I know I fell behind on posting toward the end of the trip, but Professor King did a marvelous job of keeping everyone up-to-date on our travels. The Cape Coast castles, Kakum National Park and the Canopy Walk, celebrating my birthday, and our last few days in Ghana spent swimming and visiting the beach were a relaxing way to wind down our very emotional and work focused journey in Ghana. Now, I'm home. The first thing I did was drink a large Dunkin' Donuts coffee (thanks to Geoff.) I enjoyed the luxury of riding home in a car built for 5, carrying only two, and equipped with seatbelts. I made a b-line for a piping hot shower, before crawling into a warm (ant free) soft pillowed bed for a nice long nap.
Since my return I have eaten a plethora of cheeses, enjoyed many glasses of milk, devoured a large burrito complete with copious amounts of sour cream, and not worried about the source of water used to make the ice cubes in my drinks. I am, once again, brushing my teeth with tap water. I was able to wash (and dry) my clothes in a machine, rather than by hand, and utilize toilets without the need to byotp (bring my on toilet paper) or hand sanitizer. When I go to work, I'm going to go into our OR and hugging the anesthesia machine. I have a much better sense of what I have in my life, and am so very grateful for all of it.
Continuing the Work
Ghana was a once-in-a-lifetime, eye-opening, and overall incredible experience. It has reaffirmed my calling to nursing. My heart broke almost daily when I observed the conditions Ghanaians live in; the quality of their air, the amount of litter on their streets/in their water, the lack of access to healthcare, the lack of resources nurses and doctors have to work with, the minimal exposure to even simple technology (washers and driers, dishwashers) that I take for granted daily...it was simply overwhelming.
I met up for drinks with some of the NSWB members last night, and they echoed my exhaustion, both mental and physical. We are all feeling emotional now, and I think it's because at some point we had to hold back/turn off emotionally while we were away. There was homesickness eating at all o f us, poor nutrition and sleep deprivation, and on top of all this we witnessed so much need. In order to get through each day, we had to face our patient's problems one at a time and accept the fact that there was only so much we could do in that moment. Now that I am home, I feel I am faced with an even greater responsibility than I had while I was in Ghana.
We have assessed, first hand, the needs of the people, the clinics, the hospitals, the nurses. We are well equipped to help next year's group fund raise with the stories people have shared with us, the pictures we have taken, and the contacts we have made. Our work as NSWB members has only just begun, and I am looking forward to the work ahead this upcoming semester.
I now recognize that educating the nurses of Ghana is more important than any blood pressure clinic, or day spent working in a hospital setting. While this interventions were important, it was in teaching our patients and colleagues that I think we made the greatest impact. With this in mind, next year's Annual National Nurse's Conference should be a priority, and it could easily be twice as big if it is better advertised than this year's was. Supply donations could be better organized now that specific needs have been identified, such as the need for alcohol swabs and a flip-flop drive. Money can be raised toward specific needs as well: anesthesia machines, blood bank refrigerators, maternity beds, bore holes for clean water, etc. It is going to be a very big year for NSWB.
Thank you to everyone who donated supplies and money to our cause. Thank you to my co-workers at Emerson Hospital for understanding that I needed this time off, and for covering shifts for me. Thank you to my family, friends, and boyfriend for your financial and emotional support. Thank you to my classmates for your encouragement and emails you sent while we were away. Thank you to the readers of this blog. Blogging was new for me, but rewarding. I hope I didn't bore you with too many details. :-)
Lastly, thank you to my fellow NSWB members. I am so proud to be a part of this group. I think we all worked incredibly well together. I look forward to working closely with new members as our semester begins on Monday.
Jody Roper, Supply Coordinator and Secretary for NSWB 2009-2010
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