23 FEBRUARY – 8 MARCH 2008
Only two surgeons (Maciej Śmietański and resident Kamil Bury) can enjoy the mission according to difficulties in financial support offered by local medical companies in Poland. Finally we would like to thank Covidien Poland, Gore and J&J for the meshes and sutures, Hartmann for surgical drapes and gloves and the authority of the Medical University of Gdansk Hospital (Marek Labon). All other expenses (flights, accommodation, fuel) were paid by us.

In 9 days of work in the hospital we have done 67 procedures in 58 patients. Not only inguinal hernias were treated, also umbilical and middle line hernias and hydrocoele cases were present in the treated group. We found the hospital facility convenient for hernia surgery, in fact very similar to conditions in Poland some 10- 15 years ago. Also to work with not full equipped operation room was nothing new for us, so it was not making any difficulties in our activity. All the people we met were very friendly and helpful, offering a lot of time and heart to the patients and us.
We had the possibility to check the patients one week after the surgery. In this short follow-up only one haematoma occurred in the patient operated for bilateral scrotal hernia. This patient needed conservative treatment and we advised him to come back to the hospital during the next two weeks for a control visit.

According to the local culture many patients promised to pray for us for many days, so I believe that never in my life did so many people pray for me at one time. Also one of the patients, the judge from the court in the town of Axim invited us for a trip and meal. It happened that he organized the trip to the historic places connected with first president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah (his home, his mother s home, the river next to the house) and finished with meeting with all his living relatives dressed in traditional clothing. To express our pleasure a post card originally signed by first Polish president Lech Walesa will be sent to these people.

Enormous help was also offered for us from Brian Dixon and Bernard Boateng-Duah. Without this help the whole mission would have been impossible.

During our stay I meet also the Executive Director of the Teaching Hospital in Kumasi (one of two Medical Universities in Ghana) speaking about the problems of introducing mesh repairs in Ghana. The lecture about standards of groin hernia repair in Europe and USA was given during the meeting of the local doctors association. I had to answer a lot of questions and had to explain all the mesh methods to the audience.

What we advise to all the following participants of the hernia project is to stay in the country for a few days extra to enjoy the seaside and make some trips to other towns. We spent 5 days visiting Kumasi, the water village of Nzalazu, Tarkwa gold mine and dancing with a village party on the Saturday night (live drum music and gospel singers). Missing the direct contact (and local gin) will be a mistake on the way to meet and understand the people of Ghana.

Our participation in next year’s mission is decided.

Maciej Śmietański