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Medicine & Healthcare in Ghana by Jessie Barton

Enjoying my time off

Volunteering has always been a passion and volunteering abroad has always been a dream. I made the decision to join Projects Abroad and volunteer when I graduated from college. I did not know anyone who had gone through this organisation, but after much research I decided this programme gave me the best opportunity. Not only had I never taken a trip of this magnitude alone, but I had never been out of the United States.

The Ghanaian way of life

At the funeral

Arriving in Ghana was so exciting. At first it was like the world was spinning around me and I was just amazed I had made it this far. My host family was incredible. I ate what they ate for every meal, with a few recommendations. I still crave "red-red and fried plantain." I used a bucket shower just as they did and was completely immersed in their way of life.

After a few weeks the Ghanaian way of life became the norm and the idea of driving my own car and not walking everywhere was a strange idea. Shopping in the market for extra food and clothes/fabric was such an experience. By the end of the trip I knew my way around the Kejetia market like the back of my hand and was a pro at bargaining for a taxi!

In traditional dress

My project in Ghana

I spent three days a week in Atasemanso Hospital. As this placement was at a rather small hospital, I could go wherever the action was. I would make my own rounds and talk to all 30 or so patients every morning. Many could not speak English, but they appreciated a smile. I would also look through their charts to catch up on their health record. I would then talk with the nurses and see what was going on that day. By then it was time for the doctor to make rounds. I would follow him around the hospital and he would quiz me on conditions and basic biology.

I helped change dressings, IVs, and checked vitals. I also assisted in surgeries and got the chance to sit in with the doctor in the consulting room. Two days a week I went to local schools or the orphanage and checked children for cuts, boils, fungal infections, ringworm and anything else we saw that would be possible to treat.

The most devastating case I witnessed in the hospital was an 11 year old girl with what started as a small wound on her leg. As her mother knew little about sterilisation, the small wound became infected. Her mother used a herbal physician to treat the wound, but after the herbal care only seemed to worsen the case, the mother brought her daughter to the hospital with a gangrenous leg.

Looking after the children

The only option at this point was amputation. After surgery, the combination of anaesthesia, trauma, and infection throughout the bloodstream meant the little girl died. It was amazing how little things like that escalate and how the lack of knowledge within the community caused this girl to lose her life.

My free time in Ghana

Most weekends I travelled around the country and ended up visiting every possible attraction in Ghana. I was also able to attend a Ghanaian funeral with my host family. My host mother helped me find the proper fabric so I could have a funeral dress made. I really became part of their family.

Through Projects Abroad I made some incredible friends from across the world, and we still keep in touch. I was recently accepted to medical school and hope to return someday to volunteer as a Physician.

Jessie Barton

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