Monday, March 21, 2011

R2D2 for life!

I have been blogging too. I haven't finished blogging the trip but I will be working on it this week until I am done. Here is the address.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sherri Mullins... and it continues! sorry if it is too long.. x0x0x

Monday Feb 28, 2011

Today was our first day at Tamale teaching hospital, KINDA… we went for our orientation, but of course had to be introduced to the hospital Matron and each individual floor that we were to work on, a few hours later we were done for the day. It was a little surprising to go through the hospital, some of the smells (especially in the septic surgical ward) were atrocious. The septic surgical, many burns and open fractures (not really sure what was under that gauze, I'm scared to find out) But the smell was enough to "knock a buzzard off a sh** wagon" as my father used to say. (rot and infection and at least one person had gangrene, a smell you never forget)

Tuesday March 1

We went to the Orphanage in a little village, the kids were amazing. They were so well behaved, they each got a stuffy that we had brought from one of our donators, we have made many children and parents happy with the children's toys, books, toothbrushes, toothpaste, coloring books and stuffies we carried for the million miles! ;) After we gave out the stuffies we brought them outside to teach them duck duck goose, they had so much fun, those kids can sure run and they found it humorous to make us white girls run! We MAY have unwittingly taught them to cheat… when someone was the tagger more than 2x we would…"stall" the goose so that other could sit down first. I had a funny experience that a 10-12 year old little girl was determined not to be stalled so she JUMPED over 2 other kids to get to her spot while I SNATCHED her out of midair! It was shocking and I sooooo wished I got it on camera, but there was laughter and cheers for a few minutes… hilarious indeed!

Wed March 2, 2010

It is officially 2 weeks till we start the trek home… some sadness as we are now getting to know some people here, but thrilled that I get to go home to my kids. I am having a hard time believing that I miss my monsters (who knew! kidding.. some days are almost unbearable). Today I worked on maternity, it is a hugely busy unit! there must be 80-100 patients, at least half of which are on the floor, with their babies beside them on mats or pieces of fabric that they have brought. The amount that the families do for these patients is amazing, they bring in food, clothing and help them with personal care. It is much different nursing, we are much more holistic caregivers where here is DEFINITELY the medical model.

Thursday March 3, 2011

Today was hard. A woman had given birth to triplets yesterday, they were born at 28 weeks and were 1.3-1.8Kg. Kelsey (my roomate was working in the neonatal intensive care with them the day they were born and had to resuscitate 2 of them. When I came in the morning they had both passed and the third was not looking we ll at all. I ambubagged him for 30 minutes with no luck of a heartbeat, I held him when it was time to stop, he was not alone. The mother was called into the room to say her goodbye to her final triplet, not a tear was shed. She pulled back the sheet to look at her son, touched his cheek, nodded her head. The other nurse pulled the sheet over the baby's head while the mother was still looking, so I pulled it open so she could see him again, this time she pulled it back further still and looked at his tiny fingers and toes, she nodded again and turned to leave… It was at that point that I had to turn around because I was going to lose it! This poor mother lost 3 babies in 1 day, but here it is determined by 'god's will' whether a baby will survive. In Canada we give a lot more odds to the baby, it is really hard to see when they don't. There were also 2 other babies that were tiny and too tired to eat, so mothers didn't think it was necessary to feed them because they were 'sleeping'. I hunted them down and had some other english speaking mothers tell them how important it is for them to feed their babies every 1-2 hours or the babies might not be able to survive. They seemed to understand, but I wouldn't be back to see if they made it. We as students did what we could to help the babies and the mothers.

Friday March 4, 2011

Today Ashley and I went up to the paediatric ward. There were babies from a few weeks old to 14-15 years old. Again, most of the care is done by families. There were so many other students on the ward it was almost overwhelming. I went around and read all the charts. There were a couple that had cerebral spinal meningitis, one of which was now severely mentally challenged (12 years old) and one who was 15 months, he was unconscious and had no voluntary movements and did not even respond to stimuli of any sort, not sure if he will make it or not, the nurses thought he has a chance, I'm not so sure… but, obviously I don't have the experience they do and I hope for the best for sure. We were fortunate enough that we got to give out some more toys and coloring stuff for the kids and babies on the ward, we saw many smiles and yes… still some paranoid looks of fear from a few of them. After we had given all of those out, we went down to the library to look up a few things that we weren't sure about as there were just too many people on the ward to really see or do anything more than we had done.

Saturday March 5, 2011

Well, it was bound to happen at one point… I never left bed all day. I was exhausted and needed to be somewhat close to a bathroom, not the funnest day. At least my roomy was sick too so we just lay in our beds and read. To be honest, I enjoyed not doing anything.

Sunday March 6, 2011

Independence day in Ghana. We had wanted to go to the Kontempo falls yesterday, but 4 of us were sick, so today we went. NOT the best day to go! There were HUNDREDS of people there and we were the most interesting things there apparently. Every time that we turned around there were people snapping pictures of us, it stands to reason I suppose considering how beautiful we all are! ;) After a few hours we decided to venture forth and were able to get into the falls. I had decided that I was just going to wear my dress so that I wouldn't be a spectacle, so as I carefully trod into the water about 4 steps in…. I fell, so now I was soaked anyway, nothing to lose now. So into the falls, I still wasn't going to go down the slide. Some people were very helpful getting us to the falls, others were downright scary! The first time the girls went down it was so sweet everybody helping, next thing we knew there were about 5 guys at the bottom of the slide waiting to CATCH the girls and cop a feel or 2 or 3… NOT the best situation, we left right after. Unfortunate, but a beautiful place, just don't go on a holiday. Apparently yesterday was quiet… OF COURSE IT WAS! UGH!…

Monday March 7, 2011

Today I decided to stay in bed again. My energy level just is not what it should be. I feel run down and achy. So, back to sleep for another 4 hours! When I woke I felt a bit better but still know that I have to be careful not to get sick because I'm sure that my body is not in the mood to fight. We did go out later to pick up a few souvenirs as we are only here for another 4 days. Time is really going fast now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dr Abduli is awesome. He runs a free clinic here and does hernia repairs (among MANY others) for no cost. He just has donations of supplies and money from others. I am happy to say that UBCO / Global Nursing Students gave a little bit too along with bringing more supplies. Dr Abduli says 'every drop equals an ocean' he is a very nice man.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sherri Mullins 2011

Hello Fellow Africa Lovers!

**** NOTE that I had this written weeks ago and am just now in a place where I could upload! UGH... technology... it's a challenge at times!!*ESPECIALLY in Africa!****

Well, it is hard to believe that we have been here for 2 weeks already! It seems like forever and yesterday all rolled up in one! It is hard to believe how much we have seen already… So, I will do my best not to forget anything… But.. I will…

It all started on Jan 30 at the Vancouver International as all of us converged to see if our bags were all under the 50 lb mark… MOST WEREN'T! So, after rearranging and the quick stuffing of our carry ons, we were ready! Into the plane we went… delayed by 30 minutes.. Up up and away… off to LONDON! it was going to be a fast run between.. we only had a one hour window (now only 30 min) to catch our connection… as we were about to land… with about 20 min to spare… another plane took our place in que… CRAP!

So.. we all hurry off the plane as fast as we can, knowing we are to be taking off in 15 minutes… we hope that our 'greeters' have a bus or something to get us to our next gate… we get counted off… we start rushing to find where we are going… but…??? we are headed to the ticket counter? THEY LEFT WITHOUT US~! REALLY 17 + passengers?! AND US????! of all the people to leave without!

BUT!!! We are TRAPPED in LONDON! WHAT A SHAME! WITH a paid for hotel and two free meals…. HMMMMMM… not too bad! oh and a little goodie bag with a tshirt, toothbrush, comb and other various amenities (which of course felt like a christmas present)

So London here we come… or not.. I was too tired and was wanting to see London in the daylight… so first thing in the morning, got up had breakfast and headed down the tube to see some sights….

Buckingham palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben… just to name a few.. Oh AND the absolutely biggest boat in a bottle EVER! had to be 10' tall and 25' long… then have to find our way back to our hotel so we don't miss another connection! Made it in good time… even a little earlier than we had hoped!

Now, having seen wonderful things in London, we were anxious to get to our destination. Everybody gets on, then as we are getting ready to taxi down the runway… message from the captain…. due to a hydraulic fuse being blown we have to wait for a repair… will take about 45 minutes… but, it will require the AC to be shut down so… we need to disembark! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? so… we naturally stall thinking… ok, maybe they can just get it done and we will be on our way.. so, 45 min later el capitano comes on and tells us there is now a bus that will come to take us to the gate! ARE YOU KIDDING? they haven't even received the part.. it will be another 2 hours… SO again, packing up our too heavy carry ons we begrudgingly comply… SUNNY SIDE again.. drink vouchers… most of us get sandwiches as we missed lunch entirely… airport sandwiches.. not the best, but CERTAINLY was better than nothing! (oh and of course there were a couple hundred passengers and this particular gate was a little smaller.. so only 2 coffee/ sandwich stations) they sold out rather quickly… but… for those that were adventurous found sandwiches in the back corner of a gift shop! YAY! so, we all ate… six pm comes around…. time to head back on… (at this point I have determined if there are any more issues…. I'm going home! It was not to be at this time for me…. but…

OFF WE GO! nice smooth take off… great job…. get to Accra 5 hours late… get off the plane to meet our brother Sinbad. After unloading approx 50 suitcases, we go outside to get our mode of transportation. It is between 2-3 am (I believe at this point) and there are people still all over! There are men everywhere trying to help… so scary, we had to watch our stuff all the time. So, 17 white women waiting for our 'brother' to sort out cabs. After about what felt like an hour, we got into our cabs (which were filled WAY beyond capacity) then the yelling started… a different cab driver tried to get us into his cab instead of the one that was pre arranged… we were so surprised with the yelling. (now after 2 weeks we realize this is just the way they are… VERY expressive. Once the problem is solved, hands are shaken and shoulders patted, very strange to see.

So… cab rides… HOLY!! it is packed with us all and our 3 bags each as well as our backpacks… We couldn't even see over our bags! NOR could many people see us! the taxis struggled with the loads at times… our one cab felt like the back end was going to fall off! We also had to bribe a border guard to let us pass when the taxi was so full. We got off lucky we only had to pay 1 cede some of the girls had to pay 5! We were all surprised to see that the bags all made it to the botel as the trunks weren't even tied down!

Over the past week we have been very busy learning the areas and trying to learn some of the local customs.

While we were in Tamale we spent some time getting to know some of the areas as well as visiting with our 'brother' Sinbad's village. We had Fufu and groundnut soup that we ate with our hands! It was pretty cool actually. Fufu is basically whipped yams that they pound with sticks, it took about 6 hours for 4 women to cook our supper! Talk about dedication!

Feb 12, 2011 Today we spent much of the day walking and looking around for the metro bus station. HOLY it is hot here… I have never had the experience of being anywhere where the sweat rolls down my back… ewwwwwwwwww I guess cold showers aren't too bad after all.. So, right now it is 11 pm here and we have to go to the bus station at 4 am tomorrow morning in HOPES that we can get on. If not Sister Edith will be waiting another day.

Feb 13, today came early.. we were up at 3am to be on our way. The bus left Tamale at 530, so not too bad. We got to Waa at about 1. The road was smooth until it was bumpy, then boy did it get bumpy! we almost lost Melissa off the seat once she bounced so high! One thing we are having a hard time getting used to are the bathrooms. In Waa, kinda the worst yet. Sometimes NO toilet is worse than having one. Thankfully Sister Edith came to get us and brought us up to Kaleo (in our Global Nursing Students / Clinic van!!) Still running well and kept in really good shape! It even has its own little carport!

Our accommodation is really nice and clean. We have electricity and a shower. The toilet is just a few feet outside our room (AND IT FLUSHES!) :D We also have a wonderful lady that some from last year know… Linda, she has gone back to school for culinary arts… SO WE ARE REALLLY Lucky! While in Africa standards this is AWESOME, seeing the clinic and the broken beds, held together IV poles and other equipment is a little sad. There is a foundation built for a women's maternal building so that women don't have to birth beside a man, but the bricks sit waiting to be placed due to lack of funds. (There is still much stigma about the appropriateness of changing a woman's dressing or anything else with a man in the next bed. I certainly wouldn't like it, but more importantly, they don't) A woman came to the clinic shortly after we got here and was falling over she was so weak, so she lays in the hospital tonight with Iv's dripping and family surrounding her. The sense of family and commitment is so strong here, there is no doubt that there are many things to learn about here.

Speaking of which, I saw my first Banana tree! they actually start as a FLOWER, a big purple one! It is quite strange here, there are chickens, goats and gunea fowl everywhere, but they don't seem to belong to any one person. Apparently the goats just KNOW where they live and it is against the law to kill someone else's goat.

Feb 14, 2011

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! We went today to introduce ourselves to the High ups… to meet us so we could work within the region. We met the medical director, bishop and brother bosco. Nic.. Bosco says hi! We have also met many of the clinic nurses now. We are now "introduced". Tomorrow afternoon we go to the container to start sorting. :D

Feb 15, 2011

We have gone through a main sort. We have 3 separate piles, one for the hospital one for the clinic and one for the texts for Tamale. From here we need to split the hospital supplies into 2 groups for the two 'local' hospitals. They are quite far apart but it is only fair to share.

Feb 16, 2011

This morning we did the Outpatient clinic and hung some babies from trees. It was a pretty funny sight to see. Most (really all but 2) stayed so still, but there were a couple that were little wigglers, pretty tough to see the weight but we managed. When we were at the villages there was another group in the village so we weren't able to catch many of the people in their homes. We decided to climb the Kaleo mountain. In the book it is a 4 hour climb that you must ask the chief if you can do, but in reality it took 45 min round trip, but it could be if you walked from Kaleo to the mountain and up then down maybe four hours… it was pretty cool, we built a little inukshuk to show we were there (then we used it for a tripod) we have become very inventive already. We also did some labelling in the clinic as well we had a very difficult time to find charts so we set up some dividers. They really need more liquid paper out here! they put re-use to a whole new level. Our table cloth was a sterile wrap package from the OR. There were many cool things in our container, but also some items that would be less than helpful for here. Printers could be a prime example as there isn't really a place to get cartridges.

Feb 17, 2011

Today was another 'greeting' day. We cannot go visit an area without being properly introduced, so there have been 2-3 days that have been ***community?*** days. We are definitely learning a lot about the finite rules that must be adhered to. The need is almost overwhelming, they don't have the simplest things… like pens and thermometers, they are broken or have gone missing over the years. One thing they needed were sheets and there were about 20 in the container so they were extremely thrilled with that. Today while we were in Jilupa I got to carry a baby on my back!! I was so exctited to try that, my heavens it would have been so much easier when the kids were babies. both hands free (providing you have enough confidence or experience with your bundling~)

Feb 18, 2011

Village day! another day to go into the village and weigh babies. These kids were the most scared yet. I felt so bad, they were terrified. At the end they were not afraid anymore, but certainly not wanting to play. We also danced with the village women, we have come to the consensus that they like to laugh at the white women dancing. :)

When we got back to Kaleo we were going to work at the clinic for a bit, but it was very quiet then so we walked for a bit and came back to pack for Wicheau. We were excited to try to see the Hippos!

Tetoose drove us to the sanctuary, boy was it dusty! We went on a canoe ride where we actually saw 3 hippos! Unfortunately, we were about 100 feet away, so not able to get great pictures, but did see them yawn and learn a bit about them. I can't believe they can stay under the water for 6 hrs without taking a breath! Our guide was 'running' that day so I think that played a part of not getting too close as well. We also slept on our tree platform that night, it was one of the best nights yet, albeit a little chilly.

Feb 19, 2011

When we woke we lounged a bit, packed up and the guide came to get us. One thing we HAD to do was clean the van before sister Edith saw it! So, Tetoose dropped us at the internet cafe and went to attend to the van. When we got home there were 10 children waiting to play, they had to wait until we were showered and rested, as I didn't sleep well. I spent much of the night watching the moon pass overhead, I got some nice pictures I think.

Feb 20, 2011

This morning Kelsey and I were woken up by the security guard. We were hopeful it was a baby, we scrambled around and got dressed. NOPE! It was two men with and pain and diarrhea. Caesar was not in his residence so the security got us. We couldn't even get into the clinic, so we could do nothing but assess and wait for Thomas to come from town. While we were there a woman came in with blood dripping down her legs, she had been bleeding for 8 days straight. Kelsey and I took care of her as it is inappropriate for males to care for her. We got her cleaned up, gave her some ringers lactate, pain meds, vitamin K, birth control pills to regulate her period and sent her to the hospital for anemia, her conjunctiva was pale and was likely in need of a transfusion. So after clearing all of our patients out of the clinic I came home to rest. I am hopeful that my many mosquito bites haven't been infected by malaria. I have been taking my malarone and dosing myself with mosquito repellant but have been missing some areas it would appear. The back of my arms and knees I have at least 15.. and boy are they itchy.

Feb 21, 2011

Today we spent the day at the clinic diagnosing, treating, charting and filling out insurance papers for dozens of people. It was maternal health day as well so there were many moms' to be. The majority of the women were anemic and a few with pneumonia. Later on Muriel came in, she is here for 2 days. We spent some time going over some of our challenges and how we overcame some of them.

Feb 22, 2011

My day started early with a knock at the window, 'sister needs you'. So up Muriel and I go to see a woman in full blown labor, starting to push. HOLY! Sister Edith tells me that I will deliver this baby. WHAT?! So, after the membranes are broken I step in to guide the baby out. Checking to see if the cord is around baby's neck and helping with the shoulders. Baby on chest, clamp the cord and cut… Oh MY! So cool! This was her 8th baby, so pretty smooth, but the evidence of female circumcision is apparent when she is pushing, she would have had episiotomies during many of her previous births. Truly hard to believe that people did this to their girls.

Barka - (thank you) for reading my thoughts.

March 2, 2011

Today I finally get to post my old blog and will start on my next post... thank you all for being patient with me! can't wait to tell you all what else I have seen and done! :D

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tamale Teaching Hospital

Hello all! This is Maridel blogging from Tamale, Ghana. This is my first time using this particular blogger so if anything is off or not up to par, please forgive me. Several of the other students, including myself, have been blogging on our personal blog accounts which is why this blog has been somewhat neglected these past 3 weeks.

So far, the trip has been amazing and eye-opening. Words cannot describe what I have learned about the world, myself, other people and their health care system here. The following post is an entry I wrote on my personal blog ( about my first couple of days at Tamale Teaching Hospital. I hope you all enjoy it!

"Welcome to Tamale Teaching Hospital!"

Amaraba. That is the word you want to hear if you want to be at a certain ward in the hospital. To be allowed to work, you must first be introduced formally to the charge nurse and then welcomed. Amaraba means “You are Welcome” in Dagbani, the predominant Ghanaian dialect here in Tamale.

My first several days in the hospital have been spent on the Maternity Ward and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The Maternity Ward at the Tamale is very busy. During my first 3 hours on the ward, at least 4 babies an hour were born. It serves as both a pre-delivery ward for patients with pregnancy induced hypertension or other complications, a pre-operation ward for patients awaiting an emergency cesarean section (c-section) and lastly, as a post-partum ward for all mothers, normal or with complications. An interesting thing to note is the fact mothers who deliver vaginally with no difficulties are often offered a mat on the floor while mothers with higher risk deliveries are offered a bed.

Nurses on the Maternity Ward care ONLY for the mothers (NICU nurses care for the babies, normal or not). I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a pregnant woman with Malaria. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity because Malaria does not exist in Canada and therefore, I may never have a Malaria patient ever again. To learn the principles and procedures of care was very fascinating. A blood test is performed to determine the level of Malaria parasite in the blood stream. In non-pregnant patients, a + means simple oral medication therapy while ++ or more requires Quinine Intravenous (IV) therapy. However, because this woman was at 20 weeks gestation, she received IV therapy despite only having a + malaria parasite blood level.

I spent most of the rest of my 6-hour shift (to all my fellow nursing students back home working 12-hour shifts: it’s because it gets too hot to continue working after 6 hours during the daytime) doing post c-section dressings. I was amazed at the amount of dehisced, infected wounds I saw on a Maternity ward. When I performed my dressing change, the nurse supervising me nearly had a heart attack when I threw away the guaze I was using after 1 swipe as I have been taught. He responded with the joke, “You are going to bankrupt the Ghanaian government”. There are limited amounts of resources so they must reuse each gauze to swipe the wound multiple times before discarding it. This increases the risk of infection significantly which in a downward spiral, increases the overall amount of resources used in order to combat the infection caused by reusing/saving resources. An unfortunate and very real cycle.

My experience in the NICU was also just as eye-opening. After the happy task of bathing babies all morning, I watched a baby struggle for every breath. She had been born with severe asphyxiation and as a result, all of her reflexes, including breathing and crying, were compromised. I spent the entire afternoon trying to find another point of resource to provide her (neonatal masks for higher flow oxygen, intubation). Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses had done everything they possibly could do – suction intermittently (her swallowing and sucking reflexes were also compromised) so she would not choke and provide oxygen. In speaking with the Doctor, he admitted that if this was a country like Japan (where he had worked for a month) or Canada, this baby would be intubated and on a ventilator. It’s chances of surviving would be greater than the 50/50. In addition, the lack of oxygen at birth has caused significant deficits. It was hard to watch this baby struggle but it was the best treatment the hospital had to offer.

The Doctors and the Nurses in this hospital have been very accommodating and humble. They all practice to the best of their abilities, their training and as much as their resources can take them. Ghana, more specifically Tamale, is lucky to have each and every single one of these health care professionals.

Today, I am thankful for Canada’s health care system despite the long surgical wait lists and overflowing emergency rooms. No one will really be able to appreciate it in all its abundance, technology and wealth until they see what much of the rest of the World has, far less. After my experiences on the Maternity Ward, I can say with conviction that every baby and mother in Ghana is a blessing indeed.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ghana 2011

We thought that before we left we should introduce ourselves! Our group consists of 16 students:
Leigh Haworth
Jess Rego
Allie Hung
Natasha Giesbrecht
Claire Mennell
Jules Kemp
Katie Killingsworth
Sarah Mahon
Ashley Olson
Kelsey Marks
Sherri Mullins
Ashley Venera
Kelsey Roy
Melissa Fenrich
Maridel Constantino
Amber Schafer
...and of course our wonderful instructor, Mama Muriel.

We will be travelling throughout Ghana in groups of 4 and nursing in hospitals and communities. After months of preparation, planning, and excitement the day has finally come! We are currently sitting in the Vancouver airport anxiously awaiting our flight to Accra, Ghana! Sipping on some bellinis and enjoying the last few hours of high speed internet, clean bathrooms, and drinkable tap water.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The next group begins...

UBCO nursing students will be heading to Ghana in 2011!