Project C.U.R.E. recently traveled to Ghana in March. They provided medical care to over 200 patients on St. Patrick's Day in the Ahafo region. Led by Clinics Director Corinne Domahidy, the 11-member medical team, comprising two doctors, a handful of nurses, a paramedic, and non-medical staff. They served patients ranging in age from infants to an 110-year-old woman for diverse maladies, including wounds of varying severity.
From one participant:
After a quick turnaround from spending 8 days in Nicaragua, I was back on the road again to volunteer in Ahafo, Ghana with C.U.R.E. Clinics. This trip was unique because this was the first time Project C.U.R.E. had partnered with Newmont Mining to deliver hope and health in a community that Newmont performs gold mining. I also think this was the first time that Corinne Domahidy, our fearless team leader, did not have to plan out every detail of clinic days because the Newmont team, Gifty, Elizabeth, and other Newmont Ghana-based leaders, already had the clinic sites setup for the four days of medical work. Every day we pulled into a clinic site there were already tents, tables, chairs, and people patiently waiting in lines; well at least until the numbers got handed out and then it got a little crazy. This pre-arranged organization of the clinic sites allowed us to start seeing patients much faster because normally we would have to track down tables, chairs, translators, etc. We had a team of five nurses, one paramedic, one OB/GYN, and three non-medical volunteers that tackled over 1200 patients in four days of clinics. We saw a range of maladies, but most frequently we heard “neck pain” and “waist pain” (I don’t want to sound like Captain Obvious here, but when you carry something heavy on your head, you are eventually going to have some pain). I’d estimate at least 75% of the people we saw had hypertension. Although hypertension is partially due to genetics, I knew there had to be some other reason for the high prevalence because I had normal-weight teenagers with blood pressures of 150/90. Since I’ve been on my public health-kick, I started asking questions about diet, physical activity, and medications…and I started to hear a pattern in their answers. Many of the people took “salt pills,” which may have been for the iodine to prevent goiters, but it was also have the effect of causing them to retain too much water and increasing the load on their hearts. I also heard many people comment that they eat a lot of canned tomatoes, which also have high sodium content, so I began educating them on rinsing the canned juice off the tomatoes before consumption. It got to the point where I would simply hear the sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) needle start to bounce at a high level and I would turn to the translator to start giving them “the talk” about salt pills, canned tomatoes, fried foods, and physical activity before I had even taken the diastolic number. I think I even scared one of my translators because he made a comment that he was worried that his blood pressure may be high and he would feel bad telling everyone to fix their lifestyle habits when he may have to do the same! I took his pressure…messed with his head a bit by telling him it was ridiculously high…but I assured him that it was currently normal, but it never hurt to take the advice he had been giving out all day long (in the 100 degree, 100% humidity heat by the way).
This team of volunteers really reminded me how awesome it is to participate with a group of people that can balance out each others’ strengths and weaknesses. We were able to consult each other on unfamiliar diagnoses, medications, infections, wounds (thanks for looking at those butt-boils for me, Kim!!), etc. It was also fascinating to hear about everyone’s prior travel experiences and volunteer sites…and to also be a part of Kevin, Matt, and Sabine’s first medical mission trips. Everyone had their own unique sense of humor and it was nice to unwind with everyone at the end of the day over gin and tonics (the quinine kills malaria…so we were just looking out for our health). Besides Corinne, this was everyone’s first trip to Ghana and we felt so incredibly welcomed by Newmont and the communities we treated. Patty and Stefka had the opportunity to treat all the chiefs of one community (whom, by the way, all had cell phones out during the welcoming ceremony…some things are truly universal). We each had private rooms, hot showers, bug nets, laundry service, great food, clean water, and working toilets. You can’t get much better than that when volunteering, and it was pure heaven to be able to get clean clothes after sweating out five pounds of water every day in clinics. I especially want to say that I am extremely grateful to Project C.U.R.E. and Corinne for giving me opportunities like this that push my medical knowledge limits and remind me of how much more I have to learn…and how much more I want to give. Corinne and my Ghana and Nicaragua C.U.R.E. Clinics teams of 2014 have inspired me to apply for graduate school to become a family nurse practitioner (and if I get into school, I’ll start in the spring of 2015). Thank you to everyone that has encouraged me to be a better medical provider and I’m excited for what the future holds.