Written June 30th, 2014
I have spent the last week and couple of days in the consulting room at the hospital, which has been nice. I worked with the doctor, inputting the patient’s complaints and medications into the computer while the doctor would assess the patient. Other than the hundreds of malaria patients there was a few that stuck out to me. I saw one patient that was diagnosed with schizophrenia with little testing give a few math problems. I saw another patient who passed out in the consulting room and we had to lift him up, put him on the bed and give him some fluids.
I have worked with the same doctor for the past week and have gotten to know him very well. I leave Ghana in two days and it has caused me to reflect greatly on my stay here in Ghana. I have to say that it is an experience that has made me grow in ways that I could not foresee. I have had great encounters with some Ghanaians and some annoying ones but that is how people are universally; the experience changes, however, when you are in a new society, it takes a certain demeanor, delicacy, and cultural understanding to handle the situations that may happen. This, I think, also creates an alertness of behavior and deliberateness of action that does not occur at home from routine.
It is an interesting experience to live in a culture vastly different from our western culture of fast-paced materialism and see how it has affected the world, even the rural areas of Ghana as well as the urban areas.
I have made some great friends in Ghana that have helped me grow in many ways, and these friends I will miss greatly because, despite only being here for two months and moving to a new place about half-way through my stay, I have developed a bond, like family, because they have been my family for the past two months. I will miss my Ghanaian families. There is a unique bond that is made from an experience like this. I think it is characterized by almost instant openness between both parties, interest in each other that goes beyond particulars and to interest of health, comfort, and happiness. I have learned to be family to these wonderful people, to be happy when they are happy and to feel their sorrow in times of mourning, like when a family member of my Ghanaian family passed last week (not immediate-but the pain was still evident). Bonds like these cannot be easily loosed- neither by distance or time.
I have been given a great honor by the person who owns the school that I stayed at in the beginning of my stay in Ghana. I helped him dig the trench for the foundation to be laid for a new classroom that is being built. The classroom with house one of the incoming classes for next year and will be finished by August for the school year starting in September. He has given me the honor of having the classroom named after me and my family-it will be called the Williamson Classroom! I have never been honored in such a way and I am excited to know all about the students who will be in my classroom, and I am excited to watch the progress of ‘my kids’ ☺!!!
Written June 19, 2014
I have been very busy in Ghana. I recently came to Accra, the capital of Ghana and have been working in the clinic for the week. I was able to learn to do phlebotomies and test patients for malaria (in a different manner than before), sickle cell anemia, typhoid, urinalysis, stool analysis, pregnancy tests, full blood count, fasting and random blood sugar, and many other tests. I was then placed in with the doctor to help with consulting. The majority of patients who come in have malaria or typhoid. It is interesting to see healthcare in urban Ghana as compared to the rural areas as it is vastly different. The patients tend to have the same illnesses but the proficiency with which the urban areas are able to treat typhoid and malaria is far greater than the urban areas. I must also say that I have seen more hypertension in the urban areas as compared to the rural. I do not have any crazy stories to relay, but I have been incorporating myself quite nicely into the hospital and in the community here.
Before coming to Accra I went to visit an old castle that was used in the slave trade. It was very sobering to see and walk through the small rooms that would house about five hundred people at a time- where they would eat, sleep, and defecate. I was also allowed to see the dungeon where people would go to starve to death for misbehaving. It was very sad but it taught me a little about Ghanaian history and their road to independence, which happened within the last century.
Now, I live in the city so I have been able to experience the many food vendors that line the streets. My day is quite consistent in routine, I wake up around six in the morning, I get ready and then go to work and leave work around two. When I get home I go to eat lunch. Afterwards I meet my roommate and we then relax a little, and go to watch the soccer games at one of the many places that have a television around. So I am able to watch the games with the local people in my area of the city. Watching the US vs Ghana game was incredible. I love the world cup and I’m glad to be in a country that loves soccer as much as it does because after the first game has started in the afternoons, that’s is all that is on television all through Accra, every television on every corner is showing the soccer game. It’s a fantastic sight.
Written June 10, 2014
My past couple of weeks have been very nice, pretty quiet and I’m starting to form a routine for my days-which is interesting since I’m leaving at the end of the week to go to a City and work there. The past week I worked in maternity but it was quiet while I was there. Babies apparently don’t want to be born in the morning and early afternoon of the weekdays- they like to be born at nights and on weekends. I did learn how to palpate the stomach to determine the fetal length. I also had to listen for a fetal heartbeat, which was awesome to hear. I did blood tests on many of the pregnant women to check for HIV and syphilis. When I was out of the clinic I would go to the school where I live and play soccer with the children. The past couple of days I worked in the lab in the clinic. There I did more blood tests but the majority of these were for Malaria. There were also tests done for pregnancies, urinary track infections, blood typing, and hemoglobin count. The hemoglobin count was for pregnant women to see if they’d have to be referred for their delivery because if their hemoglobin count is low they may need to receive a blood transfusion, which cannot be done at the clinic. And after I play soccer with the kids at the school I go and play volleyball with some of the guys from the village.
On my weekends I’ve been active with my family. The weekend before last week, I traveled with my family to go visit a nearby village called Krobo. In Krobo we went to a mountain that had a beautiful view and a nice rock spring. On the top of the mountain many of the villages got together for singing and dancing and that was a blast. Sunday I rested with my family at home and played games with Hilda, the four-year-old girl that I live with.
This past weekend I went with my family to visit their sister. She is considered a prophetess and heals the sick. We visited her and her house was busy with many many people who stayed there to be healed. They all cleaned and cooked and did general living activities while I was there. It was nice to meet them all. I watched while she did her healing activities. She would spray a type of yellow perfumed soap on them and pray over them. She then took me to see a river but the river had been flooded so I was forced to see it through a bunch of large bamboo stalks. That Sunday I also enjoyed with the family and played with Hilda.
So as you see not much information to portray but I’m becoming more incorporated into the community, which is nice.
Written Thursday May 29th 2014
I’ve been helping in the Emergency Department of the Jukwa Health Clinic, but helping there also means helping admit people to be seen by the doctor for any normal visit because the emergency room is used probably once or twice a day, and most often for dressing or redressing some too-big-for-a-Band-Aid cut. But there have been a few incidences which I would like to recall to you. The first that occurred was brought on the bed of a large grey truck along with a handful of other people helping to carry him into the clinic. He had been in some sort of automobile accident but it did not seem that he had any lacerations. It just seemed that his legs were pulled out of their sockets at the hip. He was in terrible pain. I think I may have said earlier that they don’t seem to have any anesthetic. I think I’m wrong because I believe they gave him a shot of morphine. After that they just referred him because there was nothing that could be done at the clinic, he needed x-rays and some other services which we cannot provide there.
The second incident that came in was much more exciting due to the fact that it was more graphic.
A gentleman came in who had a very large laceration in his neck, just under his left ear. It was angled down as it came towards the front of his body. There was another laceration under the navel, and another on his left eyebrow. The blood from his neck ran all the way to his left foot. It soaked his pants which were denim with some thin stripes of alternating colors every two inches or so. The blood was also soaked into his belt so when they stripped him, taking off the belt was like wringing out a cloth; blood dripped from it quite easily. He was not wearing a shirt so that the blood covered the left of his torso evenly. The cut was deep, uneven and wide. From my estimation, it was probably three to three and a half inches long and about an inch and a half wide at its widest. I was surprised at how much blood he had lost and how he was still able to remain very conscious and aware of his surroundings and not seeming to feel ill. When I donate blood I feel nauseated fairly quickly due to the low body weight that I have. He was not a large man, about my size 5’7’’ or 5’8’’ He couldn’t have weighed any more than 140 lbs He got these lacerations from being in a fight, the person he was fighting used a broken bottle to make the largest laceration (that in his neck). He was very lucky that the person missed the carotid artery, if that had happened the blow would have been fatal. The nurse (for the doctor wasn’t there that day) stuck a bunch of gauze (not sterile, just unused-I don’t think they have any sterile tools or supplies) into the wound and applied pressure. She then, while still applying pressure, continued to wipe the blood from his body, and strip him of his clothes. He was then given a new cloth that he could wrap around his waist, they taped the gauze in his neck and he got into a taxi to be referred to the nearest city hospital in Cape Coast.
Ironically, his friend wore a shirt that said “Respect More Attack Less”
I also got to watch a circumcision, I didn’t feel quite ready to help with something like that yet so I let the experienced do the work.
Sadly during the weekend I got very ill and had bouts of both vomiting and diarrhea. There is not a much better way to get extremely dehydrated so I spent the rest of Sunday and Monday resting and rehydrating myself. And I found out that there isn’t anything like being sick away from home that makes someone home sick. I would have loved to have some ice cream and Gatorade and even air conditioning because sweating doesn’t help with rehydrating.
I was able to go back to the clinic on Tuesday where it has been very quiet the past few days which has allowed me to do some monotonous and extremely tedious work of sorting through the thousands and thousands of patients cards that are in no logical order. It is quite a mystery to me how they ever found a card that they were looking for.
This weekend I am going to be taking some trips and then next week I will be working in the maternity ward of the clinic. We’ll see what happens next along my journey!
Kan Kum and the Hanging Bridges with Some New Friends
Written Tuesday May 20, 2014
So far my stay in Jukwa is quite relaxing. My work schedule is about 25 hours a week which leaves a lot of spare time to play soccer with the kids that go to school next to where I live. The school is called Divine Kids Academy. There are some really cool kids here; they are very young, ranging from ages 1 to 6. I was able to help dig an area in preparation of a foundation that will hold another schoolroom. There are currently three. I have been told that the fourth will be named after me, which is an incredible honor. I am very surprised at how quickly they give such a gift.
At the clinic, I’ve been able to fit more comfortably into the environment. The nurses are all very nice and quite funny when they get together when the clinic is slow. I have currently been helping with admissions of patients into the clinic; doing simple tasks like taking blood pressure, temperature and weight. There have been a few interesting situations at the clinic, that are more exciting than the hundredth case of a fever due to malaria, which, sadly, is that common. One patient, a little boy who is about 5 years old came in with a laceration on his head. it was about four centimeters long and two wide, just above his left ear. It seemed to me that he got it while playing soccer because he wore cleats. What amazed me about the little boy was that he was stitched up with about three, large-knotted stiches all without any local anesthetic. Every time the nurse stuck his head with the pointed curve of the suture, he would not make any noise just tighten up all the muscles in his abdomen and hold his face with his two small hands. I faint heard a sniffle of him crying.
Another interesting case came in the day afterwards. A young girl about 3 years old came in just after having an epileptic seizure. It seems to me that it was just after by the way the father brought her into the clinic. He was carrying her with each of his hands under her armpits and her legs were wrapped around his waist, but her abdomen was angled away from his and her head was thrown back. He walked quickly straight to the small emergency room that we have which is just big enough for a stretcher type bed and a chair. When she was lying down she did not move. The nurses then proceeded to give her medicine, both were administered to the colon, one was a shot.
I am going to move around the different departments of the clinic each week. I believe that I am to work in the emergency department, the records department and in maternity, which seems to be the busiest.
I am able to get involved in the community which is nice. I have been able to play volleyball with some of the staff of the clinic and other village folk. Also, I am able to go to church here and the priest plays volleyball too. Everyone is very nice and since I am the only white person (bruni as they call me) in the town they all want to speak to me, it has allowed me to meet many interesting people.
I took a trip to a National Forest, Kan Kum, it is a rainforest. There is a hanging bridge path that juts off the side of a large hill and goes over the canopy of some of the smaller trees (but since it is hanging, is held up by very tall trees). At one point in the path, the furthest most point from the hillside, it turns abruptly back. At this spot, there is a view that I could have looked at for hours. It opens up and looks back south, on a sea of green, to the left, I could see the tail of a patch of hills fall to the plain towards my right. It was amazing to say the least. It was a very pretty view. I was also able to go on the nature walk that they have, through the path. On the walk they showed many trees that are native to Ghana and how they are used in society and medicine. One tree in particular (the same type of tree that happened to hold up the hanging bridge) was incredibly large. I haven’t seen Redwood trees before but I would liken them to Redwoods due to the immense size. The guide said that the ancestors of most Ghanians would carve out living spaces in the trees. The were incredibly gigantic. At the base of the trees the body had three projections outward in a triangular shape so as to steady it. It seems nature knows the best shapes for building enormous trees.
While I was at the forest I met a group of grad students from Michigan State University, they were a great group of people and I ended up going through the whole walk with them. They were in Ghana doing research, some on malaria, some on mental health, some on water sanitation. They were so kind and inviting me into their group that it was sad to say goodbye to some new friends, even after such a short sojourn in the forest.
My New Name
Written: Sunday May 11, 2014
My trip into Jukwa, which is where I am now, was really interesting and fun and it makes me laugh when I think about how I got here. When I stepped of the plane I got into a bus that brought me to ‘arrivals’ and the bus smelled of burning oil and rubber. The bus was full of the smoke but that smell was all through Accra. I got into Accra and went to my hotel, called The Mambo Guest House, which I believe, was just a hostel above a restaurant- The Mambo. The gentleman who met me from the airport and then stayed with me for the evening and brought me dinner, is named Kwame (it means he was born on a Saturday, and subsequently my name is Kwasi, which is the name given to males born on a Sunday).
The following morning, I went and exchanged some money and met the head of the organization with which I am volunteering. His name is Pastor Chris Nyame. We talked about some general information, similar to an orientation. Kwame and I then took the 3 and a half hour journey to Jukwa. The ride was full of terror and adrenaline. There does not seem to be a speed-limit so people drive whatever speed they choose, fast or slow. And passing someone who is going slower than you means going into the lane of oncoming traffic and hoping to get over in time before having a head on collision.
When I got to Jukwa I met Kwame’s family; they are my host family. Cecilia and Quassi (like me) are his parents. His sister is named Harriet, and his neice (a beautiful four year old little girl) is named Hilda. I ate dinner, which was goat (I split the tongue with Kwame) soup and some rice. I also had fufu, which is a food made from plantains and the root of a plant called cassava that they pound together with a giant mortar and pestle. Fufu is supposed to be swallowed and not chewed, it was pretty difficult to get used to it but it tasted pretty good! I had something similar to it the first night in Accra with Kwame but it was made from some other ingredients so it was not fufu.
The following morning I woke up and ate breakfast, an egg sandwich, and helped Kwame dig a long trench for a foundation. The family that I am staying with lives on the same property that they are building a school on. They run the school. They have three classrooms built but they are building another room for an auditorium. Afterwards I took my first bath from a bucket. It was a great experience-mainly because it was very refreshing! But the bath room (the literal bathing room) is an open-roofed room that has an old wooden 2×4 going across the doorway so a cloth can be placed for privacy. The difficulty of bathing from a bucket is twofold- its hard to get your hair wet enough to wash it as well as would have been liked. Also it is difficult to rinse your back because all the water falls from your hands as you try to get your back wet. But it was such a nice experience because the clear blue sky was above me and the cool water felt great on my hot, dirty, and sweaty skin. I then rested the rest of Saturday. Sunday morning, I got up and went to church (which it is nice fact that my host family is the same denomination that I am), came home, ate and took a nap. Sunday’s are a day to rest here, so that is what I did, I rested and read and ate. It was a very nice, relaxing day. It was mother’s day but I was not able to contact my mom, but I came into the city which is about forty minutes from Jukwa, it is called Cape Coast. Its on the coast of the ocean where Jukwa is north of the city. The city has internet cafés that I am going to use to post my blog entries.
Some side notes:
Water in Ghana is mostly consumed from a plastic bag which you bite off the corner and squeeze the 500 ml (1/2 L) contents into your mouth and drink. The first time I had it, it tasted like plastic but I do not taste the plastic anymore. Also the lizards in Jukwa are the length of my forearm and the body is the size of my palm. They are also somewhat colorful which makes me a little wary but they keep to themselves. The many chickens that stay here do not keep to themselves and are worse than dogs at trying to eat your food during mealtimes. There is a mother chicken with her seven little chicks that come around very often. There is also a set of two, white colored chickens that are the most annoying. Other than that there are many other chickens that stay around the back yard and eat whatever scraps are thrown their way.
The reason that I bathe with a bucket is because there is no plumbing, which also means that the toilet just goes into a huge hole into the ground. The cooking is done on fire and only in a few pots, Harriet does most of the cooking and she is a fantastic cook!
Four days in and I’m learning more than I expected!
I’ve gone through the very first step of my long trip to come. I’m typing this while sitting in terminal C7 of the International Airport in Jacksonville Florida with my flight to Miami in a little less than an hour– I have a strange combination of excitement, apprehension, nervousness, wonder, and hunger… I know this trip will be a great way for me to grow.
I met a very nice lady in the security line who was an alumni of The Florida State University. She got her bachelor’s of business in 2006 and is heading over to New York for a family wedding. I didn’t catch her name but she was very kind. I started talking to her because I decided to represent The Global Scholars Program of FSU by wearing the shirt they gave us, it happened to come in handy and allow me to make some new friends. 🙂
This trip is all due to the program that helped me get in contact with my host partner. I want to thank everyone in charge of the program, Joe O’Shea, Latika Young, and Crista Coven for all their help. Also thanks to everyone who helped me financially and supported me in my endeavors in any way. I cannot thank these people enough, and I have to apologize for my inability to thank everyone by name. But I must say I have the best family, my mother and father are wonderful, and my sister, Katlin, is the best! All day we ran errands to get ready for the trip, the errands included physically running through downtown to go to different banks and many, many, many stores. She helped me pack, which was, effectually, me throwing clothes at her, my two brothers, Blake and Luke, and my closest friend, David. I am truly blessed to have their support. I give you all my sincerest thanks. Much Love, Tyler