First mission to Carpenter, Bole District, N. Ghana

14-31 OCTOBER 2008

On the plane travelling to Ghana in November 2007 we met a Medical Team of Canadians lead by Dr Jennifer Wilson. The Team was bound for Carpenter to work with the Northern Empowerment Association-Ghana Rural Integrated Development (NEA-GRID) organisation.

The NEA is the brain-child of Dr David Mensah and his wife Brenda who have given their lives to helping the rural poor around the desperately underprivileged area of Carpenter, where David was born. The NEA has improved life for the local community by provision of infrastructure, fresh water from wells, training of farmers, school buildings, fish farming, poultry husbandry and disbursement of micro-credit to women s groups.

After a preliminary site visit by in February 2008 and the consent of Dr Mensah, Operation Hernia began to plan a very ambitious mission to perform Hernia Surgery at Carpenter, where Hernias are epidemic in the people of the surrounding villages. No clinic or hospital previously existed. One of the buildings of the NEA compound was to be prepared as a rudimentary hospital with pre-assessment rooms, recovery rooms, examination rooms and two operating theatres . The nearest hospital or anything resembling a rudimentary healthcare facility is a distance of 30 kilometres.

A container to equip the two operating theatres together with the necessary supplies was sent out in advance loaded with redundant equipment supplied by Derriford hospital (Plymouth, UK) and the consumables required for the surgery. The surgical team comprised 8 members with an anaesthetist. In addition UK members joined the Canadian Medical team (two doctors, one dentist and two general Volunteers).

It was a true pioneering adventure, with a few scares on the way - one in a patient with a giant "below-the-knees hernia! We operated on 76 patients and performed 93 procedures. The Canadian medical team set up mobile clinics in the surrounding villages (some a distance of 3 hours drive away by 4-wheel drive station wagon through the Volta swamps) and treated patients with a variety of tropical diseases. The number of hernias in the Northern Region is staggering - the local Medical Assistants surveyed 50 local villages (population estimate about 50,000 living in primitive conditions with no roads, electricity, or running water ) and stopped counting at 700! This equals a prevalence of at least ten times the expected level.

Along the way the Team enjoyed warm, enthusiastic and joyful hospitality from the local Chiefs, Elders and villagers. Cuisine was prepared from local produce and the tropical, torpid mosquito-ridden nights were brightened by the stunning sights of a billion African stars. There are plans to repeat this mission in 2009.

Our Sponsors for this mission were as follows:
1. Atrium Medical - Prosthetic meshes, 10 sets of surgical instruments (Codman), £3000 donation
2. Covidien - 2 diathermy machines
3. Cook Medical - £2000 to provide the transportation costs of a 40 foot container from Plymouth to Carpenter (see Gallery picture)
4. British Hernia Society - £1500
5. European Hernia Society - 1500 Euros
6. Derriford Hospital Medical Equipment Maintenance Service - redundant equipment including 2 operating tables and a ventilator
7. Collings Park GP Surgery, Plymouth - Little Sister steriliser
8. Anaesthetic drugs from the following donors: Taro (local anaesthetic, adrenaline, midazolam), Fresenius (propofol), Flexicare (LMA and airway filters), BD (cannulas, needles, syringes, spinal needles), Smith Medical (Portex tracheal tubes), Intersurgical (self-inflating ventilation bag = "resuscitator")