A Belgian surgical team, consisting of four surgeons (Casper Sommeling, Veronique De Moor, Konstantinos Kothonidis and Marie-Thérèse Marechal) and two residents (Jasper Van Herck and Liesbeth van Bergen) visited Ghana in early March. The mission did not have direct sponsorship, so the team members financed themselves apart from some sponsoring by the Lions Club of Waregem and later sponsoring by a regional group of Insurance Brokers. We obtained meshes from England and also from BBraun and Covidien from Belgium. In addition, other supplies were donated, including surgical gloves (Medline), disposable drapes (Mölnlycke Belgium and Medline) and suture materials (Johnson & Johnson). Local anesthetics were donated by BBraun and lidocaine with adrenaline and heavy marcaine were provided by Operation Hernia.
We arrived by Brussels Airlines in the late afternoon of Saturday at Kotoka Airport in Accra and spent the first night at the Paloma Ring Road Hotel. This was a very pleasant experience, with salsa dancing in the evening!
On the Sunday morning we split in to two teams; one team, consisting of one surgeon (Casper) and one resident (Jasper) went to Dixcove; the other four surgeons travelled to Keta.
This year we were specially invited to visit Dixcove Nana Hima Dekyi Hospital by Mrs. Henrietta Eyison, Municipal Chief Executive of the Ahanta West Municipal Assembly to operate on the patients that were still on the waiting list after a previous visit by another group of European surgeons.
The accommodation we stayed in this year was the best we have experienced in Ghana. Also to our surprise the Operating Theatre at the Dixcove Hospital had only recently been refurbished by UK volunteers from Operation Hernia, so the working conditions have improved enormously.
Plaque at Dixcove Operating Theatre detailing those involved in the recent refurbishment
Due to our participation at the yearly local parade during the 61st Independence Day on March 6th, we could operate only on four days this year. However, we were able to perform 31 operations in 29 patients, of which eight operations were in children. This meant a great effort by the medical staff at Dixcove Hospital and we appreciated this enormously. The nurse anaesthesists did their work very well, especially with the children.
We realize that operations on young children might be more challenging, but for experienced surgeons it should not be a problem. The fact is, the earlier you can operate the groin hernias the less problems there will be when the children are grown up. This might be the next challenge in the future of the treatment in groin hernias in Ghana.
Our group of three surgeons and one resident was invited by Serene Akpanya to operate in the Municipal Hospital in Keta, a new destination for our Belgian Operation Hernia Team. A Dutch Team had preceded us a few months earlier, but there were still many patients requiring surgery.
Since this is a relatively new site for Operation Hernia, we operated on many quite large groin hernias (most of them under spinal anesthesia), although we also operated on a few children (under general anesthesia). We performed a total of 68 operations in 60 patients.
We were very warmly welcomed by the Head Nurse, Bertha and her team who all assisted us very ably during the operations. They even made the effort to work on Independence Day, so we could operate for 5 days. Unfortunately due to a miscommunication, only a couple of patients showed up on our last day.
Serene Akpanya told us about their desire to build a second floor over the actual operating theatre. Unfortunately they don’t have the financial resources at this moment and there is a lack of medical material to extend the operating theatre. He hopes that some resources can be found with the help of Operation Hernia.
The whole team would like to thank the organisation and the local people for this wonderful and unique experience and we would be very pleased to return to Ghana in the future.
Casper Sommeling and Liesbeth van Bergen,
on behalf of the Belgian Operation Hernia Team