Belgian Team, Takoradi
The second visit of a Belgian team to Takoradi has been postponed from April until September due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull vulcano in Iceland. With two surgeons (Marc Huyghe and Casper Sommeling) and one nurse (Pina Orlando) we tried to plan our trip as well as possible with the forwarded information and the experience of our visit in 2008.
We took meshes (kindly donated by B. Braun Medical NV Belgium and Covidien), gloves (Cardinal Health), disposable drapes (Mölnlycke Belgium), suture material (Johnson & Johnson), local anaesthetics (Astra Zeneca and BBraun), analgesics, syringes and needles, and two big bags of small gifts and sweets.
After arriving at Takoradi on Saturday afternoon we were picked up by the driver of the GPHA-hospital and brought to the Doctor's Transit Lodge where we stayed the whole week. The ladies team (Kate, Grace and Benedicte) took very good care of us (as they are used to) and like last time we gained some weight again, due to the nice meals they served us. Also the bedrooms were more comfortable than they were two years ago; a hot shower needed some patience or some luck. On Sunday we made a trip to Nzulezo (the stilt village) and in the evening we had a swim and dinner in Green Turtle Lodge (where the waves of the Atlantic rock the shores).
After arrival at the hospitals (GPHA and Hernia Wing Takoradi Hospital) on Monday morning we could immediately start working. After getting acquinted again (and some introduction for newcomer Marc) we started in both hospitals for a long week, with long working hours and challenging groin hernias. No hernia operation was a routine operation; in contrast to the 2008 mission we did not really have the opportunity to spend our nights in downtown Takoradi.
With two surgeons we operated on 54 patients, most of them with groin hernias. In all this patients (except the children) we performed a Lichtensteinrepair (with standard middle weight polypropylene). In one female patient with a huge ventral hernia I performed a more extensive repair with a retromuscular mesh. The operation-theatres were better equiped (a new light in GPHA-hospital, with batteries), but a shortage of sutures was felt at the end of the week. Also more loco-regional anaesthesias were performed, contributing to a better comfort of the patients (in the sometimes timeconsuming repairs).
Pina the rock Orlanda helped us out in the operation theatres, but also managed to visit friends she made in her previous missions to Ghana. Apart from a nurse she is our public relations officer.
After a long week hard work we had a refreshing swim and nice dinner with Dr. Boateng and his wife at the Planters Lodge at Friday-evening. On Saturday we left for Accra and made a stop at Elmina Castle as all groups do. For me as Dutchman this visit reveals a part of our history we should not be proud of. But I also explained Marc that at that time the Netherlands included most of the northern part of Belgium In Accra we changed car and driver and set of to the Volta-lake, were we spend the night. At Sunday morning a nice view of the lake was our reward. After visiting the Shai hills, were we, unfortunately due to the rain season, apart from bats and baboons, saw no wildlife, we drove back to Accra. After a stop at the local art market and a lunch at the Golden Tulip Hotel we left Ghana by plane again to arrive in Brussels the next morning.
Advise for the next missions: bring enough sutures, local anaesthetics, drapes and gloves. Gowns are no problem.
Marc Huyghe states: To call yourself a real hernia surgeon one should have operated on hernias in Africa.