Ghana Blog: What are you actually doing in Ghana anyway?

June 29th, 2017 Contact: Alex Anderson  |  706-542-7614  | More about Alex

Back again for another update! 

The first week we were here, we did a lot of in-country orientation, tourism (going to Mole National Park for a safari, going on a tour of the Ashante king's palace), and just getting used to Ghana. We spent a lot of time on a bus driving to different places, literally driving through 5 of the country's 10 regions in one day. 

Of course at some point, we have to actually start doing what we came to do. This first portion of the trip, we are doing free health clinics in 6 different communities around Ghana. We started in Kumasi last Friday, and continued in Suhum, Tutu, and Mampong for the beginning of this week. Let me tell you, that first day in Kumasi was c r a z y. There were probably close to 50 people waiting there when we arrived at 7:30 am. By the end of the day, we had seen over 250 patients. The day went by incredibly fast just because we were so busy! I'm exaggerating but it honestly feels like I might've learned more in those 6 hours than in some of my courses at Tech...

When a patient comes into the church (all of our screenings have taken place in a church in each of the villages, mostly because that's the easiest way to spread news), we start by measuring their height, weight, and BMI. Then, we take their blood pressure. At the third station, we prick their fingers to get blood samples to test for blood glucose and hemoglobin levels. Blood glucose is important for screening for diabetes, and the hemoglobin measure screens for low iron levels or anemia. Then, the patients see our professor, Dr. Anderson, for nutrition counseling. If the patients has preexisting hypertension or diabetes, or if their screenings showed high blood pressure or unhealthy blood glucose levels, we'll get another blood sample to test their cholesterol. This test measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and tri-glycerides. Dr. Anderson then talks the patient through what each of their numbers mean, and how to change their diet or lifestyle to reach healthy numbers. Oftentimes, this is the first time these people have learned that they are anemic, malnourished, hypertensive, or obese (and yes, we've seen every range of that spectrum here).

After 4 days of doing this, and two more to go, it would be really easy to get bored, doing the same thing in every village. But it turns out that every place is a little bit different. Friday, we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off (sore subject, considering we literally saw chickens being beheaded in the Kumasi market........). We were getting the hang of everything for the first time, pricking people's fingers, and learning the best ways to calm someone down *who doesn't speak your language* while you're about to poke them with a needle. Monday, local schools were closed for Eid al-Fitr, so we spent at least an hour playing games and dancing with the kids. We were giving away a ton of stickers for the brave little ones who were staying strong while we literally made them bleed. Tuesday, we got into the best rhythm yet and saw 150 people. We learned that having someone DJ from a Bluetooth speaker was the move. We were surrounded by kids on recess shouting "abroni!" ("foreigner") at us. Wednesday, I met a 100 year old woman who was energetic and brave and cheerful (she's the one in the cover photo). I took 8 people's cholesterol levels in 40 minutes (that's a lot). I saw the highest blood pressure AND blood glucose I've ever seen on two humans. 

I also had an overpowering feeling that I'm in the right place doing the right thing. I was just sitting there recording the data and realized that I was doing something that felt overwhelmingly right. By NO means am I saving the world or anything, but I feel like I know what I'm doing, I'm getting in a groove, hitting milestones I never imagined I'd get to this early in my life. I get to help people who may have never gotten their blood pressure taken or who may have no idea what foods to eat or that exercise is essential. I can't get over how cool it is that I get to do this much hands on patient care as an undergraduate student. Moral of the story, I'm absolutely loving what I'm doing here. 

Until next time,

Kerri Reid 

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