Saturday, May 3, 2008

Church in the Bush

I must acknowledge, I did not take this video, nor was I even present. My roommate took the video, so I thank her. I only learned how to use my video camera on my digital camera during Damba. BUT this captures what church was like under a tree. This one is larger than the three services I attended with Tommy.

Another thing I love in the video is seeing a guy on his cell phone. Cell phones are HUGE in Ghana, mainly because they are a novelty. Within only the last 2 or so years, you could only make land line phone calls, which were very sporadic, horrible connections. So when cell phone towers started going up, it was a much better connection. It's gone on like wildfire, and because it's so new there is absolutely no manners regarding answering cell phones.

This circle singing/dancing can go on for hours before you get to the sermon. What was nice is either Tommy or an interpreter would tell us what they were singing.

My African Family

This is Bowa and Comfort. Bowa was one of our cooks, and Comfort worked in the OR. Bowa is a man of few words, but when you asked he would tell us girls we talked too much. He makes the world's BEST bread and tortillas! His wife, Comfort, was a bit opposite of him, she loved to chat it up with us. Technically Christy claimed her as her African mother, but somehow I still consider her family too. This picture was taken the night they invited us over for dinner at their house. Bowa is wearing a traditional smock.
This is Zaato, my African father. He is responsible for making my souped up slingshot. He had 7 of his own children. He was the master of the OR, maybe not formally trained master, but Christy would tell everyone that she would let Zaato operate by himself on her if the need arouse. By the way that's my roommate Christy. I love her, but she doesn't like her "business" to be on the internet, so because I respect her she doesn't make my blog often.
This is Grace's mother. Grace is the girl who had the pathologic fracture and was in traction for months. Her mother is soooo sweet. She speaks no English, and I speak very little Mampruli, but she did adapt me as her daughter--her naughty daughter that is (I loved to tickle her, she would jump so high and send me out of the room). In this photo, she made me teazet one night, and we are enjoying the feast! I got high marks for eating it just the way the Ghanaians would eat it. She slept under her daughter's bed almost every night.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I actually have some better pictures of the wards, but for whatever reason my computer doesn't want to load them. Two of the three pictures are in the male ward, which was the ward I mainly took care of. I took the photos at night, so that I wouldn't have people mugging for the camera. The only thing was my ward wasn't very full (I'm serious, full would mean ALOT more people on the floors). I miss the wards!

Around Nalerigu

This is right across the street from the hospital.
Pretty flowers outside someone's home.
A typical little shop on the street.
Nalerigu has a library. I have no idea what kind of books are in there. Caroline had taken us to the library at NASS (the high school) and it had a pitiful number of old books.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I'm back from cruising!

Hey if anyone is still around to read that I'm back, I'm going to post some pictures I couldn't in Nalerigu.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008


(Thank you very much)

I would like to say thank you for all your prayers and support, I safely arrived back in Branchville yesterday afternoon.

Likely after the cruise, I'll be uploading a bunch more pictures and such.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Public Health

This is a bit backwards, but since I didn't post this week, I'll write about it now.

There were a bunch of new volunteers this week, so to keep everyone from stepping on each other's toes, we got to branch out a bit. Christy and I took up an offer to spend the day with public health. Public health takes care of the immunizations and prenatal visits, they have a place on the BMC compound, and they also travel to villages.

We started out helping Issac, our friend, give some immunizations. We were pretty confused as to how to give them at first, because he told us they were to go intradermal. We were pretty sure he didn't mean sub-epidural, like when you make the little wheal for a PPD shot. Christy thought he meant then subcutaneous, so I give a subcutaneous shot to the next guy, and Issac is like no, let me show you. He proceeds to give the next shot intramuscularly. A tad confusing. I'm just going to have faith the Lord will overcome our inexperience, and bless the vaccinations anyways.

Mrs. Baaba runs public health, she told us they were heading out to 2 villages that afternoon. First for antenatal clinic, then to give meningitis vaccinations (they are experiencing an outbreak). Mrs. Baaba would come pick us up at our place after lunch. Mrs. Baaba is a character, I'm pretty sure she'd fit well in a Charles Dickens novel. She's not slight, she likes her way, and she can drive FAST. It made for an interesting journey. She took special delight in laughing at me, but curiously I really don't know why I made her laugh so much. After awhile, I just started being more silly the more she laughed at me. She and I worked together doing prenatal visits in the bush. Our clinic room, was a wooden table inside a closet filled with USAID bags filled with something, slightly different than your average American obstetrical visit, eh? I have fantastic pictures, but still haven't found my cord, so we will all have to wait patiently. If it wasn't entertaining enough to watch me try to remember my OB, have Mrs. Baaba, and three stunned local midwives watch me laughing (even more laughter when I let them use my camera, which they have never touched a camera before.....I will confess I lied and told them they took great photos, but in fact they cut off heads...forgive was too entertaining watch them try to take the picture), simultaneously they were burning a field right next to us, and holding school under a tree. Who knew it could be so busy in the bush.

From there we traveled to a village, close to where Tommy Harrison would take us to church. The village was called Tuuni. It was market day and we were giving out meningitis vaccines. Now in the US, you have to drag your child for a vaccination, in Ghana you practically throw your child at the man holding a syringe. We were crowded in from every side. It made sense though because the people wanted to be vaccinated (knowing there was an outbreak going on) and assuming we would run out of vaccine before everyone got it, which also happened.

As I said, it was market day, and we got some of the nurses to take us down to find some little treats. BUT the highlight of the day, and a very selfless act by my fantastic roommate, was that Christy gave up a ride on a moto back to Nalerigu, to give me the experience. Now we were WAY out in the bush. Mrs. Baaba thinks we have LOST our minds, why would anyone opt for moto. It happened, by the Lord's grace, I had brought scrubs with me. I ran into a building, ripped off my skirt, threw on scrubs, tied a scarf around my head (it happens Issac came with us when the dentist was here, and you might recall they were very specific that if I was to ride outside the lorry, I had to cover my head....well he was driving the moto, so the same rule applied).

I'm pretty positive that besides Christy, no one thought I would last the whole way back on moto. It's far for one thing. It's dirty. And the road is terrible. BUT I actually felt like it was less bumpy on moto because you could more easily avoid the bumps. Mrs. Baaba insisted she follow the whole way in her van, in case I gave up (which at least kept her speeding in check). She did, probably at Christy's suggestion, creep up on us and beep really loudly to try and scare me. I only laughed.

I came home dirty and happy.

Pictures to follow. In fact, I'll let you judge yourselves, how the midwives pictures turned out....that is if I didn't already delete them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Jesse Brooks Foundation

The group we picked up today were part of the Jesse Brooks Foundation and Art Alive Ministries. Jesse was a 10 year old girl, who died in a van crash returning from a mission trip in Montana. She always wanted to be a missionary to Africa.

Her parents created the foundation in her memory. Many small events transpired, and they were introduced to Art Alive Ministries, who had funded an orphanage in Ghana. Although the foundation had been established, they struggled in what to fund that kept Jesse's memory alive. When they heard about this ministry, they thought it was the ideal combination of who Jesse was. They decided to fund a new wing of the orphanage. They have come for the dedication of that wing.

I'm not doing the story justice, and I'm certain my details are not completely factual. However, what I do know is that it's pretty amazing when a tragedy of losing a child can turn into this amazing selfless gift to help 40 children. The foundation will continue to fund more projects at the site, and hopes to eventually house over 100 children. The orphanage provides a safe place to live, schooling, and teaching about Jesus. It's been fun hanging out with the group today.

Here is there website:

Bye Bye Nalerigu

I have been busy most of the week, and just didn't make it to posting. Sadly, I'm not writing this post from Nalerigu, but I'm back in Accra (the capital).

It was a sad goodbye, I really fell in love with Nalerigu, the hospital, the people. We had station meeting last night, Christy and I sort of have made our song of the trip, "On Jordan's Stormy Banks." Let me give you the lyrics, it's an old hymn, but we prefer the new version (from Jars of Clay Redemption Songs)

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land (2x).

No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.

When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.


My favorite verse is the one where it talks about how sickness, sorrow, pain, and death are felt and feared no more. It's a comfort to dwell on that verse when I think of my patients in Nalerigu and all my future patients.

At 4am this morning, I was picked up at the house and on my way to the airport. There was a slight scare last night, when we realized a mistake had been made, and no one had my ticket. However that was quickly resolved, and I had no problems getting on the plane today. A little different, no one ever asked for my name or passport, or anything actually.

When I got to the guest house in Accra, I realized how little I slept this past week. I really wanted to be ambitious and do and see things, but it's hard to do when you're tired and you have no one to go with. I had been picked up from the airport with a mission team from Alabama just arriving from the states. They overheard me talking to Fushsani about not having anything to do today, and they decided to join me to go to the beach. It was actually a hotel, next to the ocean. I sat next to a very very nice pool, swam, and chilled the afternoon away. To top it off, I had REAL ice cream! And I was thankful they came with me, because I did fantastically getting a good taxi price, but then the guy got lost, and it was definitely nice to not be alone and lost.

I'll have to post about what they are doing here because I think it's a pretty interesting story about how God can turn tragedy into something miraculous.

PS I temporarily have misplaced my cable for my digital camera, so I can only post old pictures.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Potty Humor

You know you were all wondering about it, so I'll just answer the question BEFORE you ask.

I've previously said that our house is equipped with toilet, however I'm pretty assured the BMC campus (plus Tommy's house) may be the only place in Nalerigu to use a real toilet. I have successfully managed to avoid using Ghanaian restrooms for the most part, but not entirely.

The top picture posted is a "bathroom" I got to use when I was out with Dr. Robinson pulling teeth in the bush. It was surprisingly VERY clean, and didn't smell.

The bottom two pictures are from the BMC latrines. Besides taking the photos, I have avoided them completely.

I did have a more interesting time on my way to Mole. At a bus stop, you could get in one of two lines, depending on what you needed to deposit. I was in line for #1, after paying a few pesewas, I was allowed in this cement room with no door. A drainage pipe ran down the middle that was open. Basically you just position yourself correctly and aim for the drainage pipe. It was interesting. It's especially lovely, when you consider I had to PAY for the experience.

Most assuredly if you do happen across an actual toilet, it's certain it will NOT have toilet paper, but for a few more pesewas, you can also have an alloted amount. I suggest you just bring your own.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I fear that I will speak less intelligently by the time I get home. If you speak how I would normally in the US, people don't understand you here. When I first got here, it was grating to listen to Americans talk to Ghanaians. However, slowly but surely, I have been broken in.

I have a mix of a few Mampruli words with a kind of pigeon English. I say things like, "Where does it pain you? Is your pain much much or small small?"

"Dasuba" is "Good Morning" in Mampruli. The response is "Naa." Actually, the response to most any greeting question is either "Naa" or "Alafia."

I'm at Koko Duu, our nutrition center, and I got to borrow someone's baby to practice carrying it like a Ghanaian. It's a very comfortable way to carry a child around. I've actually done it a few times now, and I'm getting the hang of it. That also happens to be the other African dress I had made here.


Meet my friend, Baaba.

Baaba was playing with matches, in the same room as gun powder, when an ill-fated accident happened. We are really thankful, because, originally, we thought he might lose his eye sight. However, the Lord answered alot of prayer, and just a few days after he was burned, we could see Baaba tracking us around the room and knew he had sight. He has burns covering his anterior chest, bilateral arms, scrotum, and upper thighs. Thankfully, his burns are rather superficial, he will not require any skin grafts.

There is no physical or occupational therapy here, but we've worked with Baaba's mother to encourage Baaba to move so he doesn't stiffen up. I gave him crayons and a coloring book to encourage some fine motor skills.

I've been cleaning Baaba every few days for 3-4 weeks now. He's almost ready to go home. We are all very thankful for how Baaba has recovered, we've come to love him and his mother! I don't think Baaba thought of us as friends at first, since we only inflicted pain on him, but slowly he's come around and breaks out a smile or two.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

To keep the blog police at bay

The answer to what was in the picture is a grinding stone (actually a set of three grinding stones), mainly used to grind maize, which they make teazet, a staple food here.

The internet, of course, isn't cooperating to get more pictures uploaded, so be patient. Plus I've been super busy with work, and just haven't had alot of time to get to the internet. I'll likely have to catch up when I get home with many unanswered questions and more pictures. I haven't even posted pictures of the kob and water buck, plus a few pretty birds.

Uncle Paul, the one disappointment during my trip to Mole, was that apparently a 6 foot snake was killed by my house in Nalerigu over the weekend. Unfortunately, a guard killed it, and he didn't know that we wanted to eat it. I never got to see the snake, and we will not be enjoying that delicacy. However, Yisah has a week left to pull through with another one. I didn't see it, but carpet vipers don't usually get that big, so it had to be something else, maybe a cobra?--I'm not sure.

Can you believe I only have a little over a week left in Nalerigu? Time has FLOWN by, I feel like I just got here! It will be hard to leave! However, I am thinking about the fun of the cruise (if you didn't know I'm heading on a cruise with my family and medical school roommate a week after I get back), that will hopefully ease the blow of leaving Nalerigu.

When I was a young warthog...

Who remembers the Lion King? I know, you all know Pumba, he was a warthog.

If Sheryl is reading this, I just want you to know I thought of you MANY MANY MANY times in Mole! I wish you were enjoying it with me!

I have some pictures, we had warthogs not more than 5 feet from our dinner table, but, of course, the Ghanaian internet is not allowing those to post.

Elephants for Aunt Cathy

I tried to post more, but the internet connection said no.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Point A to Point B

Our WONDERFUL Ghanian National Fire Service bus that took us from Larabanga to Mole.
View from inside the a tro-tro, by the way, this one isn't full, we picked up another 4-5 people after this shot.
Dancing fireman.

My fantastic sidekick on this trip was my roommate, Christy. If it wasn't for her travel experience, I probably would not have been as open to going on this trip via public transportation. However, she's been to Africa several times, and had already made a trip to another country during my stay on public transport. Therefore, I felt assured we could do it with a little prayer.

We rounded Friday morning, then walked to the bus station. We caught a bus to Walewale, which a nurse from BMC was on. He then insisted he find us a ride to Tamale via tro-tro. We were convinced he would miss his own connection (he was going in the opposite direction), but he kept his word and found us a tro-tro to Tamale. We got to Tamale early enough to do some shopping and enjoy a nice dinner. We took a taxi to our accommodations at the Catholic Guest House, and were surprised when a caretaker from missionaries in Tamale, met us there to ensure we had arrived safely.

We knew there was a bus from Tamale to Larabanga (a town right outside the park) in the am, and in one of those God-planned things, someone at the guest house informed us we needed to go a ticket that night to make the bus in the am. We got one of the last tickets! So we boarded that bus at a nice early 5am the next morning, and took the bumpiest road ever to Larabanga.

Being that Larabanga is right outside a major tourist site in Ghana, they can be rather hostile or in your face about everything. Christy and I quickly escaped these "helpful" people, and thought we would walk the 6km to the park. We take off walking, when we here this loud bus of singing men, a red bus. It literally looked like some scene out a movie.

The singing red bus pulls up and tells us to join them. It's the Ghana National Fire Service! They were training in a town outside of Mole and were going to visit the park for the day. They were excited to be there. They literally danced and sang the entire ride! They were hysterical! We had to stop to pay our entrance fee, and they all filed off to dance some more! They were FANTASTIC!!!! I cannot think of a more perfect way to arrive at the park!

Then we were at the park, in the morning we wanted to fit in the morning safari (especially because the evening safari, we hadn't seen any elephants). But we also knew we were cutting it close because a bus back to Tamale was supposed to arrive in Larabanga around 10, and safari shouldn't finish until like 9:30am. We loved safari, and we saw our elephants up close. We begged out ranger to let us sneak off early to get moving, which he thankful let us do.

We overpaid a man (everything is more expensive in this part of the country since it's such a big tourist thing) to take a moto back to town, then he disappeared for like 10 minutes. Finally he reappears and after an argument with friends, it is determined his bike is too unsafe for 3 of us to ride. By the way, by US standards 3 people is always unsafe, but here, you can easily see 4 people on one moto! So his friend agrees to also use his moto, so it'll be only two people per moto. They drove so crazy! I prayed for my life on this ride, I was certain it wasn't going to end well! They would speed up, then slow down. Christy's guy at some point was chasing down this truck for an unknown reason. It was bad! Something I do not wish to repeat any time soon!

HOWEVER, they got us there with the bus already there, so were were grateful to not miss the bus! I'm just a bit frazzled at the moto bike incident and stress about making or not making the bus. We get on the bus, and the entire Larabanga football team is on there, singing, and dancing preparing for a game with Domongo, a town down the road. They completely melt away all of our stress!!! In fact, they insist we dance with them. Refer back to the note about this being one of the bumpiest roads EVER, but we did it! And in case Christy #2 reads this.....we got them to sing "You are the Most High God"!!!!!!!

To shorten the story, we got back to Tamale, stayed at a missionaries' house overnight. And took two tro-tros back to Nalerigu today! We missed Nalerigu, we had a great trip, but we were happy to return to our little town!

I loved my weekend, but I also learned how much I LOVE Nalerigu! The town is very good to us!

Elephants, Baboons, Crocidiles...Oh My

After much scheming, dreaming, planning, re-planning, praying, packing....this weekend my roommate and I headed to Mole National Park to go on safari! I had been dreaming of this trip since my last trip to Africa when I missed out on safari.

Not only did we go on safari, but we had decided to make it a true adventure (and in our budget) so we took all public transportation to and from the park!

I took:
-tro-tros (take a van, and put in about 20+ people, add more to the roof, and you have a tro-tro)
-hitchhiked (NOT in the true sense that we were actively seeking a ride, but in the sense that we were walking when we were offered a ride)
-moto (this was scary, very scary, but I'll have to post later about some of my getting to and from adventures)

The Lord was so good to us because public transport in Ghana comes with alot of baggage, and miraculously we ran into relatively few problems. We made every connection we planned out. The Lord went before us in this entire adventure from the most small detail (like someone telling us we needed a bus ticket the night before, and we got one of the LAST tickets) to the big details (seeing those elephants!).

Ghana is not known for it's animals and it lacks many of the big animals (aka lions), but I was just so excited for the opportunity to go and the support from the hospital to let us go. Mole National Park is located 56 km outside of Tamale, down one of the worst roads in Ghana. The park has one motel, which is situated on top of an escarpment (ridge), overlooking two main watering holes in the park. So we could look out our hotel window, and see monkeys, warthogs, etc. We ate breakfast with elephants bathing in the watering hole below!

We actually only spent about 24 hours at the park, but it was well worth the trip! I can't remember the last time I lost sleep because I was so giddy about a trip (I was like a little kid Christmas eve). We went on an evening and morning walking safari, it's one of the few places in the world, where you can go on foot with an armed ranger.

I saw:
-Kob (kind of like a deer)
-Water buck (a really big deer)
-Green monkey
-Countless pretty birds
-and more...

If the location of the hotel wasn't cool enough, the hotel had AIR CONDITIONING and a SWIMMING POOL!!!!! I won't let people tell me how hot it is outside because it would depress me. But Elisabeth Faile let it slip the other day that it was 107 IN THE SHADE! So with that in mind, you can imagine how excited we were with air conditioning!

I wish I could express to you just how blessed I feel to have been able to enjoy such a great weekend! I hope through pictures and a few stories, you'll see a glimpse of it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Faithful Readers


I know some of you check my blog often. It's been a busy week, so I haven't had time to post. I apologize. I also wanted to thank you for all the support I have received.

Finally, I just wanted you to know I won't be near a computer again until at least Monday, so you will have to live without a new post till Monday. Hopefully though I'll have good stories when I'm back online!

But meanwhile, no one has gotten the correct answer about what was in the picture from the compound we visited, you have all weekend to guess.

Many blessings!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Local Medicine

Local medicine happens here, sometimes called witch doctors. Often you can diagnose a sickle cell patient, by merely noting the small cuts on his body from the local treatment. There's a struggle between patients choosing local treatment vs traditional medicine. One barrier to traditional medicine is the cost, our facility tries to contain cost, but at other facilities you must pay before treatment. Then families can put pressure on loved ones to seek local treatment first, even the educated. The full time doctors told a story of a medical assistant choosing local treatment for his daughter's femur fracture over traditional medicine. It's something very different than America.

Tommy had brought us to a compound, where a man was receiving local medicine for his knee on our Sunday trips to the bush. How it worked out, we went to the compound two Sundays in a row, so we saw two different types of "healing." I'll try to post both pictures of the same guy above. In one picture, multiple small cuts have been made all over the knee. In the second, he has cow dung spread over the knee. In fairness to the man, he had been at our facility at some point, but the doctors were not sure if he had tumor or what, he was referred to go to an orthopedist, but then opted for local treatment.

People believe in witches here, in fact you can be accused of being a witch, and exiled to a witch village. I was privileged yesterday to get a motobike tour around one witch village just 10 km from Nalerigu, in a town called Gambaga. (That does mean I finally got on a moto outside of the BMC compound) We would have had to gotten permission from the chief to do anymore than circle the place on moto, so it wasn't much of a tour. I tried to find out how one gets accused of being a witch, but there is no set way. Often the accusation is made after someone gets sick or dies, the matter is taken before the chief, and sometimes the accused just admits to being a witch or is judged to be a witch. It reminds me very much of the Salem witch trials from our own US history.

There are many little signs of superstitions at homes, from crosses on houses to keep ghosts away or sacrifices put outside the home. They will mark trees they think are bewitched, tying cloth around to hold the evil spirits in.

Happy Easter!

I'm late! I was on call on Easter, and just never made it to the schoolhouse to post.

I hope everyone had a very blessed Easter!

Saturday evening, the Christys and myself dyed Easter eggs! They came out surprisingly well for not having the usual little Easter egg dying kits you get in the US. We also made Easter baskets for the missionaries, which was alot of fun! The Failes had us to dinner for Swedish pancakes (Elisabeth is from Sweden, Dr. Faile met Elisabeth when they were both on the mission field in Yemen).

Easter started out with my usual tradition of going to see the sunrise. Ok, we didn't actually make it for the actual sunrise, but only because everyone felt it was a bad idea to walk in the dark up the "mountain" with waifu (snake) around. I'm pretty sure I scared the night gaurd, I think he thinks I was sleep walking. Because I come out of the house at 5:30 am and stare at the sky (it rained the night before), and we determined it was pointless to go if it was too cloudy. He comes running over speaking Mampruli fast, and I cannot understand him or explain that I am merely looking to see if it is cloudy. He had a very concerned face, I'm certain he thought I was sleep walking. I walked back in the house satisfied we could go.

Christy #2 and I did head for the mountain. We enjoyed some quiet time, until we were interrupted by bees, which Christy is allergic too. When I looked out from the top, I just kept thinking this is what the Garden of Gethmane must have looked like. Despite being cut short by bees, it was a very pleasant time.

We made it back to the hospital to round (there are sick people EVERY DAY of the year). I will spare everyone details, but I witnessed a very dramatic death. I've seen people die before, but not quite like this. The patient had been talking and answering my questions not 2-3 minutes before. What was more difficult for me is that I still had about 4 patients to see in the ward, we don't have private rooms like in the US. So I have this family, who just witnessed a very graphic death of their loved one, and now I have turn my back and see the patient in the next bed. That was my downer of Easter.

However, the Lord lifted me up. I had time to quickly change for church (and might I add, I had a second African dress made, which I wore and love). We had heard the Presbyterian Church has a very good choir, so we decided to attend. The church was tiny, like maybe the size of our living room and dining room combined, but it was PACKED! I mean my knees were jammed into the bench beside me, people were everywhere! We were NOT disappointed we came, the choir was AMAZING! The Christys and I often joke about Ghanaian music, because they tend to play very very very loud and off key, but this was not like that. It was the most worshipful beautiful singing! It's a sad comparison, but the closest thing I can relate it to is the African hymns in Lion King on Broadway. Of course, I don't know most of what was actually being sang, but I'm sure it was very reverent! It put me right back in the Easter mood. We are going try to locate some kind of CD of African gospel music.

I was on call, so I spent most of the afternoon at the hospital. However, we had planned a big surprise for one of our patients. Grace is a high schooler, who broke her leg, actually she had a pathologic fracture. What that means is that she didn't just fall and break it, but that some other pathology (in her case infection) had weakened the bone to the point of fracture. There are no orthopedics here, so her option was traction, which she thankfully took. (I owe you a post on traditional medicine/witch doctors, but often patients refuse to have bones treated here, instead opting for local treatment) Grace had been sitting in her bed since before I got here in traction. We got permission from Dr. Faile to move her into one of the operating theaters, which had American plugs. We plugged in my laptop, made popcorn and watched, "The Chronicles of Narnia." She LOVED IT! I actually missed most of the movie due to seeing other patients, but I know she loved it! We had told the nurses if her family came to tell them where we took her, unfortunately that message didn't get passed along. When I got called to see a patient, I found her very frightened mother thinking her daughter was in surgery. We quickly made amends, and showed her mother what kind of "surgery" we were doing! We've been supplying Grace with some books to read too, but she's really taken to the Children's Bible I brought, so I think I'm going to just give it to her. However now that I know Mrs. H reads this, when I get back I will need another copy of that Children's Bible!

Since I missed most of the movie anyways, I hung out with some of the nurses, who were sharing mangoes. They are messy to eat, and I didn't want to eat the skin because I didn't have the proper way to wash it at the nursing station. Needless to say, I made such a complete mess of myself! Whatever, it was fun, and all the nurses had a great laugh watching me.

Friday, March 21, 2008


According to my guide book in Paga, you can visit Pia's Palace, which is supposed to be a great example of an extended family compound. We drove by, and it looked like a cheesy tourist thing, and decided to skip it. The reason I was originally interested in it was because the architecture of the huts are different near Paga than in Nalerigu.

As I said in my last post, a nurse, Kate, came with us because she is from the area and wanted to see her family. She brought us to her mother's house, which is exactly the style hut I wanted to get a closer look at. Her family was so gracious in giving us free access to tour the compound, the top picture is her mother fooling around with a basket on her head.

What is different with these huts is that they do not use thatched roofs. Instead they have flat mud roofs that they have stairs up to. The roofs are multi-functional, they can then be used as sleeping quarters in hot weather or to dry things out.

The 3rd picture above was taken as I stood on the roof of one hut and overlooks the entire compound. The center of the compound is a pen to hold their cows. The small domed shaped huts are equivalent to what we would call silos. You can see stairs up to another roof if you look in the back right corner. Also in the front left corner, one hut has no roof, but some thatching just laying there, that is used as one of the kitchens.

The 2nd picture was also taken in the house. Who can guess what that is?

We had alot of fun at the compound, thanks to Kate!

Dr. Hewitt also took us to the Bolgatanga market. Bolgatanga is a much larger city than Nalerigu, and rightly their market is much larger. We enjoyed walking through all the alley ways with Dr. Hewitt, who is fluent in the language. We were looking for these baskets that are local to the region, actually the same one on Kate's mother's head. We found them, but unfortunately they only had large baskets that could not be packed in a suitcase. It was fun still. He also earlier in the day took us to a fantastic fabric store. I think the owner enjoyed our visit because we gave them quite a bit of business.


Today is Good Friday and a holiday here, so Dr. Hewitt graciously agreed to take Christy #1 and #2, and myself to Paga after rounds. We also took along Sister Kate, a nurse who is from a town near Paga.

Paga is a town, right on the Ghanian border with Burkina Faso. Why would someone travel there? To see the sacred crocodiles, of course!

The legend, according to my Bradt's Ghana guide, is that in 1670 an important chief died. His son, Paniogo, lost succession and was forced to flee. He was being chased, and when he got to Tampala, he was blocked by a raging river. He desparately asked a crocodile to help his party across the river, and in return they would never harm a crocodile. The crocodile beat his tale so hard that the water parted, and they were able to cross, but the water rolled back when those in pursuit tried to cross. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Then years later, the son of Paniogo, Naveh, fell into an aardvark hole, and the entrance collapsed. He was trapped for 2 days, but then a crocodile living in the hole found him and showed him an escape path. He reaffirmed his father's pledge, but when he made it back to his village, he realized they had killed crocodiles. Naveh decided he needed to find a new home, so he went to the crocodile pond, and declared it his new home. He was the first chief of Paga. It is said that no one in town has ever been hurt by a crocodile.

So you pay about $5, which pays for your access to the crocodile ponds, as well as the fowl that will be sacrificed to the crocodile, after you have your photo-op. They told us there are over 200 crocodiles in the pond, and that they go swimming with them. I'm not sure I believe that.

Sorry Dad, I believe you technically told me no crocodiles before I left. But you said it was ok, if you didn't know till AFTER I went. And I still have all my appendages! :-) I'm home safely! Therefore, I don't think I broke any rule.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


About a week ago, we were told that there was going to be a festival in town. We could only get vague details about it. In fact, no one really knew WHEN it was. Some said it pasted already, some said it was Tuesday, some Wednesday, etc. It was yesterday. Dr. Faile kindly pushed us out of clinic so we could attend, and we had no idea what was in store for us.

Welcome to DAMBA!

We headed out for the chief's palace to find a massive crowd gathered. A little Ghanaian kid greets us saying, "Suliminga (foreigner), you are LATE!" We break out laughing, when in Africa is anything late. It's looking like there is no possible way we are going to get close enough to see, when the crowd parts for the white people. Next thing you know, we are in the front row and being led towards the chiefs.

Damba is a celebration where all the tribal chiefs from the northern region come to honor the king of the northern region.

I should mention as soon as we get to the front a old time musket gun shoots in the air about 5 feet in front of us, and I startle like crazy. The gun will continue to go off every few minutes the entire time the king is out, and I continue to jump, which just sets the crowd off to roaring laughter. We meet up with one of the princes, which there are many, being that we learn the king has about 17 wives (I've meant to do a post about polygamy, we'll have to save my thoughts on that for another day), but he is the one who then grants us permission to take photos at will and gives us access to go in the palace, and even attempts to keep the militia people with their muskets far away from me.

The first part of the celebration is the chiefs and important people dancing for the king, who mustn't stay out past sunset. There's drummers EVERYWHERE, and they follow the dancer around. Here when you dance, people pay you. Actually they try to stick coins to your forehead. Oh and to tell who is important, they wear these colorful smocks, which kind of remind me the bajas people used to wear. So swarms of people, guns, and dancing. Eventually though the king is led in procession back to the palace, before the sun sets.

We were invited in the palace, which is like a very large compound of huts. Each wife has her own hut. We head home after this, very happy we went.

BUT we knew it wasn't over, the dancing will continue all night long, Christy #1 and I return around 8 pm, we again get the royal treatment, and end up in chairs sitting with the chiefs! And by God's providence, the swarms of children that are attracted to us, kept us out of reach for the drummers and dancers to come for coins. We stayed for another 2 hours, seeing all the traditional instruments and dancing. It was fun.

We learned that when the sun rises, the king will come back out and bless those who are there. We had to round at the hospital at 7:30am, but Christy #1 and I got back up there around 6am. We unfortunately missed seeing the king, but we did get in more dancing. This time we didn't get pushed to the front, but we were given a bench to stand on.

By the way, two of the times we made it to town, we were picked up by cars! Christy and I found this so funny because almost no one owns a car in Nalerigu. Granted many out of towners came for the festival, but of the maybe two cars in Nalerigu, we got free rides from both!

It was such a fun surprise because we had no idea what to expect! And it is nothing like any festival I've been to in America.

PS For the past 2 hours I have attempted to load a short video clip to no avail, I will have to settle for a picture. I owe you more in the future. I do have nice clips of the dancing and drumming, maybe when I get back to the states I can load it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Ok this is a day late!

But we did celebrate St. Patrick's Day here in Ghana! The Ghanaians don't celebrate, but we did. However, I had this patient come in with shamrocks on her dress. I tried to explain to her that it was a holiday where I am from, I think I only confused her, but I told her she was wearing the right outfit for the day.

The top picture is of Bowa and I on his moto! I beg him to ride me to the gate after work daily. Bowa is one of our cooks.

Cleaning up messes

One thing this hospital almost specializes in is cleaning up messes by other hospitals. When a patient visits a government hospital here, to get any kind of care, the patient must pay up front. That is not possible for many patients. They end up staying at the hospital, not getting treated, usually allowing the condition to get worse.

Today, I performed an incision and debridement with Dr. Hewitt on such a patient. She had fallen in a gutter, causing an infection in her leg. She spent the last 5 days at another hospital, receiving no treatment because she could not pay. People have to pay up front here for elective surgery and many procedures, but all emergencies we treat first. And if a patient absolutely could not pay, they do have "special needs" which helps find money for the patient. We were forced to cut open a huge chunk of her leg, basically from mid-thigh down to her ankle. There was necrotic, pussy tissue everywhere. It was nasty!

What you can't see in that picture is that when we opened her up, the pus pockets went all the way up her thigh. The only way to get the infection out here is to open them up, then continue to debride them every few days. You also can't see in the picture how smelly of a process this is.

Then there are cases where we have to clean up accidental messes of another facility. A 3 yo male had a tourniquet placed on his right arm for some procedure, the staff never remembered to take it off. Dr. Faile was forced to amputate the hand. It's a big deal here to not have a right hand, because they eat with their right hands here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The Hewitts have a zipline at their house. Christy and I checked it out on Saturday.

There are two ways to get on. One is from the ground, you jump up and sit on, then you get pulled to the top. The second is from a tree, Christy tried it. It was a little too high for me.

Two Cute Patients

Some pictures

This little girl got hit by a cow. But I stitched her up, and she's ok now. The funny thing was that I was really hot, and the clean procedure room has AC, so the staff turned on the AC for me. However she FROZE! She was shivering at the end.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I have a need, a need for speed

Dad should not read this! :-P

Everyone rides motos here (motorcycles). And I have wanted to ride one....and last night was the night. It wasn't exactly how I imagined my first moto ride was going to be, but I'll take what I can get.

I was on call last night, and at 3am the doorbell goes off. The nurse says a guy had some kind of accident, and I needed to go the hospital. She hitched a ride on a moto, so she leaves. I get dressed and start walking up. I get to the Failes and realize there is a moto coming my way. The guy came back to pick me up. I quickly explain that I have never been on a moto before, he goes that's ok. I climb on, he shows me where my feet go. Then says we'll drive really slow. He meant it too, I don't think we hit 10 MPH. So I wasn't exactly a speed demon. BUT I think I have convinced each of the cooks that they should take me, so hopefully there will be more moto rides in my future.

By the way, the patient I was going to see had his gun explode. He took off part of 3 of his fingers and had some other lacerations. I sutured up a little, but decided it wasn't the right time to try my first amputation. He wasn't bleeding badly, so we wrapped him up. Then this morning I had assistance to do my first amputations.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Skirt vs Bike

This is Foster standing on a termite hill. These things are all over Ghana. Sometimes they take over whole trees. This has nothing to do with my next story, but I like the picture.
Today Christy #2 and I wanted to quickly go to market on our lunch break. The Failes had generously let us borrow their bikes to speed up the process. We are supposed to wear skirts to go to market. So I change into my skirt, and I'm already thinking can you ride a bike in a skirt? I should have known better.....

I get on the bike with my skirt on to head to the house. I feel like it's going to get caught, but I get there fine. On the way back to the hospital though, the skirt got completely tangled in the chain. So I get off the bike, but I am unable to free up the skirt. I'm yanking on it and it's doing nothing. No one is at the house, so I decide I will just have to try to walk up towards the hospital with the bike attached to my skirt. The pedals wouldn't work with my skirt stuck in there. It was kind of an akward walk, the skirt now caught how it was, didn't leave me alot of room to take steps. Christy Lee sees me from afar, giving me the what's up look? Then she realizes how stuck I am, and breaks out laughing. So she tries to free me, unsuccessfully. Let me add, she wanted me to take my skirt off at some point, she's yanking on it. I'm trying to hold the skirt up, citing immodesty. We are close to the Faile's house, and I suggest, let's just get Dr. Faile. But Christy is like NO, there's some Ghanian boys coming, they can help. I'm mortified, and she's trying to get their attention, she's like it'll be even more funny if they help. Amused they come over to assist the helpless white girl. They FREE me!!! So off I go again, after Christy tucked my skirt under me so it wouldn't get stuck.

Christy #2 and I make it to market, get what we came for, and head home. Of course, my skirt gets stuck again. I really really don't want to repeat the earlier scene, especially being in town. As white people, we attract plenty of attention without having my skirt caught in the bike. I'm imploring Christy #2 to rip the skirt, so she obliges. It wasn't torn badly. We finally make it home, laughing hysterically.

Be warned: Long flowing skirts and bikes do NOT mix!!!!