Visit of English medical students


Our names are Katy and Rachel and we have recently returned from a six week visit to St Anthony's Hospital, Dzodze. Our trip formed our medical elective - a six week block of study undertaken in another country by all English medical students. We wanted to share a little of our experiences.

St Anthony's Hospital has about 160 beds, divided between male, female, maternity and paediatric wards. There are also two surgical theatres, an X-ray room, a large out-patients department and a physiotherapy block. We were made welcome in all these departments. We were particularly impressed by the physiotherapy department, which, as well as a four-bed therapeutic massage room, has a variety of gym and training equipment designed for rehabilitation. This room is used by stroke sufferers and people after serious accidents. It is also well-used by children who have had operations to repair deformities in their limbs. We saw many of these children on the paediatric ward. Two full rooms (one male, one female) were devoted to children with limbs in plaster after operations to repair club feet, contractures from polio, congenital deformities, and any other form of abnormality. We were not at the hospital when these operations were performed (every year in Spring and Autumn when orthopaedic surgeons visit the hospital). However as the children stay in hospital for at least six weeks afterwards we became very friendly with them. They would always welcome us with cheery smiles and waves and calls asking how we were. We were there when the majority had their stabilizing pins removed and were allowed home, still in plaster, to return for frequent physiotherapy sessions. Such operations make such a huge difference to these children.

During our visit to Ghana we saw several older people in such pain and disability due to severe deformities - club feet and contractures will only cause a worsening deformity with time. It was fantastic to see the large number of children who would never suffer this outcome and would from now on lead normal lives. The children were also very patient with being in hospital. We frequently saw them playing ludo together and feel that if more games were provided they would love to try them out. We also felt that the children would benefit if teaching could be provided in the hospital on a daily basis.

We learned from N.N. and Mr Akoto-Brown (the hospital administrator) about the good work of Heart for Children, an Austrian initiative to finance operations and rehabilitation for children in Ghana with orthopaedic disabilities, whose parents cannot raise the necessary funds. The organization pays for surgery and rehabilitation of many of the children treated at St. Anthony’s Hospital.

It was not just in hospital that we were learning. We learnt some of the local Ewe language and enjoyed shopping at the market for local produce and tasting traditional dishes. We also saw some of the surrounding towns and villages, watched the weaving of the traditional Kente cloth and experienced mass at the Catholic Church. The Ewe people we met were endlessly kind and generous and taught us much about the true spirit of hospitality and friendship. We are very grateful to N.N. and Mr Akoto-Brown for helping us to organize our visit and to all of the many people we met and became friends with whilst we were there.

Rachel Gottschalk & Katy Keeler