Off to Tamale!

| May 24, 2013

Waking up at 9:00 am today was a nice change from having to get up so early every morning.  We got to sleep in because we were scheduled to take a flight to Tamale that left at 12:40. After breakfast we went by bus to the airport in Kumasi. On the bus, Cate informed us that we had raised enough money from our own donations to provide transportation for 30 kids from Belinda’s school for two years, which was amazing. We were all in awe and felt really good that we were able to serve the community in this way. When we got to the airport, we stayed for a little while until we were able to board our flight. The flight only took about 40 minutes and took us 400 kilometers to the north.

From the airport we were reunited with our yellow bus and began the drive to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. From our windows we were able to see cows, goats, and lots of small circular huts. As we got closer to the city, we also saw lots of people riding on bikes and motorcycles. Sometimes there were even two or three people on a bike at once. During our trip our guide, George, talked to us about some of the cultural characteristics we might expect to see. For example, he mentioned that there are more Muslims than Christians in Tamale. Also he mentioned that the culture was more chauvinistic than it was where we had come from.  In addition, having a disability was even more taboo in this area. The instance of children with disabilities being killed would be more common.

Sometime into our trip the bus broke down in the middle of the street. Apparently the clutch had stopped working, so we had to switch buses. We made it safely to the Tamale Teaching Hospital and were fortunate enough to meet with Dr. Ken Sagoe, CEO of the hospital. He spoke to us about initiatives by different groups to address cleft palate and expressed the need for speech language pathologists and other rehabilitative professionals in Ghana. He also talked about how there needs to be a shift from groups that come to Ghana, repair clefts, and leave,  to groups that train Ghanaian surgeons instead. This would be better for the post-surgical care of patients, and would allow more cleft patients to be served. Finally, Dr. Sagoe answered some of our questions about the hospital. One of the biggest issues is retention. In previous years, 50%of doctors who were trained at the teaching hospital left the country, most finding work in the U.S. and the U.K. but now they are able to retain more doctors through incentives and salary raises.

Esther, one of the Public Relations staff, took us on a tour of the hospital. First, we went to the maternity ward where a nurse told us that they have about 30 to 50 births each day. Then we were able to go in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where we saw little babies struggling to breathe and survive. It was really heart-wrenching. Later in the evening, we spent time thinking of recommendations we could give to help improve the care of the babies in the unit, such as promoting sideline elevated positioning, and kangaroo care, where the mother puts the baby to her chest. We then made our way to the radiology department where they proudly showed us their advanced equipment, including a fluoroscopy machine, which could be used for modified barium swallows- a procedure that SLPs deal with frequently. It was a great experience seeing all this development.

After an eventful day, when we made it to the hotel, Cate treated us to a taste of amazing Ghanaian chocolate coffee. Before dinner we talked more about the NICU with Erika, and learned a lot of great information about what SLPs do in these settings. The talk was so powerful, that the power went out for about 5 minutes.  When it came back on we had rice, vegetables, guinea fowl, and goat. All in all it was an amazing day. Tomorrow we’re looking forward to a trip to Mali and hope to see some elephants!