Ghana Blog: New Continent, New Knowledge

July 7th, 2017

Well, to say I have surprised by Africa would be an understatement. I have not only been shocked at times but I can also say that I have acquired more information about my surroundings and myself than I ever thought possible. This expansion of knowledge throughout this past week is a part of this experience that I hold some of the most valuable.

For Tuesday through Friday of this week, I have had the blessing of shadowing at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra, Ghana. Tuesday was more of a day taken by Auntie Vic, the Head Matron of Nurses, to tour our group around the hospital and give us an introduction into each of the specialization departments. This was great because the following days, I was then able to select areas of the hospital where I was personally interested in observing. I immediately thought of how much I’ve loved past surgeries I’ve viewed while in the U.S. and wondered if that was possible at this hospital.

It turned out that Wednesday was the only day that this location performed any surgical procedures so I jumped at the opportunity to float around in the Post-Operation Recovery Unit. Although not within the surgeries themselves, this was unique since I had never followed patients into their experience post surgery. I got to gain knowledge on the exact amounts of SpO2 (“specific oxygen”) given to the child based on their size and age, as the 3-year-old little boy had less than the 10 year old boy. It was sad because I had to watch this 10-year-old boy complain of groin pain since he has just gotten a Stage II Fowler Stephens in that area. This was right after I watched the nurse use a syringe to extract a bit of blood that he had clotted in his veins noticed by the improper flow of IV fluid. She then adjusted the VTBI (“volume to be infused”) of his IV consisting of dextrose, sodium chloride, and water. Although she did not use the automatic IV draining machine but rather the gravity method of allowing gravity to push the fluid down and through the IV, the doctor suggested this automatic machine as being the best method since it allows for no air to be left in the bag. He said that this allows for all of the fluid to be drained out and used on the patient, as it should be. I was so intrigued by the professionals that are so well informed on the various methods used for these precious recuperating children.

On Thursday, I got to observe a department that my field of study of Nutritional Sciences is within but not exactly what I am working towards as a career: Dietetics. I was disappointed to find out that the dietician was not coming in for the day, but instead I got to follow around a dietetics intern while asking her questions. She had a plethora of knowledge to share with me on malnutrition and the combatting measures that this hospital takes toward this severe issue in children. When a child first enters this ward, they generally look for dehydration, saggy skin, edema, jaundice, paleness, etc. There are two types of formula that they use here to supplement babies for what nutrients they are missing out on, which include F75 and F100. There is also the “ReSoMal”, which stands for “rehydration solution for malnourishment” and is important is helping those babies who cannot keep the food they are being fed down in their stomach and vomit. Each have different formulas specific to the degree of SAM (“severe acute malnutrition”) present in the child. It amazed me however when I saw two different extremes today in the ward, one malnourished underweight 2 year old girl and another 1 year and 2 months old boy who was extremely obese. The dietetics intern told us that obesity in babies like this little guy comes from over feeding breast milk and a simple lack of knowledge on the mother’s part. I was awe-stricken by how blatantly evident this baby’s unhealthy weight was yet the absence of any realization by the mother. Overall, I took away just how much preparatory education mothers here in Ghana are lacking and how badly they need to be taught the specifics of what their baby needs at each age group.

This is one of the most humbling and brain-stirring experiences I have had the chance to embrace. Although it may not be what I traditionally learn about in the classroom, that is the best part about it since it is truly an “experiential learning” journey across the world.

XO Coming back to you smarter and satisfied beyond what I expected,

Rachel Cleypool

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