Monday, March 9, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Build Relationships with Ghanaian Health Professionals

Monday began with news that the Western Regional Director of Health Services in Ghana was coming to the USS Nashville for a tour so Joyce, our medical officer, and myself stuck around to accompany her on the tour. I am sure I have mentioned how the USS Nashville is an older ship with lots of stairs. She had to navigate the stairs in her brightly colored skirt. We got to see the medical unit and went up to the deck where they steer the ship. She seemed to really enjoy her tour and is really interested in collaborating again.

Today the Project HOPE midwives began training. They are training and providing an update on midwifery skills to the local Ghanaian midwives. The 15 experienced midwives will then take what they learn back to their respective facilities.

Beth (the physical therapist) and I took a break at one point and wandered over to see how the class was doing. They had a model abdomen with a removal belly to demonstrate how to birth a baby and remove the placenta. Beth was really curious about the process since she has never seen a birth so Lara showed her how the birth happens. What was really cool was how the baby just seems to know what to do during the process. They know how to turn and when to turn to come out the correct way.

Before Beth and I went to see the midwives I went by to see her and found her working with a 7-year-old girl who appeared to have a neurological disorder. She couldn’t walk because her legs would not go straight and her arms were also the same way. She was brought there by a caring aunt, uncle and her father. Her mom, we were told, left to South Africa. In all my travels through Africa I have never heard of a mother leaving her children, the men yes, but not the women. Maybe it happens more than I think but I was surprised. We were told the little girl's disorder was caused when her mother had dropped her when she was a baby, trying to wrap her on her back the way women carry children all over Ghana. However, Beth and Mavis also noticed a huge scar down her spine. When they asked about her spine they were told someone taking care of the child had accidentally burned her with hot liquid. This was really hard to believe because of the shape of the scar. We know that in this area many times people still go to their faith and traditional healers so perhaps this something they had tried which resulted in the scar.

When working like our volunteers do in these different countries we have to be mindful of the culture. Well, in general, whenever anyone visits a foreign country they should be mindful of the culture. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to step in especially in medicine since people practice differently. You can’t always step in and tell people who have been at it a long time that they are wrong or take over their unit because you will offend them and not gain their trust. You can only lead by example, make suggestions, and work side by side with them. You have to form a relationship first. I think our volunteers have done an excellent job of that and they are learning as much from the folks in Ghana as the local health care workers are learning from them.


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