. This is crucial for infants because they are in a period of rapid growth unmatched at any other time in their life. It was in that moment that it clicked: I loved Mahirah’s case and the other cases on the ward because medicine and nutrition both had an impactful role. I loved the idea that all the knowledge I was learning in my Nutritional Sciences classes mattered significantly when I put them in the clinical setting. There would be no way to treat a child like Mahirah without understanding that the food and nutrients she eats affects every part of her health.

         This realization inspired me so much. Knowing that my dream to be a Physician’s Assistant could be married with my love of nutrition to better understand my patients and give them the best possible care blew my mind. I felt like maybe there was a real future for me in pediatrics, but more specifically, infants and toddlers. Having this experience in Ghana to try new things, get to know patients, and integrate nutrition as an important part of overall health has been so incredible in my pursuit of a healthcare career. I know that I will look back on Mahirah and her sweet mother as two people who made a huge impact on me, and I know that with the help of Princess Maria Louise Children’s Hospital Mahirah will grow up to be happy and healthy.

Allison Griner

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