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The Extra Mile: Hands in Ghana Series

July 17, 2017
by Sheila Leech

Sheila Leech, Vice President of International Healthcare for Reach Beyond and a team leader for the 2017 Ghana medical internship, shares a series of stories from the experiences there. This is one of them.

The crowd of patients huddled under the blue and red awning outside the church, seeking protection from the sun. The noise level was rising as more than 200 patients waited for their turn to be seen by a medical person. The Reach Beyond medical intern team worked efficiently and fast but it was clear that not every patient could be attended to that day.

Periodically one of the medical staff would be summoned by Frank, our Theovision partner, to decide on "fast tracking" a particularly sick patient. The colorful crowd would watch intently as a decision was made by the triage team. Those who already had their registration papers knew that every patient selected for fast track would put them further down the line. Every patient who was not registered knew that every fast-tracked patient lessened their chance of being seen by a doctor.

A young girl was carried in by her mother. Her left foot was swollen and so painful that the girl could not walk on it. Her mother told the staff that a big thorn had punctured her foot as she was out walking. The area between her toes was badly swollen and infected. This was definitely a case that needed to be seen.

      They could hardly believe what they were hearing.
      For them, this offer was an amazing gesture of kindness.

It was clear that Helen, as her name turned out to be, was not accustomed to seeing doctors - especially not white doctors. Her mother coaxed her to lie down on the rough wooden bench "exam table", held her tightly in her arms and covered her eyes so she would not see the anesthesia being injected.

It hurt. Even the distraction of a lollipop to suck on was not enough to take Helen’s mind off the sensation of Doctor Nelson probing the wound with metal forceps. Finally, the doctor pronounced that there was no longer a thorn there, and that the wound should stay open so the infection could drain out. A clean white gauze dressing and bandage was applied.

Helen’s mother was given more dressings and bandages to take home, and instructed that Helen should keep off her foot for a few days and keep it elevated. The team took time to pray with them.

Helen’s mother started to pick up the 10 year-old to swing her on to her back to be carried home. Then Lee Sonius, the Regional Director for SSA, stepped in and offered to drive them home. They could hardly believe what they were hearing. For them, this offer was an amazing gesture of kindness. For the team it was another great opportunity and privilege to be the Voice and Hands of Jesus and to go the extra mile - literally.