OPERATION HERNIA MISSION: OCTOBER 2016 TAKORADI, GHANA
TEAM LEADER – MR SHINA FAWOLE (CONSULTANT SURGEON)
TEAM MEMBERS – MR CHRIS MACKLIN (CONSULTANT SURGEON), MS HANNAH WELBOURN (CONSULTANT SURGEON), MELANIE PRECIOUS (ADVANCED ODP), LISA MACKLIN (RGN), VICKY ARMITAGE (ODP), EMMA UPCHURCH (SURGICAL SpR), MICHAEL KELLY (SURGICAL SpR).
On the 8th October 2016 we began our mission to Ghana. I joined a team of three consultant surgeons, three theatre nurses, and two surgical registrars.
We arrived in Accra late on Saturday evening where we met the other teams who were also planning to spend the next week operating across Ghana. The Baptist Guest House was our base in Accra. Right from the get-go the Takoradi team was very welcoming and inclusive of an outsider into their clan. I learned that this team (in some variation) has been traveling to Takoradi to perform Operation Hernia missions for the last eight years.
The following morning in torrential rain, we travelled to Takoradi. After a 4-hour drive we reached our destination, a house owned by the municipal government that has been utilized for visiting surgical teams from UK, Netherlands and Germany. At this residence, Lillian and her team of helpers looked after us fantastically. Their attention to details was remarkable. Every morning, hot water (for showering) and breakfast was ready, and every evening we were treated to diverse and wonderful Ghanaian culinary experiences. Their care and attention to us was extraordinary, and I thank them profoundly.
During the five days operating in Takoradi (Monday to Friday), three surgeons operated in three hospitals/medical centres (The Hernia Centre, Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority Hospital (GPHA) and Dixcove Medical Centre). Screening of suitable cases was already performed by Dr Boateng (Medical Director of GPHA Hospital), who was also always available to help and provide local advice. This planned organization facilitated immediate starting of operating on Monday morning. The majority of cases included primary and recurrent inguinal hernias, ventral/umbilical hernias and some paediatric hernias. On average, each centre operated on 8-10 cases per day. The majority of cases were performed under either spinal or local anaesthesia. Over the 5 days, a total of 103 procedures were performed. The working day was intensive with late finishes, but was filled with an atmosphere of both camaraderie and satisfaction. Both local nursing and anaesthetic staff were always adaptable to rapidly processing patients thus maximizing the impact of the mission.
As a trainee, this mission was an incredible experience, enabling me to participate in teamwork and to be involved in complex hernia repairs. Even though this mission was a consultant-lead service, it provided excellent training opportunities to work alongside three consultants and to learn their “tricks” for dealing with difficult situations. There was also the benefit of learning how to operate in an austere surgical environment, where at times, limited surgical instruments or lighting contributed to that “extra” challenge.
On our last evening, we met the local government minister who hosted us during our trip in Takoradi along with Dr. Boateng. We enjoyed another fantastic meal by Lilian and her team, and we celebrated with a deserved debriefing over some beverages. Our final afternoon in Ghana was spent on the beach in Accra prior to flying home. I am extremely grateful for the Takarodi team for making my experience so enjoyable and worthwhile. Despite long days and tired souls, the evenings were always upbeat with plenty banter and joshing. I can clearly see why this team returns annually and is so effective in their mission.
Finally, I would like to thank Operation Hernia and ASiT for awarding me the Shorland Hosking Fellowship and the immense experience of participating in this mission.
Michael E. Kelly
Surgical SpR Dublin, Ireland