After a ten hour flight, I landed at Kotoka International Airport earlier than anticipated around 7:45 am Monday morning. After collecting one large duffle and two even larger cardboard boxes of supplies from baggage claim, I navigated my way to the exit, receiving some assistance from lovely airport personnel after my belongings flew off the cart mid-downward slope. Once I got outside, I was greeted by the friendliest FOCOS driver who helped me cram everything into the car and shared interesting tidbits about his homeland on the way to the hospital.
Once at the FOCOS Orthopedic Hospital, I met up with Chief Administrative Officer Leticia and other administrators to fill out some paperwork and get my mandatory badge. I then received an orientation packet, in addition to listening to a presentation more specific to volunteering at FOCOS. The presentation focused on the organization’s mission, staff values, expectations, and, most importantly, why FOCOS’s work is so important. I was previously aware that Ghana had a low physician density (or fewer doctors than needed based on the size of its population), but did you know that as of the most recent report, Ghana has roughly one doctor per 10,000 people? And that’s with rounding up. Needless to say, specialties like orthopedics are often forgotten and there are only twenty-something orthopedists in the entire nation. This is shocking and heartbreaking due to the abundance of extremely severe orthopedic deformities in Ghana. Just waiting to get my blood work and chest x-ray done today (before being cleared to shadow and interact with patients), I saw spinal deformities beyond anything I had ever witnessed in person before. Many of these spinal abnormalities are due to tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that typically affects the lungs but “can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). My first day also included sitting in on a monthly meeting with all the department heads, checking out the cafeteria, itemizing the donations I transported, and planning an exciting itinerary for the next few weeks.
All of my potential fears have been completely lifted with my first taste of Ghana. The hospital staff is so thoughtful, respectful, and best of all, friendly. On just my first day I felt welcomed and already at home. My accommodations are superb and most definitely will allow me to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s 7 am start. Until tomorrow!