Thanks for visiting our site. We will do our best to keep this updated as we prepare for our travel to Ghana as well as through the month of February while we are there. In the meantime there are helpful links on the side of this page that will direct you to the hospital's website as well as World Medical Missions' support page. We appreciate your interest in our trip!
-Ben & Jen
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
We have made it back to Iowa City. Its windy and about 70 degrees colder then when we left Ghana. Home Sweet Home :). We are still adjusting to the time difference, but we are healthy and glad to be home. Thank you all for your prayers along the way. More updates to come soon.
Monday, February 27, 2012
I had the opportunity to go to Gambaga, a village near Nalerigu where women declared as 'witches' were outcast. Unfortunately, these women had been accused of being 'witches' for things such as wife to wife jealousy, a husband's disapproval of one of his wives, and commonly when peforming a tradition ritual of killing a chicken in front of the women, with the head landing a particular direction indicating she practices witchcraft. These women had been separated from their families and children and lived together in this village, Gambaga. Our medical team had an opportunity to come to their village and worship with them. We were also able to provide them with reading glasses donated from the United States. The little girl pictured is one of the children living in this village.
Somehow, there is a way to go shopping in the middle of the bush in rural Ghana. And I found out how. I'm sure that's not too hard for some of you to believe.
At the local markets, many of the women sold colorful fabric. One of the missionaries introduced me to a local tailor, Joyce, who had a shop right outside the hospital. Joyce made beautiful African dresses. She is a stunning African woman who finds a way to manage a tailor shop and care for her several young children.
Here is one of the dresses Joyce made for me. Kat and Beth (also pictured) were fourth year medical students from Tennessee who were on our medical team. They had skirts made for their match day :)
Ben had the opportunity to meet with several chiefs at the local villages. Typically, the volunteer team would bring him gifts (flashlights and fans). The chief also gave gifts in return, and granted the volunteer team permission to provide dental care and share the gospel story.
On one occassion, the chief gave Ben and the team a live dove in a cage. Somewhat unlike the gifts we give to each other in the US :)
They also gave soccer balls and school supplies to the school head master (like a principal). This was a gift of appreciation for allowing the volunteer team to share the gospel story with the children in school.
This is another great God story that I wanted to share. After working in the hospital for some time, I finally had a chance to go to a local village with Ben and the dental team. The journey out the the village was along a rocky, dusty road that our Toyota truck could hardly handle. Along the way we saw dozens of villages filled with children and community members, waving as we passed by.
Then, about half way through the drive, I saw an younger man wearing a royal blue robe running toward the car, waving as if to trying to stop us. I turned to look and instantly recognized him. I excitedly yelled to the driver "oh my gosh, stop the car!" I'm sure with the driver and other passengers confused, I jumped out and ran to hug this man in the blue robe. He had come to the hospital last week with his son, who was very ill, and with some supportive hospital care, God healed his son and we were able to send him home only a few days prior.
We could not not speak each other's languages, but we both seemed to communicate without any words. The man called his son, who was playing nearby in the village, to show me his son was doing well. It was as if the man wanted to say 'thank you'. I nearly cried. After driving through hundreds of people and dozens of villages, how did this man happen to come out to our car.
Thank you God, for healing this young boy and for once again showing Ben and I that You are near.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
This is Abdul. He had necrotizing fasciitis to his right foot extending up to his knee, requiring skin grafting. After days of recovering from the surgery and wound care, we finally got him a set of crutches to get onto his feet again for the first time. He was smiling from ear to ear as slowly gained the confidence to bear weight on his previously wounded leg. After several minutes, he wanted to walk all the way around the hospital with his new crutches, smiling and laughing, as he was so happy to walk again. It was hard for me to even get him back inside again. I have so many great stories like this, as I watched many of our burn and wound patients go through extensive surgeries, painful dressing changes, but eventually an enormous smile as they were given their set of crutches to start to walk again.
I was Abdul last week for a follow up appointment. He was still smiling ear to ear, so greatful to be healed. He was walking without his crutches and his wound was healing incredibly well. Praise God for these great healing stories and Abdul's beautiful heart.
This little baby stole my heart the moment I started my work in the hospital. Mugisu walked through a fire in his local village and had deep thickness burns to his feet up to his calves. When I arrived at BMC, he already had two skin grafts to his feet. Every day, Majeed cried and cried as we had to undress and re-dress his bandages; No pain medication except tylenol, as this was the case for all of our patients.
His mother (pictured) was very strong, but some days during dressing changes, she too cried, as it was so difficult for her to watch her little baby go through so much pain. Finally, one day during dressing changes, I could see how the mother's spirits were incredibly wounded by her injured little baby. She needed to get out the hospital and back home to be with her family. I discharged Mugisu and his wife to home, knowing a lift in spirits would be the best medicine for them. When Mugisu returned to the clinic on my last day in Nalerigu for a follow up, his wounds were healing incredibly well. We decided the child needed no more skin grafts and could continue daily wound cares from home. I had never seen his mother smile so much. She told us that Mugisu will now start to learn how to walk again.
These are the boys living in the local village around the hospital. They came to our house every day and frequently wanted to play games. Ben gave eac of them the colored pencils donated from our church and family. One day they came to our home to show us all the colorful pictures they had drawn. We'll have to show you them when we come home, as they are not well photographed in the picture. But we can tell you they are amazing artists! They had pictures of a guitar, scarecrow, soccerballs and famous people in Ghana. Most of them had written "For Ben" at the top, to thank him for giving them the new colored pencils to practice their drawing.
I thought I would tell you about this amazing story Ben and I were apart of recently. The woman in this picture brought her young boy, Majeed, into the hospital because he was unresponsive and limp. We later found that he had meningococcal meningitis. He was admitted to my ward about two weeks ago, and I was very unsure if he would survive. Earlier this week, we started seeing some improvement. He finally could sit up, and was able to eat small amounts of porage. He started responding when you called his name and even began squeezing my hand when I held it every day on rounds.
His mother called me to his bedside one afternoon and said she wanted to accept Jesus and become a Christian, because she knew God was watching over her son. Ben was fortunately with me, and together we prayed, as the nurse translated English into her tribal language. After our prayer, she asked for a new name. Ben and I looked at each other and were confused. The nurse then explained that when a person becomes a Christian, they are given a new name. I decided to give her the name, Lydia, the name of my younger sister, as she is one of the most godly women I know. I wrote out her new name on a piece of torn off notebook paper and she smiled, delighted. As my nurse Mary said that morning, the angels were singing in heaven.
Abraham (on the left), is Majeed's brother. He is at the bedside all day and night to help his brother. Abraham has been going to his local village church with Majeed, and both of the brothers are Christians. Now their whole family will attend church together.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
This is Zack. His family had a shop across the street from the hospital where they sold drinks and snacks. We were there purchasing things nearly everyday, so we got to know Zack quite well.
Above is a picture of Zack delivering Cokes to our hospital staff at the end of a clinic day, as well as a photo of Ben buying a Coke from Zack.
Unfortunately, Zack was unable to attend school and instead worked in his family's shop. Ben had a chance to give Zack colored pencils, which he was so grateful for. The first photo is of Zack after receiving the colored pencils.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Things are going fine here in Ghana, Yesterday the team that I had been going with out to the villages took off for home. The rest of this week I will be helping Jen out in the hospital as well as a few random things. There are many memories created that I will never forget. I wanted to share a few: 1) The second night here, a woman was rushed in to the hospital in a truck, Jen and I happened to be right there when they arrived. She had just given birth to a baby, but did not survive the car ride. I standing with her sister as Jen and another Doctor tried to revive the mother. It was a hopeless feeling to console her as she became aware her sister had not made it. I had no words for her, I was almost thankful for the language barrier. I hugged her as she wept. The baby was ok, and within minutes was sent home, an orphan, with the weeping aunt. 2) I will also never forget meeting many chiefs in the villages we visited. We would visit their 'palace' give them gifts of appreciation and respect by way of our translators and bows. At the end of the day they would thank us for our work by giving us live chickens or doves, I am thankful that our translators knew what to do with them, perhaps it was their dinner. 3) At a small village a few days ago, we were providing dental care. Some woman set up a market in hopes that we might buy a few items. I bought some nuts that are sold in little plastic bags. After a transaction lost in translation I ended up with five bags of nuts for one Ghana Cedi (about 65 cents). With my extra nuts I tried to give a some to some children who were standing near by. At first they were reluctantly surprised I was giving them nuts. When they realized what I was doing, the group grew, within a minute I was surrounded by 20 to 30 small children all with the palms open asking/begging for more. I had plenty of nuts, but the distribution became the problem. For the life of me I couldn't get them to stand in a line. When I tried to get the nuts into the smaller hands the bigger hands would win out. The battle lasted for five minutes or more. The adults in the village laughed at my predicament, I wanted to cry. Finally I had to give up, the parents scolded the children and I walked away, still with most of the nuts in my pocket, I desired to give them away, but I didn't know how.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
We hope you area all doing well and getting ready for a relaxing weekend. We have had a roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions and are ready for a little downtime this weekend :)
I (Jen) wanted to tell you a little about the medical experiences I've had during the past week. I've taken charge of the isolation ward in the hospital, where tuberculosis, burn and wound patients are located. Every bit of experience I had on the Burn Unit at the University of Iowa is being put to use as I care for these patients (I never thought that rotation would have been so important in my future medical career :). Every morning I'm doing the dressing changes and then performing debridements and skin grafts during much of the day. I'm also seeing lots of children in the weekly clinics (Mon, Wed Fri), many of whom who are malnourished and suffering from malaria or other parasitic infections.
Patient care is so drastically different here. There is quite a large language barrier, so obtaining a history of very limited. In addition, there are few to no laboratory tests or x-rays available to assist with obtaining a diagnosis. So the only thing you have to rely on is a physical exam. Practicing medicine here is like starting all over again with all that you think you know about medicine, and truly relying on Christ for your knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, several of my patients have passed away from diseases that would have been very treatable if the patients were living in the U.S. The people in this country experience loss and pain as a way of daily life, and continue to amaze both Ben and I with their graciousness and incredible true and natural joy.
I don't have too many photographs yet, since I've been so busy and haven't thought to bring my camera to the hospital every day. So there will be more to hopefully come...
Here's one of me helping in the traveling dentist and evangelism clinic.