Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Day of Work

This morning, we woke up around 6:15 to prepare for a first day of work. We spent the late part of last night without water (I took a shower with my bottled water!) and were all delighted to find that the water pump had been fixed in the morning. Turning the faucet and being immediately rewarded with a steady flow of liquid was something we took for granted a little less this morning. After an early breakfast, we piled onto the bus and made the 45-minute trip to Korle-Bu Hospital in Accra. We arrived at the ENT department of the hospital and met with Albert, the speech and language therapist, and Dr. Emmanuel Kitcher, the chair of the ENT department at the University of Ghana. Albert is currently the only practicing speech pathologist in Ghana and travels back and forth each week from Korle-Bu hospital to Kumasi, a city 6-hours away by car, to see patients in need of speech and language therapy.

Korle Bu hospital stood humble and majestic, with a grand staircase leading up to the waiting room and long columns lining the outdoor hallways. Albert’s office was near the entrance of the hospital, with a separate waiting room to the left and his office to the right. Across the top of the door was the sign “Speech and Language Therapy,” perhaps the only sign to bear these words in all of Ghana. Albert had invited a number of his patients to come to the hospital this week to be evaluated by our team. We saw 14 of these patients today, each with varying conditions and personalities. After watching Miriam, our supervisor, conduct an evaluation and provide recommendations for the first patient, we broke up in to small groups of 4 and 5 to begin receiving patients. The patients we saw presented with a variety of conditions, including autism, stroke, voice disorder, and language delays. We saw each patient for 20-40 minutes. We conducted a brief interview with each patient and gave them our recommendations based on the information gathered. One woman in particular left a lasting impression on some members of our group. She was a beautiful 60-year-old woman with a wide smile and a big heart. She was an active member of her church services and was often asked to speak in front of the congregation until a growth in her vocal folds began to interfere with her speaking abilities. Following an emergency thyroid operation, she could not speak for many months. She gradually was getting her voice back, but with severe hoarseness and vocal fatigue it was obvious to her and those around her that she could no longer speak the way she used to. She spoke quietly and slowly to us, with an abundance of patience when we asked her to repeat herself in an effort to better understand what she was saying. We practiced some vocal exercises with her and we could quickly tell that she was extremely committed to taking care of her voice. Throughout our time with her, she continually expressed her gratitude towards us and said that she was so happy to see us. It was our group, however, that gained perspective and insight from speaking to her and simply being in her presence and for that, we are grateful.

About halfway through our workday, a film crew from a local news station came to the hospital to film a report about the hospital’s work in speech and language therapy. As if seeing patients weren’t excitement enough for us today, the work we were doing was going to be filmed and we would be on TV! They interviewed some of us and filmed portions of the therapy sessions. We were excited to see the final product that night!

We left the hospital around 2pm and had the earliest lunch we’ve had here at 3 in the afternoon. We sat around a long table set up outside a restaurant near the University of Ghana. As we munched on our buffet of food, we shared about the different patients we had seen in the morning. These types of meetings are called S-groups back at Columbia and usually take place in small rooms in the clinic. We were enjoying our modified Ghanaian S-group as we ate and talked around a delicious meal in the sweet African air. Once well fed, we went off to the market where we all bought yards of gorgeous fabric.

After a bit of rush hour traffic, we got back to the hotel and quickly gathered into the dimly lit dining room to watch the 7pm news report. Joining us in the dining room was Cynthia, George’s niece who makes amazing beaded jewelry and brought many for us to buy, and Esther, a seamstress who took our measurements to make our requested garments, among which included skirts, a wedding dress, table runners, and a bowtie. Because the room was so dim, we had to break out our flashlights to look at the jewelry or take each item over to the lit fishtank to get a better look. The coverage of our work today came on about half an hour into the news report and we dropped everything to gather around the TV that hung in the corner of the room. We watched our news segment with pure excitement and plenty of laughter to go around. Here’s to our 2 minutes of fame! Well 4 minutes if you count the second airing of the segment at 10:30pm. What we are TRULY most excited about is the growing knowledge of speech and language therapy in Ghana. It’s not about our faces on TV (well ¾ of my face), but about the significance of this field and the small steps that are being taken to raise awareness and support in Ghana. We want to do our job so well that we won’t be needed here anymore (although I wouldn’t mind being on TV again!).

1 comment:

  1. Hi All,
    I arrived earlier this week at TC to begin my position as the new Director of the Mysak Clinic and found your blog today. What great work you are doing! I am so proud to be involved with such a fine group of future (and current) SLPs. I wish you all a very successful remainder of your visit and a safe trip home. I'll look forward to hearing about it when you return.
    Safe Travels,
    Dr. Youse