Emergency surgeries happen at any time during the week, but as I mentioned previously, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the main OR days for elective surgeries. My first day in the OR was quite interesting. When I went to the sinks to scrub, I looked all around for scrub brushes like I am used to. Then, the doctor passed me a bar of soap. I did the best I could to clean all surfaces of my fingers and hands. Then, the doctor used his elbow to get a small amount of pink soap (which I later realized was chlorhexidate) from a pump bottle mounted to the wall. I followed suit and scrubbed my hands a second time, then headed into the OR. I think I was a bit nervous on that first day. When the doctor handed me my cloth surgical gown for me to put on myself, I reverted back to how I put on gowns when doing “sterile” procedures in the ICU. I began to snap the neck of my own gown. With a concerned look, Dr. Faile corrected me, and the anesthesiologist snapped it together for me. (By snapping it myself, I would have contaminated myself, and had to scrub again.)
Women in West Africa have amazing strength. Yesterday, some workers chopped up a fallen tree and most of the women from the nutrition rehabilitation center came down to haul the wood back the center. It was unbelievable to see each of these women carrying what must have been well over a hundred of pounds of wood on their heads.
The Baptist Medical Center has a lot of volunteers and students pass through its doors. They stay for varying lengths of time, from one week to several months. Our first week in Nalerigu, Ghana was Oli Simpson’s last week. He is a British medical student from Guernsey who has been volunteering for 8 weeks to fulfill his degree’s requirement for an elective.
I sat down with Oli the day before he left and interviewed him about his time working here. He describes his stay here and some of the cases he saw. You can listen to the 10-minute audio interview below:
Ever accidentally gone in the wrong bathroom? I’ve found myself in an embarrassing situation or two when I’ve entered the women’s bathroom by accident.
Here in Nalerigu, they make sure you don’t go in the wrong public bathroom by using this sign instead of the the standard stick figure with a dress.
Every Thursday the hospital missionaries and volunteers (and any other Americans in the area) get together for a Bible study/worship time in one of the missionaries’ homes. Last night we met in Jane’s house (Jane is the hospital’s pharmacist) and had quite a crowd.
Dr. David and Laurel Fort are in town to help fill in during Dr. Faile’s absence. About 10 years ago, Dr. Fort was the surgeon at the hospital but now he is a psychiatrist living in Burkina Faso. Missionaries Dr. Peter and Ineke Van Dingenen and their four girls have been visiting all week from Burkina Faso. Peter is not only a skilled doctor but a skilled musician. He played piano and their eldest daughter accompanied on violin. Also present were Mark and Caroline Lueneburg, a couple working with the U.S. Peace Corps as teachers at the local secondary school.
At the BMC, the theater is the location of the 2 operating rooms and the 2 minor procedure rooms. Tuesdays and Thursdays are surgery days. On Tuesday I saw 5 hernia surgeries, scrubbed in for 3. To see so many hernias in one day is not uncommon on a general surgery rotation in the States. As expected, there are many differences between the circumstances I’m used to back home and here. For instance, I was lancing an abscess on a woman’s thumb yesterday. She was lying on a stretcher with a baby on her belly nursing. We just had to keep a close watch on the baby’s wandering hands – keeping the sharps away from her tiny fingers.
* Warning * Today, I assisted/ observed 2 debridements of wounds and the following descriptions are fairly graphic.