Children’s global health: treating the young hearts of Ghana

This November, a team of 21 medical specialists, including several from Children’s Hospital Boston, traveled to Kumasi, Ghana to care for children with congenital heart defects. As members of the non-profit organization Hearts and Minds of Ghana, the team is part of an ongoing effort to treat patients and train and educate local Kumasi medical professionals with the hopes that a self-sustaining pediatric cardiac center can soon be established in the region.

Lead by Francis Fynn-Thompson, MD, surgical director of Children’s #1 ranked Heart Transplant program, surgical director of our Lung Transplant Program and a surgeon in our #1 ranked Cardiac Surgery Program, the Children’s team explains why they volunteer their time and efforts to the people of Ghana.

While in Ghana, members of the team blogged about their experiences. The following excerpt was originally posted in the Children’s in Ghana Blog.

We arrived at the Accra Airport today around 1:30pm after a long flight. Some of us slept in drug induced comas and the rest of us felt like nothing slept except our backsides! Once off the plane the first sign when you enter the terminal is Akwaaba Welcome To Ghana Gateway to Africa.

Once through customs Dr. Fynn-Thompson’s parents warmly greeted us, then assisted us through security and on to our awaiting bus. What a difference comfortable seats and air conditioning can make!

Every year we have hopes that the roads will be better, because they do seem to be working on them every time we visit. Our hopes were soon dashed when we had been on the road for about 45min. and could still see the airport in the rear view! The past few weeks the area has received some heavy rain fall which made the already bad roads even worse. Sleeping was definitely out of the question for this 8-hour bus ride, but it wasn’t long until the team started passing around snacks and reminiscing about past missions. It was actually an amazingly diverse trip; we traveled through a few small towns and many small villages. The street vendors greeted us every time the bus slowed, trying to sell us everything from water and food to maps of Africa.

It is always fun to see what is for sale along the side of the road as well. Today we saw quite a selection, everything from caskets to toilets. As the sun began to set, it was interesting to watch the households build fires outside their homes and begin to cook dinner.

As the hours wore on we began to see towns with electricity, which was sign that we were finally nearing Kumasi. Gradually the terrain and roads began to become more familiar until someone exclaimed, “I think we are close, this looks like the Jamaica Way!” Indeed we were entering Kumasi. At about 9:30pm we rolled into the Milken Hotel, our home for the next two weeks.

After a nice dinner, we left each others company to unpack, email family and friends and get ready to start work tomorrow. Breakfast will be served at 6:30 and we leave for the hospital at 7:30 to set up the clinic, operating room and Intensive Care Unit. We will begin seeing patients as soon as we get everything organized and everyone is anxious to see old friends and begin this exciting adventure.