For five weeks in Koforidua, Ghana, I was able to volunteer in a hospital and participate in various medical outreaches that would allow me to see medical treatment in a different country other than the US. During June 30 to August 1, I volunteered at the labor ward and kids’ ward in the Eastern Regional Hospital. While the Eastern Regional Hospital had plenty of staff and many were well educated with their jobs, lack of supplies showed a difference in care present in the US that was not present in the Eastern Regional Hospital. In the labor ward, I was able to see that sanitation was not heavily emphasized as in the US. I did not have to sanitize myself and could view surgeries up close. Many instruments were sometimes just dunked in a bucket full of antiseptic and used on the next patient. Also, natural births were very common and epidurals were not used. This involved a lot of screaming on the mother’s part. Families of the patients were not allowed to be with them and if the patient was too loud, a nurse would give her a good slap on the leg to shush her. This difference was very startling to me, but I remember being very tearful and touched witnessing the live birth of a little, baby boy. It was a magical moment!
As for the kids’ ward, I was able to shadow doctors on their daily rounds. Many of the patients suffered from maladies that are not common to the US. Patients suffered from malaria, anemia commonly due to malaria, sepsis, malnutrition, and HIV infections. It was interesting to see that many suffered from malaria, something I had never seen before. It was a good reminder to take my malaria pill everyday, use mosquito repellent, and a mosquito net on my bed! However, some mothers had lack of knowledge on prevention and could be seen coming repeatedly to the hospital with children that acquired malaria again and again.
In addition to volunteering at the hospital, I was able to go on medical outreaches to villages and perform first aid and even take blood pressures. While those who lived near the hospital had easy access to professional care, those who lived in rural areas had difficulty getting transportation to a hospital. Because of distance and costs, many people let wounds fester. I was able to perform small first aid on cuts and scrapes on the children, but could not help much with children that had let their wounds get to the point of infection. One little girl had a foot so badly infected, it was feared that it would have to be amputated and we stressed that she be taken to a hospital for better care. These cases often showed me that sometimes people did not know proper cleaning of wounds and we often had to teach the children proper hand washing.
Overall, my time in Ghana was an absolutely amazing experience. I was also able to travel on the weekends to different parts of Ghana. Ghana was absolutely beautiful and the people were amazing. Everyone there made me feel welcome and was so friendly. After this incredible journey, I would definitely love to come back to Ghana and visit other parts of Africa. It’s definitely sparked a passion for traveling!