In January 2017, the 8th mission of the Dutch team of Operation Hernia took  place. This year a team of eight surgeons and eight residents went to the Ghanaian towns of Keta, Wenchi and Bole. The teams had as goal to treat as many patients as possible.  A second equally important goal was to teach local physicians to perform inguinal hernia surgery with a mesh (Lichtenstein procedure under local anaesthesia), so they would be able to continue performing these operations after the mission had finished, and they eventually can teach others.

On Saturday the 7th January the members of operation hernia arrived in Accra.  The next day 8 surgeons and residents went by car to Takoradi and the other 8 took a domestic flight north to Kumasi.  There they split up and a team of four went by car to Wenchi while the other four drove to Bole in the northwest region of Ghana.

Since elective surgery and in particular hernia surgery is rare in this country, many patients travelled from near and far to be treated by the Dutch team of Operation Hernia.  An untreated inguinal hernia causes, besides effect on daily activities and cessation of professional activities, a substantial health risk.  In case of incarceration, mortality rates up to 80% are not exceptional.  So the goal of our visit is clear: treat as many patients as possible!  And, equally important, teach local physicians and nurses to perform hernia operation and provide care afterwards.

Takoradi team

After a drive of approximately 5 hours we arrived at Takoradi. During the trip we already got to know Ghana a bit and this made us more and more enthusiastic to start our mission. Since Takoradi has a fantastic coastline, we first visited the beach and ended the day with a dive and some drinks over there.  We speculated what the week would bring us.

The next morning, after the delicious Ghanaian breakfast, with Dutch peanut butter, we were split in three groups since we were working in three totally different hospitals.

GPHA is a private hospital.  Dr Bernard Boateng is the leading doctor in this beautiful hospital with even a CT-scan.  The theatre staff were friendly and very capable. Rapidly, an inguinal hernia was followed by a giant hydrocele alternated by an emergency Caesarean section. Days flew by, in total 27 operations were performed in this hospital.  The medical staff were well trained and a pleasure to work with.

The largest hospital, Takoradi hospital has its own hernia wing. The head of theatre there is Marian.  A great personality, she and her team made our mission even more special. Time flew, while working hard in the wing there was a lot of fun! In the Hernia Wing, a total of 29 surgical procedures were successfully performed.  The majority were adult male patients with inguinal hernias treated with a Lichtenstein procedure under local anaesthesia. The severity varied from H1 to H4 (large scrotal hernias), all treated with a mesh brought from the Netherlands. The Takoradi group operated on 9 children under the age of 9.  A herniotomy was performed with general anaesthesia.  In both the Hernia Wing and GPHA, young doctors were joining us to be taught about the Lichtenstein procedure. It was great to see their enthusiasm and we were convinced of their surgical skills.

Dixcove, a small hospital in the more rural area outside of Takoradi, was a great place to visit.  In this hospital, with an anesthetist known for his fast spinal anaesthesia technique, working was extraordinary. The theatre was used optimally, a Lichtenstein procedure was performed while a Caesarean section had to start.  No problem, in Dixcove they perform this at the same time in the same room!  A great experience!  We were very happy to work with the medical staff and hopefully the same applies for them. Working in this hospital was sometimes even a real party, especially when the scrub nurse started to dance to our music in between the surgeries.  The fact that we worked hard besides the fun is shown in the total of 20 surgeries performed. In total 76 patients were treated by the Takoradi group.

 

Bole team

Together with the Wenchi group we took an inland flight north to Kumasi. From there our groups split and the four of us were picked up by Baba, the Bole hospital ambulance driver. All the equipment we brought was loaded in the back of his pick-up truck and off we went. Our six hour drive was interrupted only for a short introduction to the Ghanaian cuisine: banku! (a mixture of fermented corn and cassava dough in hot water).  Along the way the setting changed into more rural scenery.  While listening to the car radio we heard a broadcast to invite patients with inguinal hernia to register for surgery at the Bole Hospital. This way, Dr. Josephat Nyuzaghl (Dr. Joe), one of the two local doctors of the Bole hospital and our contact person, had efficiently recruited patients for surgery!

After a long day of travelling we were welcomed by the hospital administrator and the medical director of the Bole hospital, and Dr. Joe kindly showed us around.  Many patients had responded to the radio broadcasts, so our days started early with the screening of patients that had queued up in front of the male ward.  After this we started surgery and worked together with the enthusiastic local operation team until all patients, that were put on the list that morning, were operated on.  The hospital has two functioning operating rooms and we therefore divided into two teams of a surgeon and a resident mixing the pairings. The vast majority of patients were operated on under local anesthetic, only some patients had a spinal anesthetic. We had the opportunity to use sterilized mosquito net meshes that worked very well.

Vitus, the pragmatic nurse anesthetist, organized the operation list and made sure everyone of the team knew exactly what to do.  Not a minute of our time there was lost. The whole team worked extremely hard, sometimes until late in the evening!  We had little chance to work together with Dr. Jatuat, the young local surgeon, who was kept busy with other patients since he and Dr. Joe are the only physicians in this region.  In total over the week we carried out 83 procedures in 74 men, women and children.  All patients stayed in the ward the night postoperatively and were discharged the next morning.

As a special treat after we finished Dr. Joe had kindly organized a send-off party with drinks and food (guinea fowl). We had the chance to thank the Bole Hospital staff for making us feel so welcome. We were presented with custom made smock, worn on special occasions. We would all like to reiterate our thanks to Dr Joe, Vitus and the staff at Bole Hospital. Finally we would also like to thank the Ghana Government for facilitating our mission. We will be visiting again.

Wenchi team

At Kumasi airport we were welcomed by Dr. Bibi Bosomtwe who took us on a 2.5 hour drive north through the beautiful Ghanaian landscape to the town of Wenchi.  Wenchi is the capital of Wenchi Municipal of the Brong-Ahafo Region in South Ghana with a population of around 40,000 people. On arrival we were greeted by Bernard Clement Botwe, the charismatic CEO of the Wenchi Methodist Hospital.  Afterwards we were brought to our accommodation for the upcoming week, a nice guesthouse just outside Wenchi. Here we were joined by Sarah, a Ghanaian scrub nurse with experience in assisting during the Operation Hernia Missions. She was asked specifically for this mission to come and assist, and to teach the scrub nurses of Wenchi Methodist Hospital.

On Monday morning we were picked up by the hospital bus and were taken to the Methodist Hospital.  It is a lovely typical Ghanaian hospital with approximately 300 beds. We met the anaesthesia medical officers, scrub nurses and the local physician we were going to train, Bismark Kubi.  After discussing our plans for the week we got acquainted with the two small but adequate operating theatres, which were going to be our work environment. The enthusiasm of the complete operating room (OR) personnel and everyone at the Wenchi hospital from the first second of our visit was impressive.

Every day started with screening of the potential patients. Numerous patients from the whole region surrounding the hospital had responded to the call for treatment. After screening, eligible patients were seated outside the operation theatres until surgery. Most patients were treated under local anaesthesia; they walked into the OR, underwent inguinal hernia correction with a mesh, and afterwards walked out of the OR by themselves. For exceptional cases, such as irreducible and bilateral hernias, spinal anaesthesia was available. Children with inguinal hernias were treated under general anaesthesia with Ketamine.

During our stay at Wenchi Methodist hospital, 45 patients with a total of 52 hernias were operated. Doctor Bismark Kubi, who was already well acquainted with hernia surgery but did not have any experience with the use of a mesh, was trained in performing the Lichtenstein procedure.  He proved to be a very skilled, kind and enthusiastic doctor who learned quickly. At end of the week, he was able to safely perform the procedure by himself. As we were able to donate a significant number of surgical meshes, adequate care of inguinal hernias at the Wenchi Methodist hospital can be continued.

We ended the week with a party on the final evening, which we organized to thank the staff of for their kind hospitality. Together with the OR personnel we looked back at a successful and enjoyable week. Kind words were spoken both from the Ghanaian and the Dutch side, and mutual hopes for future collaborations were expressed.

Acknowledgements

The Dutch Operation Hernia team gratefully acknowledges the MRC foundation for providing the necessary funds in order to be able to treat so many patients with such a large team.

Also the hospital staff of the anaesthesia, pharmacy and surgery departments of the Hospitals OLVG, St Antonius and Tergooi are gratefully acknowledged for providing materials and medication.

The surgeons performed the surgery on a voluntary basis in their own time.

Team Ghana 2017

Maarten Simons, Frank Ijpma, Eddy Hendriks, Nanette van Geloven, Bert van Ramshorst, Djamila Boerma, Wouter te Riele, Daphne Roos, Ernst Steller, Jasper Atema, Tjibbe Gardenbroek, Jip Tolenaar, Charlotte Loozen, Anne Loes van den Boom, Marjolein Leeuwenburgh, Joost Hoekstra

The Dutch Operation Hernia Foundation

Maarten Simons, Frank Garssen, Djamila Boerma, Nanette van Geloven and Eddy Hendriks

The Opertaion Hernia Team in Takoradi

OPERATION HERNIA MISSION: OCTOBER 2016 TAKORADI, GHANA

TEAM LEADER – MR SHINA FAWOLE (CONSULTANT SURGEON)

TEAM MEMBERS – MR CHRIS MACKLIN (CONSULTANT SURGEON), MS HANNAH WELBOURN (CONSULTANT SURGEON), MELANIE PRECIOUS (ADVANCED ODP), LISA MACKLIN (RGN), VICKY ARMITAGE (ODP), EMMA UPCHURCH (SURGICAL SpR), MICHAEL KELLY (SURGICAL SpR).

The Opertaion Hernia Team in Takoradi

The Opertaion Hernia Team in Takoradi

On the 8th October 2016 we began our mission to Ghana. I joined a team of three consultant surgeons, three theatre nurses, and two surgical registrars.

We arrived in Accra late on Saturday evening where we met the other teams who were also planning to spend the next week operating across Ghana. The Baptist Guest House was our base in Accra. Right from the get-go the Takoradi team was very welcoming and inclusive of an outsider into their clan. I learned that this team (in some variation) has been traveling to Takoradi to perform Operation Hernia missions for the last eight years.

The following morning in torrential rain, we travelled to Takoradi. After a 4-hour drive we reached our destination, a house owned by the municipal government that has been utilized for visiting surgical teams from UK, Netherlands and Germany. At this residence, Lillian and her team of helpers looked after us fantastically. Their attention to details was remarkable. Every morning, hot water (for showering) and breakfast was ready, and every evening we were treated to diverse and wonderful Ghanaian culinary experiences. Their care and attention to us was extraordinary, and I thank them profoundly.

During the five days operating in Takoradi (Monday to Friday), three surgeons operated in three hospitals/medical centres (The Hernia Centre, Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority Hospital (GPHA) and Dixcove Medical Centre). Screening of suitable cases was already performed by Dr Boateng (Medical Director of GPHA Hospital), who was also always available to help and provide local advice. This planned organization facilitated immediate starting of operating on Monday morning. The majority of cases included primary and recurrent inguinal hernias, ventral/umbilical hernias and some paediatric hernias. On average, each centre operated on 8-10 cases per day. The majority of cases were performed under either spinal or local anaesthesia. Over the 5 days, a total of 103 procedures were performed. The working day was intensive with late finishes, but was filled with an atmosphere of both camaraderie and satisfaction. Both local nursing and anaesthetic staff were always adaptable to rapidly processing patients thus maximizing the impact of the mission.

Our last evening at the Hernia Centre with our celebratory Ghanaian shirts given to us by the medical team

Our last evening at the Hernia Centre with our celebratory Ghanaian shirts given to us by the medical team

Finally, I would like to thank Operation Hernia and ASiT for awarding me the Shorland Hosking Fellowship and the immense experience of participating in this mission.

Michael E. Kelly

Surgical SpR Dublin, Ireland

Kosa Beach

Report of the Belgian Team Visit to Takoradi, Ghana March 12–19, 2016

After skipping our 2015 Mission because of the Ebola threat, in March 2016 a Belgian team, consisting of four surgeons (Marc Huyghe, Casper Sommeling, Veronique De Moor and Stijn Heyman) and one resident (Magali Blockhuys) again visited Takoradi in Ghana. Our main financial sponsor still is the Belgian Section of Abdominal Wall Surgery, but also the Lions Club of Waregem supported us financially. We brought meshes (Mr. Oppong meshes aka MROP-meshes from England and BBraun meshes from Belgium), gloves (Medline), disposable drapes (Mölnlycke Belgium and Medline) and suture material (Johnson & Johnson). Local anesthetics were donated by BBraun; this time lidocaine with adrenaline and heavy marcaine were supplied by Operation Hernia.

Kosa Beach

Kosa Beach

Arriving at Kotoka airport with Brussels Airlines on the Saturday, late afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised by the new facilities in the arrival hall, which shortened the check-in procedures. After a 3 hour drive we arrived at the Kosa Beach resort and stayed our first night there.

On the Sunday afternoon we drove to Takoradi, where as in 2014 we stayed in a private house. During the week we again enjoyed the hospitality of Gina Loupiac at her Gilou’s restaurant

Also this year Dr Bernard Boateng-Duah organized the operation programs beforehand in collaboration with the local hospital teams, so we could immediately start our operations early on the Monday morning.

The Belgian Surgical Team at the Hernia Wing of Takoradi Hospital

The Belgian Surgical Team at the Hernia Wing of Takoradi Hospital

During the week we were organised into three teams that rotated in the three different hospitals (Hernia Wing, GPHA and Dixcove). In total 92 patients, of which twelve were children, where operated. Again most of the patients presented with groin hernia.

The first patient operated in the GPHA hospital on Monday morning was the patient in which we performed a Hartmann’s procedure with a temporary colostomy in 2014 due to colonic necrosis. Restoration of the bowel continuity was performed and the postoperative course was uneventfull.

The motivation of the local hospital teams was very good and the level of care of the nurse-anesthetists in the three hospitals was high. The first evening Marc and Magali sustained by the enthusiastic team of Marian at the Hernia Wing worked until 11.00 p.m. to get the selected patients done. The last patient that evening had a giant sliding (sigmoid) hernia, a recurrence after a Lichtenstein procedure some years before.

The equipment in the hospitals is of a reasonable level, but structural changes should be made to the operation theatres. There still is the problem of lack of running water in the Dixcove Hospital.

Our mission was certainly interesting for our resident who could perform several operations in both adults and children.

Visit to the Metropolitan Coordinating Director

Visit to the Metropolitan Coordinating Director

On Saturday morning we first visited the Takoradi harbour currently in a phase of new developments and where big changes are taking place. Then we were received by the Metropolitan Coordinating Director in his private house in the beautiful hills in Sekondi. He thanked us on behalf of the local government for our mission and explained that the local government this year supported us regarding transport and food. Following that we we drove back eastbound to Kotoka airport in Accrea to leave for Europe again.

Conclusion: This was again a very rewarding mission; the future developments will to have be awaited for.

Casper Sommeling, on behalf of the Belgian team

The team prepare to set off from Accra on the journey to Takoradi

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.

The team prepare to set off from Accra on the journey to Takoradi

The team prepare to set off from Accra on the journey to Takoradi

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.

The Operation Hernia team plus the local staff at the Hernia Centre in Takoradi

The Operation Hernia team plus the local staff at the Hernia Centre in Takoradi

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

Missions
November 2013
Mission to Takoradi

The team arrived in Accra on the evening of Saturday 2nd November 2013. As a registrar in General Surgery this was my first trip with Operation Hernia, but I was travelling with experienced Operation Hernia member Melanie Precious and fellow first-timer Nicola Perrin, both Operating Department Practitioners, along with a large supply of surgical and anaesthetic equipment. The rest of our group comprised of Chris Macklin (Consultant Surgeon), Jurij Gorjanc (Consultant Surgeon from Austria and President of the Slovenian Hernia Society), Khaled Ismail (Consultant Anaesthetist), Beverley Parker (Registrar in Anaesthesia), Rafay Siddiqui (Registrar in General Surgery), and our team leader Shina Fawole (Consultant Surgeon), on his seventh Operation Hernia mission to Takoradi.

After a late-night dinner and an initiation to the unconventional practices of Ghanaian taxi drivers (including rolling backwards down the hill to start the engine, and opening the passenger side door to get the radio to work!), we spent our first night in the comforts of the Baptist Guest House. After a minor drama with an early-morning altercation between Melanie and a cockroach (“don’t you dare come any closer to me…!!) we set off on the three and a half hour minibus journey to Takoradi. We received a very warm welcome from our host Lillian and her helpers at the villa in Takoradi, and they even arranged a solar eclipse to mark our arrival! After unpacking our medical supplies we spent a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon at the Busua Beach Resort. In the evening we were visited by Dr Bernard Boateng, Chief Medical Officer of the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) Hospital, and the plan for the week was set out.

On Monday morning the hard work really began. Each day a team of between two and four of us travelled to Dixcove Hospital, GPHA Hospital and the Takoradi Hernia Centre. The patients had been assessed and selected by Dr Boateng beforehand, and after a brief ward round to review all of the patients for the day, and decide on the most appropriate anaesthesia, the list started. We were warmly welcomed at all three hospitals, and worked alongside the local theatre teams and nurse anaesthetists, who were particularly skilled at spinal anaesthesia. Between the teams we operated on 105 hernias and 7 hydroceles in 107 patients, including 19 paediatric patients and 6 patients with recurrent hernias. Fifty-seven patients were operated on under spinal anaesthesia, 24 had a local anaesthetic and 26 had a general anaesthetic.

The days were long and intensive, but it was undoubtedly worth all the hard work to be able to achieve so much in just 5 days of operating. The impact that we were having on the patients was clearly apparent; I particularly remember one elderly gentleman who had travelled for nearly twelve hours to have his hernia repaired. The children were amazingly brave and compliant, not a word of objection or a tear from even the youngest ones. On one of the days at Dixcove Hospital, a local surgeon attended our list, and we were able to show him how we use the hernia meshes to reduce the recurrence rate for inguinal hernias. As a team we were fortunate enough to have both a Consultant Anaesthetist and a very skilled Anaesthetic Registrar with us, and as well as enabling us to operate on more children by means of general anaesthesia, it was also clear that the local nurse anaesthetists benefited from the training and advice they provided. Likewise, our experienced Operating Department Practitioners, Melanie and Nicola, were able to work alongside, and pass on their expertise to, the local theatre staff.

But it was not just the patients and the local theatre staff who benefited from our mission. All of the Operation Hernia team members gained invaluable experiences from the trip, which provided us with insights into our own practices in the UK and an appreciation of our own privileged situations, as well as improving our ability to adapt to challenging situations and make the best possible use of the minimal resources available. We are all especially proud of Melanie, for mastering the art of the scrotal bandage, after what was, it has to be admitted, a rocky start! As a group we are very thankful to Shina for his guidance, support and unwavering encouragement, unperturbed by any obstacle, apart from those baby lizards! Despite problems with an intermittent water supply, Lillian and her team ensured that we were comfortable, well fed and well looked after for the whole week, and we all appreciate her efforts.

From a personal perspective I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to be a part of such a fantastic, life-changing organisation. I am grateful to the other members of the team who were all wonderful colleagues and companions, and who provided much friendship, support and laughter. As a trainee surgeon I am particularly grateful to Chris, Shina and Jurij, whose patience and skill in training enabled me to operate on more challenging hernias than I have ever encountered before. I hope that I will continue to be involved in future missions with Operation Hernia.

Hannah Welbourn, ST8 General Surgery