University of Northumbria 2008

Physiotherapy, Ghana Takoradi

We had finally landed and reality had kicked in that we were now actually in Ghana. In case we weren’t convinced, the heat coming off the plane definitely reassured us! All things important we complete...passed immigration and luggage in our hands, we were greatly welcomed by the Work the World Programme Representative at the arrivals area and so our adventure in Ghana began...

Having stopped over night in Accra we then headed off to the house. After a long journey a great big welcome from house keeper Ophelia was exactly what was needed! The Work the World house is extremely spacious with stacks of fans, cupboards stocked with food and fridges full of drinking water. It’s like your very own home from home. And having power-cuts in the middle of showering is all part of the adventure isn’t it?!

Later that day, a fun packed orientation of the town included insider tips on bargaining for taxi’s, along with a trip to the bank, internet café and of course the restaurants for our first experience of Ghanaian food!!

The following day we were taken to our hospital, introduced to the Director of the hospital and had a grand tour that included surgical, burns, intensive care and general medicine wards. We also saw the 24 hour A&E department. The physiotherapy department is reasonably well-equipped: exercise bikes, a treadmill, free-weights, electrotherapy machines and has several consulting/treatment areas. 

Students and new ideas are always welcome, but honestly I found myself taking a lot more home than I anticipated. The variety of cases is vast, including stroke patients (old and new), weight loss regimes, arthritis, lower back pain, scoliosis, paediatrics and burns. A typical working day involved arriving at the hospital by 8:30am, attending to the out-patient patients and then setting off to the wards to attend any referrals. The mornings were always far busier than the afternoons, and most work was usually completed by 2pm.

An international placement will offer the opportunity to work within different cultures and of course, however different they are, they must be respected. Unlike a UK practice, there is no appointment system in the hospital and so patients turn up if and when they wish to!  This can make implementing treatment plans a little difficult, but it is all part of the learning process. Because of this the day to day caseload was hugely variable, but none the less very interesting.

As the weeks went by we found ourselves with our own caseload of patients, including both out-patients and ward patients. (One tip for working on the ward: always acknowledge the Sister upon entering, and always ask permission to read the medical notes!). We even found ourselves getting requests from other patients to treat them – hugely rewarding! Fitting into the team was made very easy for us by as everyone was great fun!

Weekends in Ghana are built for adventure and everybody in the house would team together and organise various outings with the always faithful Bradt Guide – do not leave the UK bound for Ghana without one!

Imagine...  a 2.5 hour hike up a mountain, at some stages on your hands and knees, sweat dripping from places you didn’t know sweat could come from.... You’re probably thinking, nah that’s not for me, well that’s what I thought when I literally “hit the wall” on the way up. But now imagine finally reaching an ice cold, immense fresh waterfall...that is what it’s all about!! (Wli Waterfalls).

Alternatively an interesting canoe journey, interesting in the sense that you will have to dedicated a ‘water scooper’ to scoop the water out of the canoe, will get you to the heart of one of the most fascinating communities ever - the stilt village in Beyin, and a village on stilts is exactly what is it. It’s a very bizarre concept and the only thing I can say is that you have to see it to believe it!

Other weekend adventures included Kakum National Park, the various castles and forts, culture centres, beach resorts, international football matches in Accra and the big one... Mole National Park! We visited Mole in our 5th week which meant we had had 4 weeks to get accustomed to the Ghanaian way of travelling...which was of course, like every other aspect of Ghana, full of surprises. Do not expect buses to leave on time, be prepared to sit for hours for a tro-tro (like small mini buses) to fill up and do not be surprised to find yourself sat next to a mound of pineapples or even a goat!!

All of this would not have been possible without Work the World, their continued support before, during and even after our trip. It has given me the opportunity to combine both travel and work within as yet the friendliest, most welcoming and rewarding part of Africa that I have yet seen.

I wish to thank Work the World and everybody whom I met for a fantastic 6 weeks of fun and adventure – packed with raw emotion!! 

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