Operation Hernia Report: November 2015 Mission to Takoradi, Ghana.
On the 21st November our team of six began our journey to Ghana. We comprised two consultant surgeons, Shina Fawole and Chris Macklin, a consultant anaesthetist, Josie Brown, a paediatric theatre sister, Lisa Macklin and two surgical registrars, Steve Pengelly and myself. We arrived in Accra on Saturday evening and spent the night at the Baptist Guest House before setting off for Takoradi on the Sunday. We managed to sneak in a trip to the beach on the Sunday and prepare for what turned out to be a very busy week of operating.
We spent the next five days operating at two hospitals in Takoradi; the Hernia Centre and the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) Hospital, both of which have hosted Operation Hernia teams many times in the past. The patients had been selected prior to our arrival, coordinated by Dr Boateng, Chief Medical Officer of GPHA Hospital, which meant that there was no hanging around on the Monday and we were able to dive straight into work.
Over the 5 days, across the two hospitals, we operated on a total of 83 patients, including 8 children. In total, as a team we fixed 72 inguinal hernias, 7 other hernias (umbilical, epigastric and incisional) and 4 hydroceles. Needless to say, fitting in these numbers meant long and intensive days, and the local theatre staff and nurse anaesthetists worked incredibly hard to ensure we were able to get through all the patients. There was never any question of not sending for the next patient.
As previous volunteers have already attested to, the hernias seen were much larger than those commonly seen in the UK, meaning that the operations themselves were more challenging (and fun), particularly given the variability of the instruments as well as the occasional black out. The main difference was seeing the impact that our service had on the patients. With large hernias, many patients were unable to work and thus, a hernia repair can mean a return to work and the opportunity to provide for their families.
Operation hernia was an amazing and invaluable experience. Aside from the operative experience, it provides an opportunity to see and experience a different culture and provide new insights into our own practise. I am grateful to the other members of the Operation Hernia team and the local staff for making the experience so enjoyable and worthwhile. Special thanks has to go to Shina and Chris for their patience in training which enabled me to operate on large and challenging hernia, and to Lillian and her team who fed us remarkably well (considering the lack of electricity at times) during the trip.
Emma Upchurch, General Surgery Registrar