Stephanie Watt - Medicine in Ghana
I can’t believe that it has already been almost four months since I embarked on my three month adventure to Ghana! I was based in the village of Mamfe in the Akuapem Hills for three months, volunteering at the local hospital for one month and teaching at a school for two months.
My medical placement
My placement at the hospital was in the Maternity Ward. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. At first I was a little overwhelmed being thrown right into things but after about a week I felt like I was a part of the hospital staff. Every morning I would accompany the ward nurses and doctors on their rounds and I was in charge of taking vital signs (temperature and blood pressure) from all of the pregnant women.
I found it really interesting to learn that most of the pregnant women who were patients in the Maternity Ward were there because of sickness (e.g. malaria, anemia, eclampsia, etc.) and not just to give birth to their babies. I also found it amazing that many of the Ghanaian women I saw give birth gave virtually no sign of being in pain unlike in the Western world where it is not uncommon to hear screams of pain during labour. In addition to taking vital signs, I witnessed numerous women give birth to beautiful babies, cut umbilical cords, washed newborn babies, and delivered the new babies to their mothers (my favourite part!).
A shocking experience I had in the Maternity Ward occurred in my third week in the hospital. It was a rather slow day in terms of births so I decided to take a walk around the ward to see if there was anything I could help the nurses with. I reached the end of the hall and looked into the Preparation Room (the room where women go when they’re well into their labour) where there was one woman lying on a bed. I did a double take when I saw some movement on the bed. As I glanced back for the second time I noticed, to my astonishment, that the woman who was lying in the Preparation Room by herself had in fact already given birth to her baby on the bed, by herself. I ran to the nursing station to tell the nurses that the woman had given birth to her baby alone. The nurses didn’t seem fazed by the occurrence and casually walked to the Preparation Room to attend to the newborn baby. I was baffled at the time but looking back it makes me wonder if there is possibly too much medical intervention with childbirth in the Western world.
My teaching placement
At my teaching placement I taught Maths, Science, and English to a class of eighteen children who were mostly from 8-10 years old. I couldn’t believe how well behaved they were! On my first day of teaching I walked down the dirt road behind my host family’s house to school with a few bags full of school supplies in each hand. The moment the children at the school saw me approaching they rushed over to me and carried all my bags to the classroom. They also quickly ran to the neighbouring church to get me a chair and ensured it was clean before I sat down.
I was amazed at their manners and eagerness. I was curious to see if the children’s good behaviour would remain when I began teaching. Sure enough, when I started teaching the children were very attentive and eager to learn. Of course there was the odd day when some of the children acted up but for the most part they were great! I was astonished at how excited the children were to learn new things everyday and how much they enjoyed participating in class. It was a real joy to teach them and they taught me a lot about their culture as well.
No words can explain what a wonderful experience I had in Ghana. I would highly recommend volunteering in Ghana to anyone who is considering the opportunity. It truly opens your eyes to a different way of life and for me, has put a lot of things in my own life into perspective. Overall, a fabulous experience!