Thank-you to everyone for your interest and support.  We, at the Markham Family Health Team are very proud of our friends and colleagues who are participating on this amazing journey.

Click a date below to view the post:

November 6th, 2015

Ghana, Here We Come!
By Dr. Jennifer Wilson
Due to an incredible team effort, 36 team members and 138 hockey bags were seamlessly processed by KLM in under an hour! We are pumped!
Our pharmacy team used our extra time at the airport to go over final details.
Ghana, here we come!
GHT 2015 Team at YYZ Pharmacists
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/ghana-here-we-come/)

November 7th, 2015

As they say in Ghana, “we are all in!”

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

How amazing that every team member travelling in from Amsterdam, London, Lisbon, Spain and Germany arrived within one hour of one another! Every piece of the Canadian luggage, including “our precious” — the eye laser — arrived intact. Our British team is missing a few boxes that should arrive tomorrow. We were expecting a challenge getting through customs but we were waved through without a single question being asked or bag being opened. Amazing.

The day was seamless due to an incredible group of peo ple who seem to be able to tackle any given task with absolute ease and efficiency. The Accra airport is quite an experience in and of itself and I hope you enjoy some of the moments that our team member Erika Jensen captured so vividly through her camera lens. We will sleep for a bit and then journey by bus to the North to begin this very special mission.

I’m sending love to all our family and friends who have made it possible for us to be here.

Jennifer

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/we-are-all-in/

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November 8th, 2015

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

It is hard to put into words — hard to describe — our arrival in Carpenter. The drums were beating to a seldom-heard rhythm that is usually reserved for chiefs alone. David was dressed in his chief regalia and danced a symbolic dance to welcome our team. The 55 of us made our way through the receiving line of over 50 NEA staff and it was a very sweet moment. For many of us, these people are our dear friends that we have not seen for two years now. Only in Ghana do you get a welcome like this.

After an authentic Ghanaian dinner (actually it was spaghetti!) and speeches of welcome we went to work unpacking the hundreds of bags and boxes. Tasks like that seem easy with this incredible group of leaders and team members.

Some of us enjoyed showers, then the water “went down” so bucket baths had to do for the rest! We are completely exhausted but entirely content.

Connectivity is sparse so do not worry if you don’t hear anything for a couple of days. We are all fine and send our love back home! Until tomorrow … or the next day … or the next day … gotta love Ghana!

Used with permission (GRID & NEA):  http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/the-beating-of-the-drums/

November 9th, 2015

The Bending of Time

Monday was a day where time seemed to bend. It does not seem possible that so much action, so many activities, so many memorable moments could have taken place in the span of a day.

After a sleep in, a beatiful devotional time with the NEA staff and a delicious breakfast at 0730 our new team members toured the compound and witnessed the incredible development work happening here.* The old timers were tasked at finishing unpacking and then we all set up for a half-day clinic to see the development staff. Over 300 patients were seen by our doctors, nurses, dentist, eye team and surgical team! All areas of the clinic were in full swing!

The defining moment for me today involved watching our team kick into action when an semi-responsive child was carried into our clinic before we had even set up. Dr. Bill took charge of this boy who had severe malaria. Nurse Lynda got the malaria test done in a snap while Nurse Leslie got a very challenging IV going. Nurse Val in consultation with Linda from pharmacy prepared an injectable anti-malarial. Two hours later the boy was sitting up asking for water. He spent the afternoon under the watchful care of our nurses and by the end of the day was ready to return home to continue treatment there. A life saved before our eyes. One can’t help reflect on the timing of this massive medical team being here on the very day this boy developed severe malaria.

So many stories I could tell about today, including Dr. Chin winning a wet t-shirt contest when his dental tent was hit by a monsoon … but breakfast is at 0600 and we depart for a village clinic at 0630! I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/the-bending-of-time/

*For a glimpse of the development work that team members would have seen today, watch our Sustainable Health video.

November 10th, 2015

David Mensah Says It’s Hot …

By

In the 8 years since I have been coming to Ghana I have never heard Dr. David Mensah, Director of NEA, say “it is hot”. Well today he said it. Dr. Kyle’s thermometer read 100 degrees in the shade and 120 degrees in the sun. That’s hot.

The surgical program had a fantastic first full day and is in full swing. What an incredible team, led by Dr. Magdi and supported by a big team of NEA volunteers. Together, they changed the lives of over 30 people in one day. One of our surgeons, Dr. Kathryn, joined us in the village today and added another 44 patients to the list. Dr. Kat happens to specialize in pediatric urology and wouldn’t you know it, we had a little boy with a urologic problem. In Canada, a pediatric urology consult would take months. I was able to consult with her in 1 minute.

The medical/dental/eye team had a fantastic day in Nyamboi villlage. As our team approached the chief and elders to greet them, the village linguist asked each team member to state their name, after which he told it to the drummer who “drummed” the names. What a welcome.

We saw huge volumes of patients despite a 30-minute rainstorm. It was so fierce that is was unsafe to be outside, so within minutes, all the patients were crammed into all our consultation rooms, pharmacy, and nursing station. Classic Ghana. Our newcomers were oriented to the most important procedure of using a latrine (a cement floor with a deep hole … and lots of flies buzzing down in that hole).

The eye clinic is running so well and they are seeing so much glaucoma that Dr. Martin is starting his laser surgeries tomorrow instead of waiting until next week!

It was a great day and once again, I’m reflecting on how special it is to watch this many people collaborate together with such joy and such energy toward a common purpose. When we gather for dinner in the dining hall at the end of a very long day, the room is full of conversation and laughter as we share our stories with one another.

To those of you who are commenting on this blog, I am receiving the comments and messages you are sending and I and reading them out at breakfast each morning. We are renaming the blog “Carly’s blog” since she is getting the most messages. By the way, Carly’s family will be thrilled to know she pulled her first tooth today!

Until next time …

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/david-mensah-says-its-hot/

November 11th, 2015

Life And Death

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Elvis is a toddler we brought back with us from Nyamboi with severe pneumonia. He became so unwell late last night that at one point there were 6 doctors and 4 nurses supporting Dr. Jo and Joan who were looking after him. We finally left him on oxygen with mom in our surgical ward at midnight and prayed he would survive the night. This morning his fever was down and he was no longer requiring his oxygen. Tonight he is running around the courtyard ready to return home tomorrow. Life.

All team members reported to breakfast at 0600 feeling strong and healthy. The surgical team set to work early and had a full day of hernia repairs. Just as they closed up and left for dinner at 7:30pm one of the patients booked for surgery tomorrow developed a strangulated hernia. Back to the OR. Life.

Martin and Marion began the laser eye program today. Six patients received vision-saving laser surgery and Dr. Toylin has a full list for tomorrow. Martin said he had so much fun playing “laser tag” all day while Gene Paisley, Brenda’s dad, watched on.

The medical, dental and eye teams hit the road for Asantekwa. The crowds were massive and we were anxious to get to work; however protocol prevailed. The drums were beating and the women were dancing with joy over our arrival and we were expected to join in (quite a sight). After the dance, the chief presented us with a ram, yams, oranges, apples and bananas and could not stop expressing his gratitude. I had the pleasure of presenting some of our rookie team members who represented the different sectors of our clinic to the chief today including Dr. Tom (physician), Valerie (Nursing), Eni (Pharmacy), Dr. Kristel (Eye team), Dr. Ambareen (Surgery) and Elena (volunteers) — all who bravely stepped forward in front of the chief, Queen Mother and elders of the village. We, too, presented gifts and a comical moment ensued when Dr. Tom, presenting to the Queen Mother, offered the gift to the wrong woman! The villagers thought that was hilarious.

Our physician team was all together today in one room which was lots of fun. Once again, before set-up was complete, a critical incident occurred when an elderly woman collapsed unresponsive on the floor. She was treated and was able to go home later in the day. Life.

We had a special moment together when Dr. Bill led us in a moment of silence at 11:00 and all of our patients stood with us.

The eye team functioned amazingly well without their chiefs Dr. Martin and Marion, and the patients they could not get to will make the 2-hour trek to Yaara to be seen tomorrow.

Today was the first day our dental team didn’t get rained on. They finally had to retreat to an indoor classroom (94 degrees F) as the temperature outside was just too unbearable. All in all, our team saw just shy of 500 patients and at least that many were seen and treated by our wonderful triage team of Beth, Leslie and Val. What a tough job they have screening these massive crowds. Pharmacy finished in record time at 4:30 and we hit the road for home well before dark.

I do wish I could end this blog with a happy ending, but I cannot. Lydia died in the clinic today. Lydia was 22 years old and fell ill a week ago. She went to two different hospitals in the North and was sent home without treatment. I’m not sure she was even seen by a doctor. Her family, hearing we were nearby, carried her to our clinic. Despite aggressive resuscitation with our state of the art drugs and equipment, we could not save her. She arrived too late. Our local nurses, who had never witnessed CPR, defibrillation and resuscitation asked me why it is that we all cried when someone we didn’t even know died. A question worth pondering.

Lydia’s death is unacceptable. The deaths that would have occurred, like Elvis and countless others, had we not been here these 3 days are unacceptable too. While it is difficult for us to process the reality of this place, it is a reality that we all must face. This region needs a well-run hospital if these unnecessary deaths are to be prevented. After 8 years of our health team’s involvement here, GRID and NEA are moving forward to build and staff a model hospital right here in Carpenter that will be supported by people like us. Until this vision becomes a reality, people like Lydia will continue to die unnecessarily. Please check our the hospital plans on the GRID website and help us help NEA get this hospital built. Please.

After a delicious dinner (including mushroom soup from the NEA mushroom farm and fresh Tilapia from the fish pond) and wonderful speeches from David and the team leaders, and … wait for it … a priceless Girl Guide song called “Lavatory Man” sung by the one and only Leslie, we retired to our residence to visit with one another. With Michael strumming the tunes on the guitar, Dr. Sue cracking out a big puzzle for us to work on, and Dr. Anthony making instant coffee, we are all refreshed and ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

At 3:00pm every day, Kim drops us off an inspirational quote prepared by former team member Dr Sarah from Stouffville. It is a fitting ending to today’s very long blog:

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power and may not be in your time that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. — M. Gandhi

PS: we are loving your messages to the team and they are all being relayed. I’ve officially designated Dr. Carlye to read them out to the team as I turn into a blubbering mess when I try to read them. Surprise, surprise.

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/life-and-death/

November 13th, 2015 (1)

Highlights from Yaara

By

My eyelids are falling quickly so tonight I will just share a few unique highlights from a wonderfully full and productive day in the life of the Ghana Health Team.

  • Kyle performed a very difficult and complicated dental procedure on a woman a number of years ago. He has seen her in Yaara every year since and always worried that she now has a phobia of going to the dentist. Today she approached his station, pulled out a little black bag and handed him 12 fresh guinea fowl eggs to thank him for helping her all those years ago.
  • Sheetal was counselling a patient who was receiving medication for neck pain due to carrying heavy loads on her head. The bowl of water she carries is particularly heavy as she has many children. When Sheetal asked her how many children she replied, “I have 7 children … no … I have 8 children because you are now my child.”
  • GBP (general body pain) is an official diagnosis here, as is GOK (God only knows).
  • Elena, our student volunteer, pulled her first tooth today. (Note to Shelagh: she is drinking LOTS of water!)
  • We learned about a neat “Ghanaian find your phone app” today. When Carol lost her phone in a crowd of hundreds, she simply told one local volunteer and in 20 minutes her phone was in her hand.
  • Carlye saw a woman who was 11 months pregant. Recognizing there was a miscommunication she asked her translator to clarify. The corrected answer was that she was 12 months pregnant.
  • You know you are desperate when you see doctors wiping their brows with lemon scented Lysol cleaning wipes just to try and get a moment’s relief from the heat while asking one another if we think they are carcinogenic.
  • Dr. Sue was thanked and blessed by a woman who she treated for an infection that was preventing her from getting pregnant 2.5 years ago. In her arms was her 2.4 year old daughter and she was due to deliver again soon.
  • Toylin had some issues with grounding the new laser and couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Nothing made sense until her volunteer, looking at the situation, asked the patient to take off his shoes which instantly solved the problem. He had small nails holding the sides of his sandal to the soles of his sandals so the machine was grounding itself through him. All is well. No defibrillation required.
  • Carlye was counselling a patient with a swollen knee only to hear herself suggest he apply ice to it four times a day.
  • We left our photographer Erika in Yaara today (on purpose). She spent the night in the village under David’s supervision so she could take more pictures of life in this remote village of Yaara. For those of you who have not read David’s book, this is the village where David was sent to after his father died. The harsh life and maltreatment he received there forced this boy, at the age of 10, to escape on foot travelling over day through the bush to find his mother. The team was privileged to have a walking tour of the village including a visit to the house he lived in. It was a 8×5 foot room.
  • I asked Magdi how many hernias were done today and his response was, “We were too busy to even stop and count!”
  • Joan and I had a little 7 year old boy Joshua following us around all day. Joan is his Canadian grandmother and I am his Canadian mother because, like Elvis, we saved him from severe pneumonia in 2009.
    • Oh, and I should mention that Elvis has left the building!Dr. Jennifer
  • And finally, I was given a very special gift to take home to Canada: my own personal rooster. Graham … please prepare a spot for him!
  • Until next time!

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/highlights-from-yaara/

November 13th, 2015 (2)

The Twelve Tribes

By

Yaara — Friday November 13

“Code Blue Nursing Station, Code Blue Nursing Station.”

Our clinic in Yaara had barely begun as these words rang out over the walkie-talkies. Something else out was ringing out too. It was wailing, the wailing of a mother who had lost a child. Iddrisu, a 5 year old child from the Fulani tribe, was our first patient in the nursing station. Somehow Leslie spotted her in a crowd of about 500 people (she saw her foot hanging at a funny angle from behind a tree) and carried her to the nursing station. Lynda’s bedside malaria test was positive, and Dr. Norman and our incredible nurses Joan, Inessa, Ang and Kim had had already started an IV, given Tylenol for a fever of 40.5 and injected her with antimalarials. Now this tiny child had become unresponsive and was having a grand mal seizure and we were running a code blue on her. One of the things the local nurses have taught us here is that a child’s glucose level will drop precipitously in severe malaria. Iddrisu’s sugar level was 0.8, which is incompatible with life. As concentrated sugar was pushed through the IV and Valium administered, the seizure stopped and so did the wailing. By the end of day, the child was eating rice, walking around and ready to go home to the bush where this child lives. Can you imagine? My translator told me that the mother was going around the village saying, “These people bring our children back from the dead.” We thank God that we were in that village on that moment of that day to save this little life.

Iddrisu

I don’t tell this story to pat ourselves on the back. We just did what we would have done in any emergency room back home. I tell it to remind us and remind our supporters that this region needs a hospital. We must help them.

That was the beginning of the biggest day we had ever had with our mobile team. Twelve tribes gathered for this clinic travelling long distances to get to Yaara. Carol, who leads our logistics and operations, shared with the team that today’s clinic was like a symphony. Everyone did their part so well that a beautiful harmony was created. This symphony managed to see all of the twelve tribes that came, and our preliminary numbers indicate that this was 650 people. On top of that, hundreds and hundreds with minor complaints were treated and released by our triage nurses.

Martin and team had a very special case in the eye clinic today. David requested drops for a patient with recurrent eye ulcers. Martin said he had better see the patient. The patient came to the clinic but ran away in fear when he saw Martin. He was retrieved and he finally sat quietly on Moses’ lap while Martin examined him and provided the medicine he needed to heal this eye ulcer. David was so happy that his dog wouldn’t suffer any longer. Yup … even the dogs need us! Martin said the look on the face of the next patient waiting to be seen after the dog was just priceless.

Tony reported that the surgical team had the biggest day ever. Due to some accidental “double bookings,” the team didn’t even get to dinner until 9:00pm. The patients had come from so far that they just decided to keep operating. The were “knackered” and they were “gutted”. (These are two of my new favourite words I’ve learned from our British friends that reflect a very special level of exhaustion.) We are thankful that all the surgeries, including two children, went well with no complications. Tony is one star anaesthetist having to adjust and adapt for the many challenges that a Ghanaian OR presents.

We say goodbye to our photojournalist Erika today. She has taken 17,000 pictures of the incredible work being done in this place. We will miss her but know her work will be used to tell the story of NEA so that more and more people can get involved and so thatour dream of a hospital will become a reality.

I was going to close with one of the inspirational quotes that are handed to every team member and volunteer at 3:00pm every day. However, Kyle and Carly in the dental station received their own inspiration message from a patient that trumps any quote from any famous person. A woman from one of the twelve tribes approached Kyle with these words:

I pray you will have a safe journey home and that God will protect your family. I thank God that he has given you a good life so that you can come to Ghana. And I hope you will come back.

Much love to our friends and families and colleagues back at home. Your comments continue to be texted to me so I can read them out at breakfast and dinner, and they make us all well up with emotion as we are missing all our friends and family very much.

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/the-twelve-tribes/

November 17th, 2015

Heroes

While there are countless heroic stories I could tell about the tremendous work of this team, I’d like to take a moment to tell you about a few heroes.

Ernestina

Ernestina is a medical assistant running a busy health centre with no doctor. She is in charge of a team of nurses and four midwives. She is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Her only leave is when our team comes to Ghana and she joins us. When I ask her how she does it, how she manages to care for so much sickness, how she witnesses so much death, how she works with so few resources, her answer is always the same: “To care for the sick is the highest calling.” Sometimes, when I have a rough night in our ER at home or a busy week at work I think of Ernestina, and my attitude changes instantly. Any physician on any of our Ghana Health teams over the past 8 years will tell you that everything they have learned about global health they have learned from Ernestina. She is our hero.

Eric is a nurse anaesthetist (the person who puts you to sleep when you have surgery). He and always on call for anaesthesia at his hospital, day and night. There is no physician anaesthetist. He is a conscientious young man who always wants to do better. Eric arrived yesterday to work along side Dr. Tony (our physician anaesthetist) and Susan (our anaesthetic assistant). This morning at breakfast he told me that he learned more in one day with Dr. Tony than he could have learned in one year. Eric is our hero.

Alexandria is a nurse from Wenchi. I got to know her last November when Susan and I helped to train her, along with 29 other midwives, in newborn resuscitation. Yesterday, she proudly told me that she is setting up her resuscitation equipment at every single delivery she attends, even if it is in a hut. She told me about all the babies she has saved due to her training. She now wants to become a master trainer so that she can teach other these skills. Building capacity is a key objective of NEA’s work. Alexandria is our hero.

Letichia. Letichia is the lead nurse in Nyamboi village. There is never a doctor there. She handles everything. Her biggest challenge right now is that there is no light in the delivery room. At night, she is finding it difficult to hold the flashlight and deliver the baby at the same time. I have a feeling she may soon be the owner of a number of fancy MEC headlamps that most of our team uses to work each day. Providing resources and support to our Ghanaian colleagues is so important to us. Letichia is our hero.

And then there is Dr. David. David was sponsored to go to medical school by NEA and is their first graduate. This brand new physician is just soaking in every moment of this opportunity to work alongside our very experienced physicians and surgeons. He is teaching us so much about the health care system here. He is the future of health care delivery in this area. This mutual exchange of learning and transfer of skills is rich. Dr. David is our hero.

Ghanaian health professionals like Ernestina, Eric, Letichia, Alexandria and Dr. David are the true heroes. They are the dedicated health professionals who do their jobs with compassion and excellence in the face of obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable. And they do this work every day of every month of every year. Working alongside them, learning from one another, deepening our relationships with them, and supporting them with resources are the key reasons why we are here.

And this will be the model of the Carpenter hospital. It will be a hospital run by the best Ghanaian health professionals in Ghana, supported by people like us. There are so many layers to NEA’s plan to bring health care to Northern Ghana. I speak on behalf of every single team member when I say that it a great privilege for us to be called upon by NEA to be here and to be part of the process of moving towards sustainable health care for all.

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/heroes/

November 20th, 2015

No Longer Forgotten

By

Our work is finished. We can hardly believe it.

The team kicked into “full throttle” for these last two days in Carpenter. There was a massive coordinated effort to serve as many patients as possible. It was a sight to see. Over the past two days, 1700 patients were provided care by our medical, dental, eye and laser teams. Our surgeons have successfully completed 247 hernia repairs.

Patients came from all over Northern Region. There are fewer than twelve doctors to serve three million people in Northern Ghana; we have seventeen doctors on this team. One elderly patient who had his hernia repaired remarked to David that he had never, not once, had a doctor lay a hand on him until today.

There are so many patient stories I could speak of from these last few days. Stories of babies with severe malaria, a child with severe croup we nursed through the night, emergency surgeries being performed, vision being saved, and the list goes on and on.

But there is one young woman whose face I will never forget. This twenty-year-old woman presented to our clinic in Banda with a cloth over her face. She has been suffering with pain and bleeding from here nose for two years. When I looked in her nose there was something in there. It was a mass or a growth of some kind. I tried to remove it but it was fixed down. We brought her to Carpenter where, despite a full roster, our surgeons fit her in and removed the growth. It turned out to be a stone or a piece of metal that had been there for years. At dinner last night David explained to us that the family of this woman were destitute because they had spent all of their money travelling around Ghana for someone to help her. Her siblings had to stop going to school in order for the family to afford these hospital visits. The life of this woman and this family is now changed forever as a result of the most basic procedure.

David summed up this mission by telling us that, in the past, his people would say that they have been forgotten by God and by the rest of the world. Through the work of NEA and the work of the health team (David calls us the “icing on the cake” of their development work) he no longer hears his people say this anymore. They are no longer forgotten.

As we were returning to our rooms exhausted last night, some of us enjoyed a “classic Ghana” moment. An ostrich had escaped and was standing on the driveway refusing to let us pass. Only in Ghana!

This morning we rose early for a devotional service under the gazebo with all the NEA staff. It was a moving time to hear testimony from Ghanaians and from our team about how thankful we are to God and to one another for making this mission possible. This partnership is becoming more and more special to more and more people and we will be sad to say goodbye again.

Right now we are heavy into inventory and cleaning and packing. Tonight there will be a big party with our team, all our Ghanaian volunteers and their families. David says it will be a great party. I asked him what makes a party “great” in Ghana. He responded very quickly, “Lots of meat!”

We will begin our journey home very early tomorrow morning. Now that our work is done, we all wish we could beam ourselves home to our loved ones who we miss very much.

I’d better get back to packing!!

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/no-longer-forgotten/

November 21st, 2015

The Catalyst

I am so happy to report that our team has arrived safely to the Accra Airport after a very interesting journey that began at 7:00am today. But first let me rewind a little …

Yesterday, our packing and inventory day was interrupted by an envoy that arrived to the compound. David called us all together under the gazebo where the District Chief Executive of the Bole-Bamboi District came to thank us on behalf of the President of Ghana. Speeches were exchanged and a photo of our entire team with the government representatives was taken. The gift he brought was a gift we have never received on any of our missions. The President of Ghana gave us a bull. That’s right, a bull. And according to Brenda’s dad, Gene, it is a fine animal! David was so happy to add this bull to his collection. The bull didn’t look at all pleased.

While we were meeting with Honorable James Janga, an artisan arrived and filled the gazebo with local crafts, material and jewellery, so we spent the afternoon shopping.

The kids on the compound decided to have a football (soccer) match and they were thrilled when Dr. Martin and Dr. Anthony joined in. With sticks as goalposts and a brand new football (given to the boys by the surgical team), we witnessed the incredible skill of these young players. As I sat watching the match with David and Ernestina, the intensity of these two weeks seems to dissipate. We didn’t talk about disease and death. We didn’t talk about the future of health care delivery to this region. We were just three friends genuinely enjoying a great game of football. I will cherish that moment.

And the party. I must tell you about the party. Decked out in our Ghanaian outfits, we all arrived to an outdoor dinner party where every NEA staff member and every volunteer had gathered under the stars. I’m guessing there were 250-300 people there. We enjoyed fufu and mushroom soup as an appetizer followed by a roast beef dinner and custard for dessert. It was incredible. David and Brenda took the time to honour each and every team member with a gift, and three team members received their five year anniversary gift. This was the fifth mission for Dr. Kyle, Joan, and Dr. Magdi.

The best part of the night for me was when David’s mother, Abena Fulamuso, asked to speak. She spoke in a soft voice that we could barely hear. As David translated, I couldn’t believe the words coming from her mouth. This woman who had witnessed so much suffering told us that she never dreamed that one of her children would be the catalyst to bring health care delivery to this region. She told us that she had 10 children and had lost most of them to preventable diseases. Then she said “Tonight it does not feel like my children are dead because now you are all my children.” These words speak for themselves.

We set off very early this morning for Accra. Fried egg sandwiches were packed and ready to go, as were fresh meat pies for lunch. Our journey was seamless until some “maintenance” needed to be done on the bus. It seemed there was an issue with the cooling system. We had an extended stop at the roadside next to a little village. You should have seen the look on the kids faces as 60 of us stepped off the bus. Within moments, Michael had the guitar out and we were all singing.

As time started to tick away I thought I would check in with the driver as to how the repairs were going. With a big grin he said, “Things are very positive, madam. We are just waiting for a saw.” Right. I returned to the singing only to hear those kids singing a song for us. It is a old hymn of the church called “Trust and Obey.” What a timely message. So, with a pediatric cardiologist, two surgeons, an anaesthetist and a family physician looking over his shoulder and offering the odd comment, this gracious master mechanic fixed the problem and off we went. The look on the faces of those kids while we drove away was priceless. Another special experience to add to our collection of lessons and memories from Ghana.

And so we wait to board our various airplanes to return to our various countries. It is hard to say goodbye to our dear friends. Our time has been rich and we have all been impacted in different ways. We will all return a little different that when we arrived. We have completed our mission with excellence. We have served thousands of patients wholeheartedly and are now ready to return to our loved ones and our places of work.

JanJam (thank you) to each person who has been involved directly or indirectly to make this mission possible. So many individuals contributed in so many ways. Thank you all for helping NEA be the catalyst — “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action” — to bring sustainable health care to Northern Ghana! Let’s continue to link hands with our brothers and sisters in Ghana until this dream becomes a reality.

Adjoa Jennifer
(born on a Monday)

Used with permission (GRID & NEA): http://grid-nea.org/2015/11/the-catalyst/