Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Labour and Delivery at TTH

Tamale Teaching Hospital
After reflecting upon our time at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, we are all grateful for this experience and opportunity for growth.  We entered into the labour and delivery ward excited and incredibly nervous at the prospect of such a different clinical surrounding. As soon as we started we were embraced by the staff and encouraged to be a part of the delivery process. We learned from the midwives and Ghanaian students as strong mothers gave birth.

On our second day we arrived and a sense of urgency was noted. Several mothers were in critical condition and required emergency
c-sections.  We were asked by the Obstetrician to join them in the operating room, known as the Theatre. We all felt a rush of emotions as we gowned up to enter. Once in the operating room a premature baby was delivered by  c-section and we assisted the team to resuscitate the newborn. After 15 mins the newborn was doing well and we were thrilled to see the recovery.  We passed the newborn off to the NICU staff and we were invited to enter the next operating room, where the scenario was repeated.  Another successful neonatal resuscitation.  Life is so precious.  Holding these small and fragile newborns and seeing them survive was a life changing moment for us. 

Labour and Delivery Ward
We are honoured to have had the privilege to be a part of this team.  The knowledge and resourcefulness of the interdisciplinary team left a lasting impression. We are thankful for this experience and the staff who took the time to teach and include us.

Oriana Monagas, Alyshia Coleman, and
Sophia Gray
4th Year BSN Students
University of British Columbia

Saturday, March 23, 2019

So Many Firsts.....

Pediatric Ward
During our first week in Tamale, we spent four days learning at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) on three separate floors; Accident & Emergency, Labour & Delivery, and lastly Pediatrics where we (Jill and Syd) spent our time. For Syd, working with children has always been her end goal so finally having the opportunity to work with kids was exciting!

Each day we began our morning eating a breakfast sandwich at Bakisu's followed by waving down tricycles (A.K.A Yellow Yellows) or taxis to TTH. One day, while waiting at the taxi stand, a car pulled over and asked if we wanted a ride.  Imagine our surprise when Jeanette spoke with him quickly and told us to get in.  Four of us loaded into his car, and as we pulled away from the taxi stand we found out he was one of the nurses on Pediatrics.  We'll admit we were a bit surprised when Jeanette offered us up....and then realized this was just another example of the genuine kindness of the people living within this country.
Bakisu and Jessica - Making our Breakfast
Completely outside of our comfort zone, what awaited us on the other side of those Pediatric unit doors was a whirlwind of mixed emotions.  Before we go any further into our experience, we would like to thank and make note of how wonderful and welcoming each and every single staff member was on the Pediatric unit. The students, nurses, physicians, and nutritionalists are just some of the incredible individuals that work beautifully within this environment to care for and save the lives of children every waking day. 

With the help of two unbelievable nurses, A.A and Osman, we were able to assist and get to know a number of patients and their families who were all admitted for a multitude of reasons. We spent a majority of our time on the East wing of the Pediatric ward which consisted of critical care, malaria, sepsis, meningitis, gastroenteritis, nephrology, hepatology, oncology, and malnutrition. 

Taking a Yellow-Yellow to TTH
There is no emotion that can describe the way your heart feels when you are surrounded by extremely sick children but still manage to work a smile or a laugh out of them. Unfortunately along with the joy came a great deal of heartache and sadness. On this unit we witnessed our first cardiac arrest and death.  Having the privilege of growing up in Canada, this is something we are not accustomed to seeing, especially with a child so young and a condition we would deem "treatable". 

Even with our heavy hearts, we both left this placement with unforgettable memories and a new admiration and appreciation for the health care providers.  It was truly fascinating to watch the staffs’ ability to critically think and improvise in an environment where they lacked or had little of the necessary equipment and supplies needed for a procedure. However, this did not threaten or hinder their ability in completing a task but rather allowed them to be creative in how they provided competent and safe care. For instance we saw IV/Oxygen tubing and the cuff of a glove being used as a tourniquet.   To prevent an infant from pulling out his nasogastric tube, the staff were able to splint the infant’s hands simply with cardboard and tape rather than resorting to restraints. This is so different....they work with what they have.....and as they would tell us...."here in Ghana, we improvise".  We saw examples of it every day. 

During our time at TTH we learned many different approaches to, and aspects of health care, especially in a global health context.  We carefully examined, explored, witnessed, and lived the similarities and differences of our Westernized approach to medicine to those here at TTH. We gained a level of knowledge and skill from the staff at TTH that will continually shape our careers as registered nurses.

And for this we are grateful.

Jillian Filsinger & Sydney Schindel
4th year BSN students
University of British Columbia Okanagan 
Jill & Syd

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Elmina Slave Castle

Elmina Castle

On Thursday, we visited the Elmina Slave Castle. It is also called St. George’s Castle and is located in the township of Elmina on the coast of Ghana. The castle served several purposes in its 537 years, but there is only one that made me cry. 
The origin of the Castle

The castle was used to house kidnapped Africans, sell them to slave traders, and ship them out into the trans Atlantic slave route. Millions and millions of them over 300 years. 

As I stood in the dungeons and listened to our tour guide describe the atrocious and cruel conditions that these men and woman lived in, my heart ached. I am unable to comprehend how people could treat others this way. 

The tour included walking into the room where the Governor lived. He would select women from the female dungeons and have them brought up to his room. I stood in the middle of the beautiful yellow room, with wood plank flooring, and large windows overlooking the sea, and I thought about how many woman were raped in that room. 

I struggle to articulate how this all makes me feel. Angry, sad, confused, ashamed. I think about what it would be like to be taken from everything I’ve ever known, chained, put in a dungeon, and then shipped off to an unfamiliar country.  Leaving my loved ones behind.....sold as a slave...so that the "white man" may profit. 
Entering the Castle
I think about how this has shaped both the Americas and the Africa we now know. I think about how unfair it is. I think about my privilege and the privilege of my ancestors. I try to imagine what our world would look like if it all had never happened. 

Our instructor Jeanette brought us to this castle on purpose. She brought us here so that we can go into this practicum with context. With this knowledge we can begin to understand the complexities and trauma that have contributed, if not caused, the health disparities that we will see. That have caused the inequities, inequalities, and struggle. 

I also think to myself, “what can I even do about it? What can anybody do about it?” The trans-Atlantic slave trade cannot be undone, it cannot be made-up for, the problems it has caused cannot be fixed. But we can learn. We can do better, and we can make sure future generations do better. 

Over the last four years I have learned that education changes everything. Education is our most powerful tool, and that’s why we’re here. Not to educate the Africans, but to educate ourselves. 

Christie Fraser
4th Year BSN Student
UBC Okanagan

And yet....it's so beautiful

Sunday, March 17, 2019

We've Arrived.....

We are safely now in Ghana.  After a 4 hour delay getting out of Vancouver, we stayed overnight in London and arrived in Accra late Wednesday.

All of the students are managing.....all of it....
The sights....sounds....smells...the experiences that are new....and at times overwhelming....
The heat...the humidity....the heat rashes....
The chaos of a huge urban centre (Accra), and two very long days on the bus to bring us here to Tamale.  We are settled now.

To everyone back home....thank you for sharing your people with me. I will take good care of them.

Huge Rainstorm near Kumasi

The students have met the first branch of our extended Ghanaian family and are excited (anxious, nervous, and maybe a bit scared) to start into practice.

Life is Good.  And all is well.
Their first posts will be coming soon.  Stay tuned.

Jeanette Vinek
Senior Instructor
UBC Okanagan

They're still smiling....

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Our Bags are Packed and We're Ready to Go!

I'm honoured to be taking this amazing group of 10 students with me to Ghana this year.  Many of these students have been dreaming of this trip since they entered our program 4 years ago. 

I'm grateful that Mara Macauley, a former student, now Registered Nurse, will be joining me as an extra pair of hands (for me and the students).   She gets to return to the land she fell in love with 4 years ago as a student.

We had a full week together in preparation, and Wednesday we packed our bags with supplies.

I know everyone's asking if I'm excited.  The answer is yes....and no....
I know what we're heading into, and I know that each of these beautiful students will be changed at depth.

The journey begins......

Jeanette Vinek
Senior Instructor
UBC Okanagan

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Forever in Our Hearts

It’s hard to believe that our 5 and a half weeks is already coming to an end. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate all the work we have done here better than some time at Coconut Grove Beach Resort! As we drove through the gates of the resort we were all mesmerized by the lush greenery and endless palm trees. After 5 and a half weeks in the hustle and bustle of several Ghanaian communities, this was true paradise! We stepped off the bus and were greeted by 2 employees of the resort with fresh coconut water straight from the coconuts.  I thought I was dreaming!!!
Fresh coconut water

The view at Coconut Grove Beach Resort from the restaurant
It wasn’t long until we all ditched our bags and headed straight for the pool. Needless to say, after 2 long days of travelling and a communal shower, we all needed a good dip! As I rushed to the pool I could feel the salty breeze against my skin and could hear the forceful waves crashing against the shore. Before jumping into the crystal clear pool, I threw my belongings onto one of the many lounge chairs lining the pool deck. The pool felt so refreshing after a long day on the bus, and the sound of the birds singing above us had a relaxing effect. I could have stayed in the pool forever! After a quick swim we all headed to dinner to fill our empty tummies. The table was facing the beach so that we could watch the turquoise tide make its escape further into the horizon. Talk about dinner with a view! 

After dinner I sat on a bench overlooking the ocean, this is truly the right place to sit and reflect on everything Ghana has taught me. Reflecting back I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this trip has been life changing! We have all had so many experiences that we will never forget. Although some may have been challenging, they have made us into stronger individuals and into stronger nurses. This practicum has opened our eyes to global health issues that are present around the world. I think we are all grateful to work in a health care system that has an abundance of resources available at hand. Though the resources are limited here, the nurses and other healthcare workers never fail to improvise with what little they have. An incredible thing the witness! One thing to say about Ghana is that they don’t lack the love! The people here are extremely friendly and welcoming. I could tell by the way the children waved to us as we passed by their community during our long bus journeys, and how welcoming all the staff were at every clinic, hospital, and school we visited. They made us feel like we were family and part of their team. We shared a special relationship where they learned from us and we learned even more from them! Not only did we form a relationship with the Ghanaian people, but as a group we formed a special bond. Before starting this practicum, all 14 of us were practically strangers, besides seeing each other in class, we didn’t know much about one another. And boy has that changed! The friendship that we created is one that will last a lifetime. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to laugh, cry and witness this  beautiful country with. We have a bond that can’t be broken and I wouldn’t change it for the world! Thank you Ghana, for all the beautiful experiences that you have given us. Thank you for expanding our minds and more importantly our hearts. Thank you for allowing us to view the world through a variety of lenses. You have forever changed us all and for that you will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later..... 
Our Family

Posted by Hayley Stapleton 4th year BSN student UBCO

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Project GROW Celebration!

Today is the day we have all been waiting for, Project GROW Day! GROW stands for Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women.  In 2003, Dr. Vida Yakong wanted to make a change in the community she grew up in. The idea of Project GROW was sparked when Vida was sponsored to complete her Master of Nursing at UBCO. How can we empower the women in my community? What do they need to make their own health decisions? After interviewing many of the women, she found that they needed resources in order to make them more independent. Some of the resources needed were goats. Goats are used as a form of currency. They are securement, should the people need money if someone gets sick, or they do not have enough to pay for their child's education. The women in the community decide who should get a goat based on need. They only buy female goats. Once a goat becomes pregnant, the woman must pass the first female baby back to Project GROW and the baby goat then gets passed along to the next woman who is in need. 
Giving the goats out at Project GROW Day

It’s a cycle of giving back! 

Now, since Project GROW is entirely volunteer-run, how do they acquire these goats and other resources? Back in Kelowna, each year as a final capstone project for 4th year nursing students, we work to fundraise for Project GROW. We sell donkeys, carts, baskets and shea butter.  Michelle and I had the privilege of doing this! Each year, the students and teachers who go to Ghana bring home hand woven baskets and shea butter from the village. The shea butter gets melted back down, essential oils added in for scent, and then placed into 2oz tins to sell. The baskets are part of the silent auction at the Global Gala.  In 3 months, we sold over $3000 worth of shea butter and baskets and these funds went towards the building of a roof for the nursing accommodation at the Nyobok Okanagan Community Health Centre.  The clinic was also built via fundraised money. 

We had the privilege of watching how the women make the shea butter.  It is an extensive and labour intensive process! They begin by picking the shea nuts off the tree and peeling the outer layer (this is a fruit that they can eat) before placing the nuts into large bowls. Shea nuts are white and feel almost rubbery! Once satisfied with the amount of nuts, they will boil them for 4 hours before placing them out in the sun to dry for 2 days which tints the nuts to a dark brown. From here the women lay out cardboard and find good smashing rocks in order to crush the shea nuts.
Smashing shea nuts

Large bowl of liquid shea from the grinding
mill. This is very heavy!
Afterwards they take the smashed nuts to the grinding mill (another item that has been bought by Project GROW) where it is put through the grinding mill and becomes a dark chocolate coloured liquid! 

Making shea butter...or chocolate???!!!
In a shady area they bring out all the liquid shea and begin to mix it with water. They consistently add water and mix, to thicken up the shea. The women knead the now thickened shea butter for 3-4 hours, continuing to add water. This brings out the white colour as seen in the final product. Near the end of the process, a hardened oil separates from the water. The oil gets added into a pot and boiled down to a liquid. After this they cool it and pour it into the water bottles we take home! It was such a humbling experience to see the entire process of how it is made before coming to Kelowna to be broken down and sold. 
Hailey and Rachel mixing the shea butter
The first Project GROW day was 10 years ago and had 17 women. This year, there are over 950 recorded members, and  another 150 new women came to register. Since 2008, women are more empowered within their communities, there is education for them and their children, they are respected by their husbands, and are considered contributors to household income. Violence rates have decreased as well as death rates amongst women and children. 

As the day started, more and more women and men gathered. There were easily over 350 people attending. The beginning of the day started with the Chief of Sakote and one of the Project GROW women opening us in prayer.  Then multiple speakers shared their thoughts and Dr. Vida gave a very empowering speech. After the speeches, cultural dancers greeted the chief, Dr. Vida, and everyone else before the Project GROW team began distributing donkeys and goats. There were 3 donkeys and carts this year and 64 goats total (30 bought, and 44 newborns given back) - the most they have ever had! Near the end of the ceremony, the women came together for a dancing and singing collaboration, where we all got up to join them. The Chief joined too!  You could not have wiped the smiles off our faces!!!

The celebration at Project GROW Day

At the very end of the ceremony, the Chief handed each of us our own leather purses that the Project GROW women purchased for us. And then, right when things were wrapping up, we were hit with a very intense rain storm.  Everyone scattered!  Overall this is one of the best days we all could have ever been apart of. 

There are still women who want to join Project GROW and new communities who want to become involved.  These women and communities need resources.  Project GROW is a 100% volunteer organization.  There are no administrative fees involved.  Every single dollar you donate to the organization goes directly to the women who are members.  If you are intrigued, want more information, or perhaps feel a desire to donate check out their website:  www.projectgrow.ca.  

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Project GROW this year and to see the organization in action.  It inspires me!

Blog post by Rebecca Wheatley, 4th year UBCO BSN student.