Friday, February 27, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Work with Stroke Victims and TB patients in Ghana

It’s funny how short days can turn into long days. Today we set off in our usual way to the different hospitals but we knew we would also be leaving early. Due to the USS Nashville’s schedule in order to get cash cards, the only way to buy items in the store or vending machines on board, we had to come back to the ship early. I thought this would be a good opportunity to hang out with Beth in the physical therapy unit. I am not sure I have mentioned how big the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital (ENRH) campus is but there is one tall hospital building on a hill and below and around it there are other units attached by walkways. It is rather easy to get lost on the grounds and Beth and I spent about 20 minutes looking for the physical therapy unit but we did finally get there. When we arrived Mavis the local physical therapist, one of two, was working with a girl who looked to be about 10 years old but was actually 18. She was having trouble walking. Apparently the patient has sickle cell anemia which caused her poor growth.

A short time after another patient came in, a 44-year-old woman. She had had a stroke six years ago—many have noticed that people in Ghana seem to have strokes at a young age. She was complaining about pain in her back, neck and arm of the right side of her body. Beth started by asking her questions and testing the woman’s strength but soon the woman was complaining of pain everywhere and Beth was massaging her neck and back because the muscles were tense. Then the woman revealed she had fallen on her right side not too long ago but it was still a bit hard to pinpoint what was wrong. Finally Newton, another PT, came into the exam room and told us he had seen her before and that she was a patient who always came in with the same issue, her whole body hurts. He kind of hinted that she just liked the attention. Beth gave her some back and arm exercises so she could ease some of tension in her back.

The next patient that came in was accompanied by his son. The dedication family members have for their ill relatives is quite humbling. Sometimes they come from hours away just to help them with their physical therapy and spend hours in the gym with them. The pateint had a stroke and could not move his right side. He was still mostly paralyzed so he could not walk without assistance. Mavis brought him over to the bars and she and Beth began essentially showing him how to walk. Beth tried to emphasize that he use his pelvis to move him forward before he stepped. He would step with his left and she would position his pelvis forward and he would take a small step with his right foot.

Because the team is so spread out between the two clinics and the ENRH campus I have begun to give them each a slip of paper in the mornings that they can fill out about their day including unique experiences, prevalent diagnoses etc. I hope these can help me capture some of the things I miss as I move around both hospitals.

Donna Featherstone, an ER nurse from Southern California, is volunteering at the ENRH. Today while working in the ER a 28 year old man with TB came in. He had been abandoned by his family and practically had to be carried in. Perhaps he was abandoned because his family couldn’t afford to pay for his treatment. He was sent to the ER for a blood transfusion. Donna saw he really needed treatment fast so she convinced a Cuban doctor who is working in the hospital to see him so that he could be admitted to the isolation ward of the hospital for treatment. Now the patient may get treatment for his TB. Donna also saw a patient with a snake bite today.

So that was the short part of the day. What made it long was what happened after the hospital work. Because we had a little time on our side we decided to go out to dinner. We ended up at the Africa Beach Hotel and hung out a little, even though I probably should have come back to the ship to do some work but I didn’t know our dinner was going to take 2 hours to arrive. The restaurant was incredibly slow. By the time we got back to the ship it was 8:00 pm. I had some errands to run on the ship and was also informed that tonight was the night for Project HOPE laundry. I don’t think I have mentioned that because of a water shortage on the ship we haven’t been able to do laundry because it has been secured. They have also turned off the water during certain hours. So everyone rushed to get their clothes washed in the only two washers and dryers we had to use. Needless to say I wasn’t first in line so my laundry didn’t get done until 2:00 am. And to top it off the laundry room is located up four flights of stairs. It’s times like these when I am grateful for what I have at my disposal at home and I give credit to those who live on the USS Nashville for months. I am not sure how they do it.


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