June 2010 Archives

Monday- June 28, 2010

Monday- June 28th, 2010

It's my second to last week here, and I am eager to experience more. I think that I have seen an incredible amount so far, but there is still so much I want to accomplish before I leave in less than two weeks.

Compared to the previous two weekends of traveling, this weekend was different. It was a bit boring staying around here for the weekend, but it was nice and relaxing. Friday night a bunch of us went out for some drinks at a local bar called "virgin lips." Then on Saturday, we were going to go to the waterfalls again, but it was raining, so we decided to hang around town and check out the local shops.

Saturday night was a lot of fun- Ghana played USA in the world cup for the quarter finals, and Ghana won!!!! It is unbelievable how crazy the people here get about soccer games- it is their life here. We went to a restaurant to watch the game in town which had "pizza" so they say. After three weeks of no American food, it was nice to have a pizza- which here is probably equivalent to a cheap freezer burned frozen pizza in the states. But it still tasted good- boy do I miss American food! Anyways, after the game got over we went to walk downtown and it was absolutely insane. It seemed like every single person in Hohoe was walking and parading down the streets. If USA won the game, I doubt there would be any type of celebration like they have here. It was so nice to see Ghana win, even though I am from the USA, but I rather see Ghana win it- they are the only African team left in the world cup.

There were about 20 new volunteers that came on Saturday to our home base. It has been nice to get to know them so far. Compared to our group that came together three weeks ago- we were all college students, this group that came Saturday ranged from an 8 year old to a 61 year old. It has been interesting getting to know the new volunteers and I look forward to getting to know them better in the next two weeks before I leave. However, it seems like we have our group, and the new people have their group- it's bound to happen.

For placement today, we went to teach at the Holy Rosary School. Today was somewhat different though. Instead of teaching hygiene and malaria, we had two older classes today, so we taught about STD's and HIV/AIDS. The two classes were junior high- about 12-13 years old. It was somewhat difficult for us because this is a Christian school and we were warned that we had to be careful about what we say- since they learn about abstinence and being faithful, not really about condoms and having sex.

We first went over STD's and how they are transmitted, the signs/symptoms, treatment, and prevention. The students seemed somewhat surprised to hear these things and they seemed not sure of what an STD was. They did not have any questions, so we proceeded to talk about HIV/AIDS. When we got to HIV/AIDS, we split the class into four groups- each to come up with a list of the same categories as STD's and malaria, so for HIV/AIDS we also had: signs/symptoms, treatment, prevention and also resources. Once the groups discussed with one another and started to brainstorm, I noticed a lot of misconceptions about HIV. Some thought that HIV comes from mosquitoes, and others thought it came from "deep kissing" (French kissing as we call it). We cleared up these misconceptions and told them that HIV is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids during intercourse, sharing needles, coming in contact with an open wound, etc. We then made sure that they know the signs/symptoms of HIV, even though there may not be some for a little while after you are infected, but we made sure the kids know that if they have unprotected sex, they need to get tested at the hospital.

Quite a few students also thought that if you get HIV, you die very soon. We told them that if they get treatment then they can live a long life like a normal person would, but if you don't get treated, your immune system shuts down and you can die quickly. Another misconception was that some kids thought touching can give you HIV which we cleared up for them and made sure they knew that if you touch someone you will not get HIV, only if you are in contact with an open wound. Some other students thought that if a woman has HIV, she cannot get pregnant. We clarified this by saying that if a woman has HIV, she can most definitely get pregnant and have a healthy baby, but she should be tested as she is pregnant to make sure her baby does not get it transmitted to them.

Through all of the misconceptions, we were very happy to have a lot of questions from the students. It was a good feeling to know that they asked questions and learned something. There are a lot of stigmas about HIV/AIDS out there, and it needs to be cleared up. Although the students asked a lot of questions about unprotected sex, it was somewhat difficult because the headmaster and teacher were in the classroom with us, and we were supposed to promote abstinence, but of course kids will have sex, so we had to tell them the truth about what can happen if you have sex and that they should use a condom. The headmaster and teachers did not seem too happy with that, but it is the hard facts that they had to get over- teens will have sex no matter how religious of a school they go to. It is better to have them know what can happen to them if they have sex rather than keep teaching them to abstain.

Anyways, even though we had a similar schedule to our day teaching at a school, it was definitely different in the fact that we had an older age group and a more serious subject. All in all, I feel like it was a productive and fulfilling day at the school. I am not exactly sure what the schedule is for tomorrow- we were supposed to be teaching at another school, but we really want to go to the RCH or bone setter, so hopefully that will happen.

Friday- June 25, 2010

Friday- June 25th, 2010

I cannot believe that I have been here for three weeks already. Time has been going by extremely fast. There are three volunteers that left tonight- they were also here for three weeks, and it was sad to see them leave, we all became so close. I definitely could not leave now- it would be way too early. I think 5 weeks will be the perfect amount of time. This week, I have become very conferable here and have made good friends with all the other volunteers.

For placement today, we went to teach students at the Presbyterian school about hygiene and malaria. We taught three classes: two 4th grade classes and one 5th grade class- each with about 40 students in each class. This was the second week that we have been teaching at schools and it has been extremely rewarding. Next week, I will be teaching again at the school on Monday. Tuesday, I will hopefully get to go to the RCH center, Wednesday I will be at the hospital, Thursday is the Ghana independence day so I heard that we are not having placement since everything is closed, and Friday we will be either teaching or at the bone setter.

Tomorrow, a few other volunteers and I will be going to the Wli Waterfalls. We went there two weeks ago, but we only got to see the lower falls. It was about a 30 minute hike when we first went, but tomorrow it will be a 2 hour hike to get up to the upper falls. It is supposed to be beautiful up there and have an amazing view, as well as a nice place to swim.

Thankfully we have our water back in the house. It came back on late last night- it felt so good to take an actual shower without a bucket. Having to take bucket showers really made me feel how the locals live. It is difficult to take a shower with a bucket, especially because you have to conserve the water and not waste it- but I could get used to it if I had to. Tomorrow there are also new volunteers coming, I am looking forward to meeting them and where they come from.

As I finish my third week in Ghana, I must say that I have having the time of my life. My placement has been a bit confusing and constantly changing, but I am really enjoying the variety and how good I feel inside that I am teaching children about hygiene and the prevention of malaria. Seeing the bone setter and going to the hospital this week was definitely an eye opening experience for me. I will never complain about the health care in the United States ever again. People do not know what the health care system is like in third world countries and how lucky they are just to have a clean hospital and knowledgeable doctors. I must say that I will never forget the things that I have seen this week.

Thursday- June 24, 2010

Thursday- June 24th, 2010

So today I went to the bone setter. I must say that it was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, but at the same time, it was the coolest thing I have seen. Megan and I arrived at the bone setter a little past 8AM. We saw the sign that said "Domsec Herbal, Acupuncture Clinic, and Research Centre," and walked down a narrow alley to the office to meet Michael- the owner of the place and also the bone setter. We talked with him for quite a while about ourselves and he gave us information on what he does and how he performs his bone settings, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.

I asked him the process of getting patients to his clinic, and he said that when the hospital has a patient with a broken bone, they send them to him to get it fixed, so he said he technically works for the hospital since they pay him for seeing patients. I also asked him what type of schooling he went thru to become a bone setter. He said that he finished high school in Hohoe, but never went to any university. Instead, he gained all his knowledge from his father who was also a bone setter. This was quite interesting to me that he never went to any school for this, yet when he talked with us he knew so much about the human body and diseases. He kept talking to us about acupuncture and how it cures all sorts of diseases and helps with pain. Even though I had no interest in acupuncture, it was interesting to see how it works and the different nerve points that correspond to organs and regions of the body. Who knows if it actually works, but he said he swears by it.

After a long talk with Michael in his office, he said that it was time to start the bone setting. He walked us to an alleyway which was their "examination/operation room." There were two wooden chairs and a wooden board on the floor for the bone setter to do his work. Michael introduced us to his son who he is teaching how to be a bone setter, just like his father and grandfather.

The first patient walked out of another alleyway which was the waiting room. The older man limped over to the chair with his cane and sat down. Michael unwrapped his knee and there was a green knee over his kneecap- about 4 inches down from where it should be. I could see the femur protruding the skin, along with the kneecap and the rest of his leg which was down a few inches from where it should be. Clearly, it was severely dislocated, but all the bone setter did, was keep it wrapped so that it can pop back into place. He rubbed some herbal medicine onto his knee area- he said that it was some type of tree bark and leaf extract that supposedly helps with pain.

The second patient was one that I will never forget. She was a middle aged woman whose lower leg was wrapped and had a wooden splint around her foot. She sat on the wooden board on the floor and Michael and his son both came over to examine her splint and bandages. They proceeded to take the bandages and splint off of the woman's leg. Once they unwrapped the bandages, there was a huge green leaf that was wrapped around a portion of her lower leg. I was in total shock once they removed the leaf (which is supposed to help keep the wound clean and moist.). I will try not to get into too much details because of how disturbing this was (I will post some pictures onto photo bucket- but they are very disgusting so beware), but there was about a three inch wide wound that stretched almost all the way around her lower leg. The wound was completely open. I could see the tibia split into two pieces- one piece protruded across out of the wound, and the other straight up perpendicular to the fibula how it should be. There was exposed tissue, fat, bone, and some green substance around a portion of the tissue- possibly an infection. Actually, I would expect there to be an infection because of how much was exposed. Michael used a clothed drenched with hydrogen peroxide and iodine to clean the wound and bone, then wrapped a fresh new leaf around the wound and bandaged it back up to put into the splint. This had to be one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen in my life- mainly because of how much was exposed and that I could see the bone and everything inside her leg. I don't think that I could ever get that image out of my mind.

Following the woman, there were several other patients. There was a few that had dislocations, and others that had fractures. You really need to see the pictures of this- it pretty much describes itself.

The last patient that we saw was a young man that had what looked like elephantiasis. Even though his leg looked like he had elephantiasis, it seemed as though it was just extremely swollen. He was very skinny to start off with, and one leg had to of been 4 times the size of the other leg. He seemed to have broken either his tibia of fibula and it has not been fixed, just severely swollen to the point where he cannot walk on that leg. Michael proceeded to rub a brown gooey mixture of tree bark and plant extract on his leg which was supposed to reduce the swelling and help with pain. That patient really needs to go to a real hospital and see an orthopedic for some help- or else he will have to amputate his leg.

As with all the other patients I saw today, it is very sad because in our western medicine this can be treated fairly easy. But here, they do not believe in western medicine. They believe in their herbal practices and the natural way of healing. Maybe it works some of the time, but it is not scientifically safe to be doing this to patients where their lives can be at stake with infections.

I am really looking forward to returning to the bone setter next week. Michael was explaining to me and also showed me pictures of the process of shaving bone and also amputating. The pictures looked like something out of a horror movie- on a wooden board strapped down and using a hand saw on the patient. It does sound disturbing, but I would like to see this- he said probably next week he will have a patient's bone to shave or limb to amputate so he will show me.

After my placement today, two other volunteers and I went to visit the school for the deaf. This was a very rewarding experience for me. I was a little skeptical at first because I do not know any sign language at all, but once we got there, the kids taught us everything in sign language. There must have been over 100 kids at the school ranging from 6 years old to 20 years old. We played some soccer and Frisbee with them for about an hour, and then we hung around the campus and they all taught us sign language by first teaching us how to sign each letter of the alphabet and then how to finger spell. Also, they would try to communicate by pointing to things and signing it, or trying to write it on my arm. Not only did I learn the alphabet, but I also learned how to sign: hello, my name, how are you doing, I am fine, thank you, sorry, good night, United States, Ghana, and several animals. This was an extremely rewarding experience of hanging out with them for a few hours- I will definitely go back to play outside with them and learn more sign language.

Wednesday- June 23, 2010

Wednesday- June 23rd, 2010

Wow, what an incredible day I had. Today was definitely the best day of placement thus far. This morning, I decided to go to the hospital to try and see a surgery, since Wednesdays are common surgery days. When I arrived at the hospital around 8AM, I went straight to the surgery department to see what was scheduled today. They told me that they have a patient coming in around 9AM with a hernia to be removed. In the mean time, I went to the pharmacy for an hour to observe. Once I got there, the pharmacist named Solomon was extremely friendly and explained the whole process of what he does and how he became a pharmacist.

Solomon started me off with a quick tour of the small stock room (I forgot to mention it was air conditioned, felt so nice!) and then he had me count pills. Every day, the pharmacy dispenses about 40 packets of vitamins to pregnant women in their first trimester. They are given a one month supply of a multivitamin, vitamin c, folic acid, and ferric sulfate (iron). For almost an hour, I labeled the small plastic bags with the proper vitamin/supplement, filled 30 pills in each bag, and placed them on the counter to be given to the patients. Basically, all I was given to count with was a metal spoon. I scooped up some vitamins in the spoon and poured them into the plastic bag. I accidentally dropped one in my lap and the pharmacist told me to use it and put it back into the bag for the patient. I then saw the pharmacist technician count some pills also and used his bare hands, not even washing before dispensing- definitely would not be allowed in the states. I asked Solomon what the most popular medication dispensed here is besides vitamins- he stated that ibuprofen and acetaminophen are the most popular, along with anti-malaria drugs. Also, Solomon told me that to become a pharmacist in Ghana, you only need 4 years of undergraduate classes. It was interesting to see how the pharmacy department works, but definitely loved the air conditioning the most!

I came back to the surgery department at 9AM. The patient was waiting, prepped for surgery, but no sign of the doctor. As I mentioned before in my journal entry, there are no particular surgeons per say at the hospital- the doctors do their own surgeries. Around 10AM, Dr.Dankoo finally showed up. At this time, the patient has been under anesthesia for over an hour. Once the doctor arrived, the nurses had me go scrub up which consisted of me putting on a full surgical gown, gloves, a hair net, and a surgical mask. There were two other nurses and I that first went into the surgical theater to prep the patient for surgery. Already under anesthesia, the man was laying there fully naked. The nurses and I washed the patients groin area with halothane and methylene to prep for the doctor's incision. Dr. Dankoo arrived into the surgical theater all ready to perform. He first made about a two inch long incision in the patients left groin area. The hernia seemed to be in the lower small intestine, almost near the rectum. About five minutes into the surgery, the doctor pulled out a somewhat large cylindrical shaped bump connected to the intestines. He snipped the hernia off and that's when I got splattered on my gown with some blood. At that time, I was standing right next to the doctor, right over the patient. There sure was a lot of blood, but boy was it cool to watch. The doctor then stitched up the patient and in no time he was off to the recovery room. The whole surgery took only about 10 minutes, it was extremely fast.

Right when the hernia patient was finished, the head nurse notified the doctor that there was a c-section to be done now. This was when I got so excited! I have always wanted to see a c-section and I finally had the opportunity to see one! I had to change my gown since I had some blood on it from the last patient, so we scrubbed in again, and the woman came in on the stretcher. We removed her clothes and transferred her to the surgical table in the theater. While she was given some anesthesia for pain, we cleaned and prepped her huge belly for the incision. Dr.Dankoo came back into the surgical theater and had me stand right next to him. The incision he made must have been about 8 or 9 inches long. I won't get into too many details since some reading may have a weak stomach for this, but as he cut open her belly, a whole lot of fat and blood started to gush out. The doctor put the fat to the side and worked his way into the uterus. This was a huge pink ball in which the baby was inside. He cut open the uterus and tried to pull out the baby head first. I was in awe and so happy once I saw the head start to come out of the mother's uterus. The doctor and surgical nurse each grabbed a side of the opening of the uterus and pulled to make the opening larger for the baby to come thru. The doctor shoved his hands around the baby and pulled out the crying beautiful little girl. The nurse cut the umbilical cord, showed the mother her new daughter, and transferred the baby to the table to get cleaned up. At that time, I almost had tears in my eyes because of how happy I was to be there experiencing a live birth.

The doctor then proceeded to finish the surgery of the mother. There was still a huge pink ball in the mother- the uterus. The doctor stitched back up the uterus and then proceeded to stitch up the mother. This took quite a while since the doctor made a large incision on her belly. After the doctor finished stitching up the mother, she headed back to the recovery room to be with her daughter.

This was definitely the best experience of my trip so far. It was such a beautiful site seeing life come into this world. I will never forget my first time observing a birth.

Tuesday- June 22, 2010

Tuesday- June 22nd, 2010

Today I was supposed to go to the RCH for my placement, but when we just about to leave, Makafui was notified that they are closed today for an in-service workshop for their staff. So instead of going to the RCH, we went to help build a school. Even though I was disappointed that we did not go to the RCH, I had a great experience at the school. We traveled about 45 minutes to a town called Wegbe- a small, very poor village. While we met with the chief of the village for a few minutes, he explained that the village has about 600 people- and about 75 kids without a school.

Presently, they do not have any classrooms- just outside chairs. They cannot afford to build a school, so they rely on volunteers and community help to do construction. So far, the school has about 3 feet of wall built out of mud. They are planning on building a 9 foot wall all around for the classrooms, so today they needed more mud. I never knew how to make mud to build a house before, so this was a new experience for me. We first had to pick axe the ground to loosen the dirt, and then dig with a shovel about 4 feet down. We created a nice layout for a swimming pool- if only it could be one because it was incredibly hot outside. Anyways, we mixed the wet dirt with the right amount of water, then made the mud into a snowball sized ball and then slapped them on top of the existing mud bricks so that they are stacked. After about 3 hours of this, we were all dripping wet from sweat and exhausted. The locals gave us freshly picked bananas which tasted amazing, and we went back to the home base

Lunch today was rather interesting, something new which I loved. We had Banku (a local favorite) which is basically raw dough which tasted sour- but we mixed it with a soup that they made us which was so tasty- it was a ground peanut chicken soup with onions, pepper, and rice of course. I don't think I have ever had soup in such a hot climate before- but it sure was good. Supposedly, we are supposed to try Grasscutter sometime this week. Grasscutter is a large rodent- looks kind of like a gopher, its a local popular food- should be yummy!

After lunch, we took about a 1 hour drive to the Monkey sanctuary. It was rainy, so it was sort of a short trip. We arrived into the village which was all monkey themed, and met our tour guide. He took us about 20 meters into the forest to two large trees where there were about 15 monkeys hanging around the trees. We were all given two bananas to feed them. It was the cutest thing to have the monkeys come right next to me and reach for the banana, peel the banana and take a bite of it. I have never been so close to a monkey before, it was awesome!

All in all, today was a fun and eventful day. When I first found out in the morning that we were not going to the RCH, I was a bit disappointed, but it was rewarding to help the village build the school. Tomorrow I will be going to the hospital- they are supposed to have a lot of surgeries on Wednesdays, so hopefully I will be able to sit in on one!
Also I forgot to mention- the past 2 days the whole town has been out of running water. Last night was the first time in my life that I took a shower with a bucket of water- very interesting experience. Hopefully the water will come back on in a few days, we have bottled water at the home base for us so I am alright for drinking, but for showering and flushing the toilet, it sure has been interesting.

Monday- June 21, 2010

Monday- June 21st, 2010

As I start my third week of placement, I am excited for a different experience. The first week, my placement was at the hospital. Last week, my placement was mixed between the hospital and teaching at the schools. This week however, will be different. Today, I was at an elementary school in town where we taught hygiene and malaria prevention to three classes- 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Tomorrow, I will be at the RCH (Reproductive Child Health) center, Wednesday at the hospital, Thursday at the bone doctor and herbal medicine guy, and Friday teaching at the schools. I am really looking forward to tomorrow at the RCH. We will be checking the health of babies to make sure they are being fed properly and also immunized. Also, we will be going to the Monkey sanctuary in the afternoon, should be fun!!

I forgot to mention about this weekend- what an amazing trip I took with the other volunteers to Cape Coast. It was a 9 hour drive from Hohoe- totally worth it! We arrived Friday night at the resort- crammed 11 of us into a family suite which holds 6 in the beds, but we all fit in there somehow. The resort was gorgeous- right on the beach, I took lots of pictures. Saturday morning we went to the canopy walk which was 7 wooden suspended small bridges that you walk across way up over the trees. It was quite scary, but a ton of fun!

After the canopy walk, we got back to the resort and hung out by the pool and the beach, and of course had a few cocktails and beers. Then we decided that we wanted to go see the slave castle. This was definitely an emotional experience. I remember a little bit in middle school about studying the slave trades in Africa, but it was completely different seeing it in person. We arrived there around 4PM and took a 2 hour guided tour through the castle. The tour guide was very thorough and took us thru every room and area of the castle. It was interesting that Barack and Michelle Obama were there in July 2009- they had a plaque up from when they went there, and also a wreath they put down in the dungeon for remembrance of the slaves. Going down into the dungeon was very sad to see. The tour guide gave us an overview of what happened in there. There were two dungeons- male and female. They both were about a 20 by 20 foot room which kept a minimum of 300 people in there. The most disturbing thing that the tour guide pointed out was the walls had different coloring and was more corroded about 2 feet above the ground. This was because there was 2 feet of human waste piled on the floor. The slaves had to urinate and defecate in that room on the floor with everyone, and it was never cleaned. Another disturbing area was the "slave cell." This was a tiny room with no windows where up to 50 slaves were placed there to die. They would just lock them in there with no food, water or air- just left to die. It was really sad to see the scratch marks on the wall and floor of people begging to get out.

After the slave castle, we went back to the resort and we all had a nice dinner. Well, mine was amazing- I got African lobster! It was three grilled lobster tails with chips (French fries). It did cost $30 USD for that dish, but totally worth it. We then had a small bonfire on the beach, a few drinks and had a great time. Then on Sunday, I went horseback riding on the beach! It was such an awesome experience. I was so scared when I first jumped on the horse and went onto the beach- I kept thinking I was leading the horse into the water, but the stable boy that was with us said that he takes the horses swimming in the beach all the time, so I guess it was alright to get them a bit wet. Anyways, it was quite an experience and I had an amazing weekend.

Pictures of Shawn in Ghana

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Shawn Shopping.jpg

Shopping in Ghana

Shawn and someone from Ghana.jpg

Shawn getting his new shirt in Ghana

Shawn with kids from Ghana.jpg

Shawn and the kids

Shawn's picture of waterfall in Ghana.jpg

The amazing sites of Ghana

Friday- June 18, 2010

Friday- June 18, 2010

Since today has been a very long and tiring day, I am going to write a brief entry since it is now about 12:30 AM my time and we are waking up in 5 and a half hours. My placement today was awesome- we taught two classes at the Global Academy in Hohoe. Once we got there, we met the headmaster and were assigned a class. This class was fairly small- about 15 students, mainly older- I believe 5th or 6th graders. They were extremely polite and willing to hear what we had to say. The other class had about the same amount of students, but was a younger class- I believe they were 3rd grade. Both classes asked many questions about malaria. It is interesting that everyone has at least heard about malaria here, but they do not know exactly what its from and how you can get it. Some students think that you can get malaria from the air- coughing/sneezing on someone, and another student thought that mosquitoes can give you HIV and malaria can turn into HIV. It was rewarding that we clarified all of the misconceptions about malaria and taught them how it is transmitted from mosquitoes to humans, and the signs/symptoms, treatment, and prevention. It definitely was a productive day teaching two classes, but we had to cut it short since we had to leave early for cape coast since it's a long drive.

We finally arrived at cape coast around 8PM tonight- it was a 9 hour drive from Hohoe, but totally worth it. We left the home base at 11AM and stopped at the Accra mall which was about a 4 hour drive from Hohoe. It was so nice to have a pizza! Mmmmm, boy was it good. We walked around the mall some, and then hit the road again for about another 4 hours to cape coast.

Once we arrived here at 8PM, we checked into our master suite for the 11 of us (we only told them there was 6 of us staying there, but oh well, we all fit with plenty of room). Even though it is at night, it is absolutely gorgeous here. Our suite is a chalet right on the beach, it's so nice! We unpacked, and then went to the restaurant which was an inch from the sand of the beach. There was a live jazz group with a guy playing the saxophone and another playing the piano. It was so nice to just hangout with the friends having dinner, drinking some good Star beer (my new favorite beer- its African beer). Since we decided that we are going to wake up at 6AM, we all came back to the suite and hungout for a little bit and most going to sleep, except some late night dwellers and I in the living room.

In the morning, we will be going to the canopy walk which is a huge wooden walking bridge over a valley- supposed to be very cool. Then, we will be going to the slave castles which is supposed to be a must see, and then of course, we will come back and lounge at the beach and relax. Sounds like a fun day to me tomorrow! I better get some sleep, goodnight!

Oh yeah, and check out my pictures on photobucket!

http://photobucket.com/Shawn-Ghana


Thursday- June 17, 2010

Thursday- June 17, 2010

What a busy, tiring, yet rewarding day I had today. The four other volunteers and I that were in the hospital had a different placement today. We went to St. Francis School in Hohoe. This school had about 800 students ranging from grade 1 thru 12. Today, we went to three classrooms- grade 3A, 4A, and 5B. Each grade is split into two classes- ex. 3A, 3B, and each class has about 40-50 students in a class.

After a full day of researching and preparing yesterday, we were ready to teach the students all about hygiene and malaria. We figured that today, since we are teaching a young group of kids, we will just focus on hygiene and malaria, not stds/hiv because sex is a very touchy subject in a Christian school like this. We will save the sex talk for the older kids.

When we arrived at the school, we met Fallo- the Headmaster. He was extremely welcoming and took us on a little tour of the campus along with introducing us to the teachers. After he showed us around the school, we went into our first classroom to start teaching. When we all walked in, there were about 50 children in a small classroom with old wooden desks and benches that two students shared. We walked in and all of the students together welcomed us by saying "Welcome teachers, you are welcome to our school." We all introduced ourselves and got right into teaching them about hygiene. We went over 4 areas of hygiene. The first is showering. We told them the proper way to shower- at least once a day, preferably in the morning for at least five minutes. We had a bar of soap and a brush that is popular here to use, and demonstrated (not naked, over our clothes of course) the proper way to wash your body and head/face.

Then we showed them how to brush their teeth- we made sure that they knew to brush their teeth twice a day- morning and night, for at least 2 minutes each time they brush. We demonstrated how to brush their teeth properly (we stopped by a local store before we got to the school to pick up supplies- we got a toothbrush and toothpaste for under a dollar- definitely the nastiest toothpaste that I have ever tasted), but at least they now know how to brush their teeth properly. Next, we demonstrated to them how to wash their hands. We had two bowls- one for dirty water and one for clean water to rinse. We had them sing the happy birthday song twice so that I washed my hands for 30 seconds, scrubbing between their fingernails and all over their hands. Then, we gave them some other important hygiene tips for this area. We told them to always wear shoes or sandals- never walk around barefoot, and if they have a cut, make sure to clean it with soap and water and put a band-aid (plaster they call it here) on the cut so they don't get an infection.

Since malaria is the most prevalent disease in this area, we made sure to touch on this topic with the students. We first asked the class what they knew about malaria to see what information and misconceptions they had. There was a lot of "Malaria kills you," "Malaria comes from mosquitoes," and "Malaria gives you HIV." We explained to them that malaria does kill if it is not treated, it does come from mosquitoes, and it does not give you HIV. We then had a group activity where we split them up into four groups and had each group write down what they knew about the four categories of malaria: Signs/Symptoms, Modes of transmission, Treatment, and Prevention. One student from each group read off what their group came up with in front of the class. After each student said what their group had for answers, we went over what was right and what was wrong. Most of the students had the right ideas about what to do- especially for treatment; most students knew to go to the hospital and not to take any medicine from a friend or in town, only from a doctor in the hospital. We told them the signs/symptoms to look for so that they can go to the hospital if they have these symptoms. Then we had the students do a hygiene word search in groups of two which they very much enjoyed.

The students were extremely polite and cooperative- which helped a lot while teaching. While leaving, they all sang a cute song that went something like "Thank you teacher, thank you teacher, thank you for giving me knowledge today teacher." Something like that, but it was so cute. We then repeated the same lesson for two other classes.

It was a great feeling to know that I taught about 150 kids today how to live a cleaner and healthier life, and prevent them from getting malaria. Even though I missed the hospital today, I felt that I made a difference and that was an awesome feeling.

Tomorrow we will be going to two classes at the Global Academy in downtown Hohoe- to teach the same lesson to I believe 5th and 6th graders. After we are finished, we are going to come back to the home base and head out for our weekend trip! 11 of us will be going to the cape coast this weekend- leaving around 12PM Friday and coming back to Hohoe sometime Sunday night. It is a 9 hour drive from Hohoe to cape coast, but it should be worth it. I think we are stopping at Accra for an hour for dinner- hopefully some American food! I miss pizza, cheeseburgers, and fries!! But I must say, I do love the food here. Anyways, I better get packing for tomorrow and get to sleep.

Wednesday- June 16, 2010

Wednesday- June 16th, 2010

Placement wise, it was somewhat of a different day today. Since I talked with Makafui (my program director) last week about my interest in getting more involved within the community and making more of an impact, we discussed what he got for us in town for another placement schedule.

Don't get me wrong, I do love going to the hospital, but I find that it is mostly observing and not too much hands on experience which is what I wanted. The most hands on I can do there is take patient's blood pressures, heart and respiratory rates, and other simple tasks. Since this is a government hospital, they are very strict and structured on who can do what there. Because of this, I felt like most of the time I was just watching the doctors and nurses. I did get a great amount of interaction with the staff and patients, but I want to make more of an impact here rather than just observing.

So Makafui and I talked for a while- along with the four other girls that are in the same situation as I am. Our new schedule is as follows: Monday we will be teaching health education at schools, Tuesday we will be going to the RCH center (Reproductive Child Health), Wednesday we will be at the hospital like we were before, Thursday we will be at the bone doctor, and Fridays we will be teaching health education.

Teaching health education will consist of us going to a different classroom at different schools on Monday and Fridays. We will be discussing hygiene, malaria, STD's, and HIV/AIDS. So today- since we decided that we are going to be doing health education, the five of us went to the downtown library and did some research for a few hours on malaria and HIV. Since we are all science majors, we all know the technical aspects of the diseases and infections, but we wanted to see how we can make it as simple as possible for kids from 5 years old up to 16 years old to understand. I am really looking forward to doing this twice a week because I feel like I will have much more of an impact on the community and making a difference in educating the youth.

On Tuesdays we will be going to the RCH center which is basically a clinic in town for parents to bring their newborns in for basic hygiene and nutrition counseling, immunizations, and also to keep track of their weight. This should also be an interesting experience in working with newborns.

I am excited that I will also be going to the hospital one day a week. I think that since I have experience in the states volunteering and observing in health care, I feel that one day per week is enough for observing at the hospital. On Thursday, I will be able to get more hands on experience at the bone doctor. Not only is he a bone doctor, he is also a herbalist. I am looking forward to seeing how he interacts and treats his patients.

Overall, I think this is will be very beneficial to me and to the community in helping out in a different way. Before I came here, I actually thought that I would be doing some health education at schools and in the community- not just working in the hospital all week. I am glad that I had the opportunity to observe at the hospital for a full week, but it is still good that I will be at the hospital once a week for now on. I am thankful that Makafui and CCS goes out of their way to help us meet our learning objectives and make sure that we are doing what we want to do and enjoy.

I must now go to prepare for tomorrow. We will be creating lesson plan and creating posters on hygiene, malaria, STD's and HIV. I can't wait to be at the school tomorrow teaching the children about health care!

Tuesday- June 15, 2010

Tuesday- June 15th, 2010

Today was one intense workout. This morning we left around 730AM for a hike up the tallest mountain in West Africa! I was thinking that the hike would not be too bad, somewhat challenging but not intense. Once we got there, we met our tour guide and gave us a brief history of the area and mountain. He said that it is the tallest free standing mountain in all of West Africa. The climb today was a total of almost 900 meters uphill. Once we got to the basin of the mountain, the first part of the hike was almost straight up and rocky. It definitely worked out all of my leg muscles, but boy was I dripping wet. It must have been in the 90s today and even worse with how humid it was. I was glad that I was not the only one having trouble hiking up. All of us had to stop every few minutes because the hike was so steep uphill we were out of breath after 20 meters or so.

It was such an amazing feeling once we got to the top of the mountain. It was totally worth the hike- even though I probably sweated out a liter of sweat going up. Luckily I brought 5 water bottles with me in my back pack, and once I reached the top, I was on my 5th bottle. Going downhill was actually very challenging because it uses a whole different set of muscles going downhill, and had to keep good balance and watch where I was stepping down onto.

Once we got home, I was starving! I had a big lunch, took a little nap, and played some cards and bored games with some friends. We then watched the Brazil vs. North Korea soccer game and then came back to the home base to relax- without power of course. The electricity around here has been terrible the past few days for some reason. I attempted to take a shower when the lights flickered on for a few minutes, but once I was in the shower the lights went off on me and it was pitch black. As we say here when stuff like this happens- "TIA," (This is Africa).

Tomorrow I will be going to the hospital and hopefully seeing a surgery! I am so excited to see the process of surgeries here, but also somewhat scared because of the lack of supplies, sanitary conditions, and the fact that there is no actual surgeon- the doctors do the surgery, so there is no actual surgeon per say. Nevertheless, it should be a wonderful experience!

Monday- June 14, 2010

Monday- June 14th, 2010
It's my birthday!! YAY! I cannot believe that I am 22 today. Boy does it seem like I am getting older. Even though I am sad that I am not celebrating my birthday with my parents, but I am so happy that I am spending it in Ghana with 11 other amazing friends.

Today was the start of my second week in placement. When I arrived at the hospital, I was assigned to the psychiatry clinic. I was a little skeptical about this area because I do not have much interest in psychiatry and I thought that there would be a major language barrier with the doctors, nurses communicating in Ewe with the patients. I walked into the clinic which was basically a small room off of the emergency ward. When I walked in, I met three nurses- Emanuel, Frank, and Marcy. There was also a patient in there when I walked in the room. Frank explained to me that the patient came in with a reaction from medication. I did not hear what medication she was on, but the only reaction she was having was clinching of her fingers. When I sat down next to the nurses observing the patient, I saw both of her hands clinched closed. She said that she woke up this morning and couldn't open her fingers; they were stuck to her palms. The nurses gave her a medication called Alatone- some type of muscle relaxer. After about 30 minutes, she was able to open her fingers and we sent her on her way home with a different type of medication for her condition.

After this patient left, it was very quiet in the psychiatry clinic. Even though I did not get to see any patients come in for about an hour and a half, I had a chance to really get to know and talk to the three nurses. Marcy was an older nurse who had a little over 30 years experience as a nurse, and Emanuel and Frank were both just finished with their nursing program and on their rotations for one year. They explained to me that this department is only open Monday and Friday and is usually fairly quiet. They said that this department was only open on those days because those are the days that the market downtown is open, so everyone from surrounding villages and towns come to the hospital and then to the market since they are in town here.

I wanted to learn a bit more about the psychiatry practice in this area, so I asked them what type of conditions patients usually come in with. They said that most patients that come to this clinic have some sort of manic disorder, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. I asked about how they treat most of their patients. The nurses said that they usually just write a prescription, and hardly give counseling to their patients.
Like the United States and most other countries, the nurses said that most people are afraid to admit that they have some type of psychotic problem- mainly depression. Because of this, the nurses do home visits three days a week- Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. They said that this is where they see most of their patients, because of the fact that patients are afraid to leave their home and go to a hospital to talk about their problems- they rather have a nurse come to their house where it is private and can talk with the nurse for a while.

After talking with the nurses and getting to know them, the rest of the volunteers and I decided to take a trip to the market. The market here is open on Monday and Fridays in downtown Hohoe. It is basically a huge flea market with lots of vendors selling vegetables, fabric, and a ton of other daily items for people. This was the second time that I went to the market and it sure has been a neat experience so far.

When I came back from the market, I realized that I needed to do laundry really bad. We do not have washer and dryers here, so I had to do it the old fashion way. I got a bucket of water from the water tank and put in soap, along with some of my clothes. It was quite interesting to be the human washing machine- it was a bit easier than I expected. I then put my clothes in another bucket of clean water to rinse off the soap, then rung my clothes dry and hung them up on the line in the back to dry. Hopefully it will not rain tonight or tomorrow morning!

I had a very nice birthday dinner at the home base- Ghana fried rice, roasted potatoes, plantains, and chicken with different sauces. Yum! Then after dinner, they came out with a birthday cake for me and all sang happy birthday, it was very nice! The cake was very different, but was yummy. It was a banana raisin cake in a heart shape with red and white frosting on it. I sure did miss cake, but it was nothing like moms funfetti cake!

All in all, I had a wonderful birthday. I cannot believe that I am 22! I am looking forward to our big hike tomorrow. We will be hiking up the tallest mountain in West Africa!

Friday- June 11, 2010

Friday- June 11th, 2010

What an interesting last day of my first week of placement today. Once I arrived at the hospital, the five of us decided to go to the female ward to observe. For some reason, we thought it would be quieter and less severe than the emergency ward. For sure I was wrong about that. At this hospital, outpatient is basically split into two wards- the female ward, and the male ward. In the female ward, there were about 30 patients split between one main room and patients in beds scattered through the hallways. Also, there were two other small rooms in which I will talk about soon.

An extremely nice nurse named Giddean showed us around and he explained what each patient was diagnosed with, medications, history, etc. Then the five of us assisted the nurses in changing each patient's bed sheets. What I mean by "changing" bed sheets is not what you think. There is no actual changing of the bed sheets. The nurses said that sheets are changed only when there is a new patient. Some of those patients have been there for over two weeks- and still have the same sheets. All we basically did for this was make the patient roll over so we fix their sheets so it looks nice, and tuck them under the thin white sheet. It was disturbing to see that some of the sheets had blood, urine, and feces on them and the nurses said not to change them, just leave them there.

After the "sheet changing," we went around to each patient and took vitals. During this time, we had a new patient come in with congestive heart failure. This had to of been one of the most horrifying things that I have seen so far at the hospital. For some reason, she came into the female ward and not the emergency ward right away. As she came in, the nurses assisted her into the bed. I forgot to mention that they put her in a small room in which there was a patient there with mumps. First, Giddean showed me how swollen the patient was. He pressed his finger on the patient's leg, and the indentation from his finger was there for about 20 minutes. The patient said that she can hardly breathe and is very congested. Giddean started an IV which took about 4 attempts to find the vein. He then gave her 200ml of some type of Adrenaline medicine to speed up her heart. After he took off the tunicate, the mark was still around her arm for a good half an hour. We took her blood pressure which was 210/100, extremely high! After about 30 minutes of administering the IV, she started to feel much better and said that she can breathe easily. After that, we moved onto another patient and somehow Giddean did not seem to care about her anymore, I guess they figured she was fixed and just needs rest.

The thing that surprised me the most today was the fact that patients are mixed together. For example, the congestive heart failure patient was put in a room with an old woman who had mumps. The room next door to that was the TB room. There were about 6 patients in this room all together and all have TB. What is even more disturbing is that there were two other patients outside of the room in the hallways with TB. They were just lying on the bed in the hallway with other patients. I could not believe that they don't confine these patients to a certain area of the ward or hospital. It is so easy for it to be transferred to another patient in that ward. Another disturbing fact is that the nurses wanted us to come into that TB room and take their vitals. It was a tough decision for me to go into that room with 6 TB patients coughing all over the place, but I did go in there and help the nurses take vitals. I expected to be given at least a face mask or gloves, but no- we treated them like any other patient. Luckily I have had my TB shot, but I am sure that I now have the deactivated virus in me from being in that room. Boy did I sure use a lot of hand sanitizer after going in that room!

The last two patients that I want to tell you about have the same condition, but in different stages. These two patients, both elderly women are in a coma from a stroke. I have never before seen a patient in a coma, so this was an interesting experience for me. The first patient has been somewhat conscious for the past 3 months. I will never forget walking up to her bed and seeing her sleeping with her eyes open- one of the scariest things I have ever seen. Giddean explained to me that this patient is making progress and showing some signs of consciousness which is a great thing to hear. Now the other patient, also an elderly woman in a coma from a stroke, has been in her coma for almost 11 months. She is not conscious what-so-ever, and not on any life support- but somehow she is still living. It is sad because she is just laying in a bed in the corner of the room with one simple IV connected to her and that is it. Giddean said that she has just been sleeping in that same position with her eyes closed for the past 11 months.

Overall, my experience in the female ward today was rather interesting, yet sad. Even though I do not agree with a lot of the things that the hospital staff does with their patients, I know that they care about their patients and are there working for the right reasons. The scariest thing for me is being exposed to all of these diseases. It is kind of bad that the hospital staff knows that I am exposed to these diseases, yet doesn't care that I am being exposed- they do not provide me with a mask or gloves. Luckily I brought some of my own latex gloves, but still it is scary. I never thought I would be in a room with someone that has mumps and another room filled with TB patients- of course I have had the vaccines, but there is still a chance that I could get these diseases. I guess this is the type of risk I signed up for on this program and being in the health related field. I don't mind it, but it just is scary sometimes to know that I am exposed to these diseases.

I am not completely sure what I will be doing next week- I know that Makafui is going to change things up a bit since we want some more hands on experience and see the herbal medicine guy and the bone doctor in town, along with going to local schools to teach health education and hiv/std awareness and prevention. We should find out on Monday what our new schedule will be like for the next four weeks of my placement. I believe it will be two or three days in the hospital, and one day at the herbal clinic, one day at the bone doctor, and one day at the schools, but we shall see what Makafui says. Also, Tuesday we will be going on a hike which I am pumped for, it is the tallest mountain in West Africa! Should be fun!!

Tonight we are leaving for Lake Volta. We are going to be staying at a resort called Afrikico, right on Lake Volta. I am looking forward to it and should nice to get to know the other 11 volunteers and see another part of Ghana.

Thursday- June 10, 2010

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Thursday- June 10th, 2010

Today was a somewhat similar, but different day to the previous ones. I arrived at our placement a little after 8 in the morning and went to check out the antenatal ward (what we call prenatal). There, they have a daily ritual around 830AM. Each morning around that time, every pregnant patient in the waiting room sings and prays for about 20 minutes. There is one head nurse that leads the session and everyone stands up and sings in their native language ewe. It was overwhelming to see around 30 pregnant women in one waiting room all singing and praying. One of the nurses said to me that they sing and pray each day for their babies to be born healthy.

After an interesting start to the morning, I decided to check out the surgery ward. After going in there and talking with the surgical nurse, she made me change into a sterile outfit and shoes so that I wouldn't contaminate the surgery room. This was somewhat surprising because of the general lack of sanitation in the hospital; I did not expect their surgical ward to be clean. The nurse took me around to the patients changing rooms, then we put on a face mask for sanitary reasons and she showed me their smaller surgery room for deliveries and c-sections. This room was rather plain, but I guess it works for them. There is a metal table with the leg spreaders and a chair for the doctor or nurse. Basically other than that there was just a small tray for medical equipment.

After seeing this room, we went to look at the main surgery room. This room was my favorite, mainly because it was the only room in the hospital with air conditioning, felt so good! In the surgery room, there was a padded surgical table with an overhead light, and basic medical supplies. It was a fairly large room and I was somewhat surprised to see how clean it was in there. Then, the nurse showed me their scrub in/out room. There was one basic sink with a bar of soap, and two autoclaves. I was happy to see that they have sterilizing equipment like that. Once we left this room, it was back to the heat, no more AC! The nurse then showed me the other surgery room, but she said that it is not in use because some of the equipment in there has been broken for a while. Before leaving the tour, I asked her several questions including the most popular surgeries and around how many per day. The nurse said that the most popular surgeries were c-sections and minor surgeries for wounds (stitching, suturing, etc.).

It was awesome to see the surgical ward, and I am glad that I stopped in there because they said I can sit in on a surgery anytime. However, their surgery schedules revolve around the doctors. For example, a woman was supposed to have surgery at 9AM yesterday but the doctor decided to show up at two hours late. This is not surprising, since everyone in Ghana runs on "Ghana time." I have learned that there really is no such thing as time here. It is nice in a way, but just not what I am used to. Somehow it works for them here. You tell someone that you will meet them somewhere at 5PM, and they will show up at 7PM without saying sorry. It is quite normal. For example, when our cab is supposed to pick us up at 1130AM from out placement, usually it's near 12PM when they show up. Anyways, the doctors do not seem to care that the patients are waiting for them at a certain time; they just come when they want to. Next week, they said that they have a few surgeries lined up that I can see, so I am looking forward to that.

After my feedback session with the program director Makafui, I told him that I would like to explore the health care more into the community. Since I am at a government hospital (Hohoe government hospital), they are very strict on who can do what, and since I am not licensed I can really only observe and take vital signs are probably the most hands on experience I can get there. So I talked with Makafui and tried to come up with some other placements for me during the week so that I can get more hands on experience. Next week I will still have about two days at the hospital, but the other three days I will split between one day of teaching classes at the schools about health education- especially malaria prevention, HIV/STD awareness and education, etc. The other two days I will be going to the herbal medicine doctor and the bone doctor. Makafui told me that I will really like the bone doctor because the hospitals do not fix broken bones; they send them to the "bone doctor" in town. Supposedly, I will be able to have more hands on experience there helping the doctor and other exciting things there. I am also looking forward to seeing and speaking with the herbal medicine specialist. They have a few shacks around here that say "Herbal medicine," but Makafui has a good connection with one of them so I will start going there next week.

Tomorrow we will be going to Lake Volta for the weekend. I am excited to be going there, it's supposed to be really pretty. It's the largest manmade lake in Africa! We will be leaving tomorrow around 1PM and returning on Sunday night. Should be a good time!

Wednesday- June 9, 2010

Wednesday- June 9th, 2010

Today was my third day in placement and was quite different than the previous two days at the hospital. Once we arrived at the hospital, we had the opportunity to switch wards. Two other interns and I decided to help out in the Emergency ward today. Now this was completely different than what I have expected. In the states, most think of an emergency ward as hectic and crazy with patients frantically coming in suffering from a heart attack, stroke, broken bone, etc. But at the hospital here in Hohoe, the emergency room was nothing like that. Sure there were patients that had a stroke or broken bone, but no one was running in or being driven in by an ambulance.

I asked the nurses in the emergency ward if there is ever anyone coming in all of a sudden for a dire emergency and they said that it hardly ever happens. They do have one ambulance in Hohoe, but it has been broken down for over a year now. They said that they have been waiting for the government to send funds for a new ambulance, but it is a long process through the government. The nurses said that the majority of patients in the emergency ward are there for initial care of malaria, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, and other diseases and infections.

During my time in the emergency ward today, I took two rounds of vitals every hour for two hours for about 20 patients in the ward. Vitals at this hospital included taking blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Even though these tasks seem quite simple, it was actually completely different than the way doctors and nurses take vitals in the states. Taking blood pressure was very tricky because they use a very old system with the stand up mercury level meter and an old arm strap, pump, and stethoscope. The nurses said that they usually have to take each patient's blood pressure about two to three times because the equipment is inaccurate. The heart rate is taken by the old system of taking their pulse counting, and temperature is taken in their armpits. This, I have never seen before. Instead of putting the thermometer in your mouth, here they place it under your armpit for about a minute. I am sure this is a much more sterile way to take temperature since there is hardly any sanitation in the hospital, and no alcohol to wipe the thermometer after each patient. Taking respiratory rate was quite simply, by having the patient lay down and count the number of times their chest moves down for one minute.

Aside from taking vitals, I observed the nurses administer IV's, catheters, and medicine. There was one infant there about one year old that had a stroke in the morning. It was very disturbing to see the nurses try to insert the IV about 4 times into the infants hand. Finally, the head nurse came to insert the IV and got it in the first time. It was just terrible to see the nurse poke into the infants hand that many times and hear the child scream in pain.

Some aspects of the hospital that I observed today that was very sad to me was seeing how many patients they cram into the emergency ward. There were about six patients in a room the size of a normal hospital room in the states that normally have one or two people in them. There are two of these rooms and also patients in beds all along the outside hallway and alleyways of offices. Basically, each bed has a rusty metal frame, a mattress, sheets that seemed to be changed once a week, and an IV drip bag. The rooms are stuffy with one or two small windows and a small fan on the ceiling. There are no bathrooms for the patients. Instead, there are bed pans and a black plastic bag for patients to throw up in. What is even more disturbing is that whenever a patient goes in the bed pan or throws up in a bag, they are responsible to dispose of it themselves. The nurses and hospital staff do not dispose any waste, urine or vomit from patients. I couldn't believe when I saw an older woman throw up into a plastic bag, then got out of bed and walked to the trash to throw it away. There were no bio-hazard bags or any sort of sanitation in this area which was disturbing to see. Also, the nurses do not wash their hands after seeing patients and gloves are hardly used. Luckily I brought my hand sanitizer!

During a break on our placement today, we tried to take a look at the mortuary department. After going down the hill past the hospital we arrived at the mortuary department. The door had a padlock and no one was there. However, I was able to see inside through a window and saw rather disturbing things inside. There were two huge fridges which looked like they were used to store the bodies, and one examining/autopsy table which was just a big slab of rock and a small sink. There looked like there was a table with medical supplies but seemed extremely unsanitary. When we were walking back up to the main hospital, there was two hospital staff and an armed guard pushing a cart with a dead body that had a brown sheet over it. They must have been going down to the mortuary, but we did not ask them or talk to them out of respect of the dead body there. We figured it would be impolite to ask if we can observe the mortuary when they are just bringing a dead body there and we were also scared because of the armed guard with them. All in all, my experience at the hospital today was interesting and educational.

After my placement, we came back for a delicious lunch of white rice, and I believe it was chicken in a tomato broth with onions, peppers, ginger, and pineapple. Very yummy! I am really enjoying the food here so far. A lot of rice and noodles with a meat dish and always fruit (pineapples, melon, and watermelon).

Then after lunch we went to the Wli waterfalls. After driving for about 30 minutes into the woods on a windy dirt and gravel road going extremely fast in a van packed with 12 other kids, we did survive. I must say that the driving in this country is absolutely insane. There are no traffic lights, and everyone walks on the roads so you have to be careful not to hit someone. They also drive very fast, and there are a ton of potholes on the roads so it gets pretty bumpy. Anyways, we made it to the Wli waterfalls which was absolutely amazing (I took lots of pictures!), we parked at the basin and then had a local tour guide through the 40 minute or so walk into the rain forest to get to the waterfalls. Once we got there, it was incredible. It is actually the tallest waterfall in West Africa (about 400 meter drop). We all got our swimsuits on and jumped in the small lake and swam under the waterfall which felt very nice and refreshing after walking all that way. Then on the way back to the basin it started to rain so we all got completely soaked and muddy. All in all, it was very pretty there and a ton of fun!

Tuesday- June 8, 2010

Tuesday June 8th, 2010

Today was the second day of my placement and I definitely learned a lot about physical therapy and also HIV/AIDS counseling. My placement today was split between the first hour and a half of sitting in on the HIV/AIDS counseling sessions that take place every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Right when I walked through the door to the counseling department, there must have been about 40 people packed into a tiny waiting room. Emma, Megan and I were sitting in the counseling room along with the HIV/AIDS nurse that does the counseling. One by one, patients came in. The nurse took their vitals and then discussed if they have been previously tested and any necessary treatments to administer. The ages of the patients that came in ranged from infants to a 74 year old women. I asked the nurse if she knew approximately how many people in Hohoe are HIV positive, and she said that there is no way to tell. Since a majority of the people that are HIV positive do not go to the hospital or are diagnosed, it is impossible to guess how many people in Hohoe, and even in Ghana all together have HIV.

After we finished observing the HIV/AIDS counseling sessions, we returned to our regular placement. Since this is still my first week, I am in the Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Services ward. Today, I had more patient interaction which really excited me. There was three women that came in today for physical therapy. The first woman was about 45 years old and was suffering from an ankle injury. She was overweight, had high blood pressure, and limited mobility. She has been walking with a cane for almost 4 years now. She said that ever since she injured her ankle four years ago, she has not been able to afford going to a doctor for therapy. She finally saved up money so that she can walk again. She has always walked with a cane no matter what. But today, we got her to walk without a cane. This was a very rewarding experience for me. With the help of my mentor Emanuel (a physical therapist), I assisted the patient upright out of her chair and held her so that she could lean on me if she felt unbalanced. I walked with her about ten feet to the parallel walking bars which was very difficult, but once she got to the walking bars, she did fantastic! It was amazing to see the smile on her face when she could walk without a cane again. Of course, she will still need several more weeks of therapy, but it was an incredible first day for her.

The second patient was an older woman who must have been about 80 years old. She suffered from severe carpel tunnel as a seamstress for many years. Today, we were trying to get her wrist mobile again and relieve some pain. Emanuel used several treatments including a hot paraffin hand wax, which was really interesting. He placed the patients hand in a bowl of hot paraffin wax several times so that it made a complete mold of her hand which was soothing from the heat. Emanuel said that usually patients enjoy this treatment more than a heat pack when they have a wrist or finger injury. After she had the paraffin hand wax which relieved some of her pain, we had her perform several exercises to regain the strength of the muscles in her hand.

The third patient was a young woman who has been coming to physical therapy for several weeks now because of knee surgery. Today, she mainly used the stationary exercise bike to regain mobility and strength in her knee. Even though this was the first time I met her, it was great to see that she was making sufficient progress in her recovery from surgery.

After our placement, we had a delicious lunch of rice, spicy tomato chicken and sauce, and fresh watermelon. Then, we took a walk around the town and got to use the internet café. I finally got to check my email and facebook!! Yay! However, I did not miss the internet and facebook. It was nice not checking my email and all that stuff for a few days. Hopefully I will just get on the internet here about twice a week for an hour just to do my blog posts and also upload some pictures.

Monday- June 7, 2010

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Monday June 7th, 2010

Today was the first day of my placement in Hohoe government hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, I must say that I was both shocked and amazed. I was shocked because of the type of care people were receiving- that is, the amount of people waiting in line to be seen by a doctor. What amazed me was the size of the hospital. I had no idea that the hospital in Hohoe would have so many different wards and staff.

On this program, there were four other girls that were placed in the hospital with me- Megan, Jess, Emma, Beth and I. When we met the hospital Director and CEO, he told us our placements for the five weeks that we are going to be here as an intern. My placement was as follows: Week 1 in Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Services, Week 2 in the Psychiatry unit, Week 3 in the Laboratory department, Week 4 in the Female ward, and Week 5 in the Gynecology department.

After meeting with the hospital director, we met our tour guide Emanuel. He took about 2 hours to show us around the hospital. Emanuel, a local Ghanaian that works for the director of the hospital took us to each department in the hospital and introduced us to the staff in each department. Along the tour, I asked many questions to Emanuel.
The first one I asked was about the health insurance in Ghana and how they obtain health care. Interestingly, any resident of Ghana can obtain a full year of health insurance for 12 Cedi which is about 10 US Dollars. We may think this is cheap, but for them this is very expensive and most cannot afford 12 Cedis. It sure is a great system- any Ghana resident who pays the 12 Cedis and has the insurance can go to the government hospitals such as the one I am in and obtain free health services and medicine. However, there is a long wait for medical services. The Hohoe government hospital receives an average of 300 patients per day. This is quite impressive with a regional population of about 50,000 people. Emanuel stated that the Ghanaians who have the health insurance take advantage of it and go to the hospital once they have a minor cough- they mine as well go to the doctor since its free with their insurance- but this causes the hospital waiting rooms to be packed. During our tour, we saw the waiting room which was actually the outside hallways. I will never forget walking through the outside hallways and seeing at least a hundred people sitting on the side of the sidewalk with their babies to be seen by a doctor.

The second question that I asked was about the general process of the hospital and what goes on a daily basis there. Emanuel explained that the hospital is broken down into nine main departments or wards: Emergency ward, Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Services, Psychiatry, Pharmacy, Gynecology, Laboratory, and the Female and Male ward. Walking through all of these wards was extremely sad, yet interesting. Walking through the Female ward, there was one main room about the size of two standard hospital rooms in the America. In that main room, there must have been about 25-30 women on beds scattered in the room and also outside in the hallways. Each person had their own bed- basically a white metal frame which are all somewhat rusted and patients are given a thin white sheet and a pillow.

Even though there is a major lack of supplies and equipment at the hospital, the thing that is not lacking is smiles. There are children in the hospital bed with malaria, TB, cholera, etc. and they are all smiling and happy. This is something that I would never see in America.

Back to my placement- as I previously said, I was placed in the physical therapy/rehabilitation services department this week. Even though this is not a major area of interest for me, it definitely opened up my eyes to different aspects of medicine and healing. I was introduced to the head of the department, her name is Cinderella. I am not sure if this is her real name, but she wanted to be called Cinderella- she had an amazing personality and was so funny. There was another man there named Emanuel- not the tour guide but a different guy. He is an intern at the University of Ghana in Accra- doing his internship to become a physical therapist. It was very interesting talking to him- he completed his four years of university and he just needs one more year to become a physical therapist- by completing a one year internship at the Hohoe hospital.

Emanuel showed me around the facilities and briefly introduced me to a patient that was receiving electro stimulation therapy. Then he showed me around the "gymnasium." This is where all of the rehabilitation equipment is located. Located here is several equipment such as a stationary bycicle, a mini staircase, parallel walking bars, and several other excersize equipment. He thoughourly explained to me how each machine works and how to use the machine for a patient.

Unfortunately, I only had one hour to spend with him at the department because our van was late picking us up in the morning and we took a longer than expected tour of the hospital- so it only left one hour to us which was good to have an introduction. Hopefully tomorrow I will have some patient interaction and see some more services that my department this week offers.

Sunday- June 6, 2010

Sunday June 6th, 2010

After an eleven hour plane ride from JFK to Accra and a four hour extremely bumpy car ride to Hohoe, I finally made it! I cannot believe that I am already here in Africa! Upon arriving at the Accra airport, I already felt like this was a second home to me. At the airport, local people Ghanaians greeted us with open arms. The one thing that I will never forget is how much I was sweating. Boy was it hot!!

The experience of driving from Accra to Hohoe was unforgettable. Never have I experienced driving like that, maybe on a roller coaster but not in a car. Somehow, we managed not to hit the hundreds of people walking on the side of the road. What really hit me on the drive to Hohoe was seeing the houses and people walking on the street. The only time I saw this type of way of life before was on a movie where people live in shacks, the women walk on the streets with big bowls of food on their heads, and little kids surrounding the streets with smiles. This really is true. It was definitely an eye opening experience for me and showed me how lucky I am to have the life that I live in America.

Once I arrived at the home base in Hohoe, I was lucky to have met a great group of fellow volunteers. Pretty quickly, we all became best friends. Arriving at the house and thinking "this is where I am living for the next 5 weeks?" I thought to myself that I want to go home. Apart from sharing my room with 2 other guys, sleeping in mosquito nets, having to brush your teeth with bottled water, taking cold showers, not being able to put toilet paper down the toilet, and mice, spiders and lizards running around the house, I must say that it is all worth it. After the first night here, I knew that I will enjoy this experience.

Sure it is very different than what I am used to. I am used to the American luxury and taking things for granted. But here in Hohoe, people are happy with what little you have. They treasure the relationships with people and communication, rather than personal belongings and materialistic items. Just after one day I could tell how relaxing this way of life is. No computers, cell phones, shopping malls. None of that materialistic stuff that we rely on every day in America to live our lives.

By the way, as I am writing this the security guard for our home base (we call him Alpha) is talking to me. He is extremely outgoing and talks a lot, but very very smart. He has never been to America before, but he knows every single city in the United States and Canada. I told him I am from Crookston and he knows where it is on the map. He even told me the outlying cities and rivers around there. He then went on and could name all of the great lakes, all of the state capitols, rivers, famous places, etc. It amazes me that a guy such as Alpha who has never been to America knows so much about it, yet I live there and know so little.

Also, the kids I have met here are incredible. I walked down the streets with my friends here and kids come running up to us saying hello and talking to us. They are so adorable. They absolutely love their pictures taken- I have tons of them! But the thing that sets kids like them apart from the rest of the world (first world countries like America), is that these kids have basically nothing- hardly any clothes, food, shelter, but they are so happy and smiling. I have never seen children so happy like that in America. These kids value their relationships with others and are happy with what they have- not like American kids.

Even though this is just the second day that I have been in Ghana, I am starting to fall in love with the people and the way of life. If there was air conditioning and a taco bell, I could live here my entire life.

Pre-Departure

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Am I nervous? nah... I am super excited!

It's the night before I leave for my big trip that I have been waiting months for. I can't believe its already here! Of course I am a bit nervous about traveling to Africa for 5 weeks, but this should be an experience of a lifetime. I can only imagine the differences between where I have been living the past 21 years of my life, and where I will be living the next 5 weeks of my life in Hohoe.

With two suitcases packed to the max, I am all set to go! I hope that this blog will be a great means of communication. I hear that I will have internet access at an internet cafe in town, so I will try my best to get on a few times a week and update everyone on what's going on in Ghana.

Well, its time to get some sleep for my 14 hour plane ride tomorrow. I can't wait to be in Ghana in less than 36 hours from now!! :)

Shawn leaves for Ghana on Friday, June 4, 2010.

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