Getting Back Into It

Ever since Dr. Jonathon left, my time at the hospital has been very slow. I usually wander around the different wards with Amelia, another volunteer, looking for things to do. After a couple hours of talking to nurses and patients, reading charts and fruitlessly asking if any births or surgeries will occur, I end up going back to the hostel. 

Today however, things turned around. After inquiring about any imminent births or c-sections at the maternity ward, Amelia and I were presented with the opportunity to help bathe newborn babies! (And by presented with the opportunity, I mean I saw a nurse carrying a newborn, followed her to the labor ward, observed for a bit and then asked if I could help. I’ve discovered that I need to be a bit pushy in order to get involved.)

Washing the babies was such an amazing experience! They were so incredibly tiny, yet perfectly formed. Holding them made me forget the trauma of watching a birth, something I was sure would not happen for a quite awhile.

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A freshly washed, moisturized and wrapped baby!

After helping bathe, dress and wrap seven babies, Amelia and I decided to check up on the patients we had been following in the female ward. Unfortunately, two of our four patients had passed away over the weekend. At first, it was very difficult to grasp the idea that, despite the best treatment the hospital could provide, these two women had not recovered. I knew that both women were extremely ill and required costly treatment that the Ho Municipal Hospital could not afford. Yet seeing new patients in their cots was more shocking than I had anticipated.

Upon further reflection, I’ve begun to come to terms with their deaths. Both women were unconscious and suffering immensely. One was obese, hypertensive, diabetic and had renal failure. She badly needed dialysis, which is only available at a hospital in Accra (the capital of Ghana) and is prohibitively expensive. The other woman was HIV positive and had toxoplasmic encephalitis, a type of brain infection that can be deadly among those with HIV. Death was probably a welcome escape for both. 

The presence of a new doctor doing rounds in the female ward helped me take my mind off the two patients. I followed him around the ward (this has become one of my new hobbies) until presented with an opportunity to introduce myself. He was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in explaining the thought process he went through in diagnosing patients. 

The new doctor, Dr. Akobo, is very young and has only been out of medical school for one year. He spends an extraordinary amount of time with each patient, particularly in comparison to some of the doctors. (One nameless doctor skims his patients’ charts, glances in their general direction and shouts instructions to the nearest nurse before moving on.) I’ve come to realize that the younger the doctor is, the more idealistic and focused on patient interaction he (all the doctors I’ve met have been male) is as well.

After an interesting and informative hour doing rounds, the day ended with us making a plan to continue shadowing Dr. Akobo, both in the female ward and in his consulting room. I’m so thrilled to have found another doctor! Dr. Jonathon was a great mentor and will definitely not be replaced, but I think shadowing Dr. Akobo will be a valuable learning experience as well. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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A birth!

7/19/12

I am still in shock—today I saw a birth! It was absolutely incredible and has taken me several hours to process. Four hours later and I’m still having trouble believing it. 

Sara and I walked into the maternity ward asking if there were any imminent deliveries, excepting to get the usual answers of “You just missed one” or “not for several hours”. However this time, we were rewarded with a casual “Yes there’s one right now”. And off we went to the delivery room, not really expecting to see anything.

I walked in and was greeted with grunts coming from a woman lying on a hospital cot. She was making so little noise that I was sure her contractions had just started and it would be hours before the baby was delivered.

Not even two minutes later, the baby’s head began to appear! And with a monumental push, the rest of the baby popped out. I just stood there in complete shock, my mouth hanging wide open, trying to process the scene in front of me. I had just witnessed the miracle of life!

The baby was incredibly tiny, but breathing and crying and very much alive. It was such an amazing experience! Although I am definitely scared of childbirth now…