When I got stepped off the tarmac to the warm humid air at the Kotoka airport in October of this year, the smell of burning rubbish in the air, the faint sound of beating drums, and the huge “Akwaaba” sign greeted me in the most familiar way. I reminisced to 9 years prior when that same step, from the plane staircase down to the tarmac gave me a sense of jitters, adventure, unsteadiness and wonder as I stepped out unto a world of general unknown.
Now, when I step off the plane - the smells and sounds are familiar and comforting, I feel at home, and mostly blessed to have the opportunity to continue to return to a place where I continue to feel so connected.
When I first started working in Ghana in my early 20s, for Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI) as the Health Programs Coordinator (HPC), it was the children in the village (in Humjibre) that I found myself connecting to across what at that time I thought was impressive odds. Despite being double or triple their age, growing up thousands of miles away, and having oddly different worldviews our understanding and ability to care for each other was uniquely strong.
With my naive budding clinical interest at the time, I had peripherally been introduced to the Boston team of Ghana Hearts and Minds that had just begun working at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi to operate on children with Congenital Heart Defects. Clement, GHEI’s Country Director, and I worked hard to identify children in our area whom could benefit from an evaluation by the Boston team.
Now, as a young Pediatrician and Internist, it has been such an honor to watch these children, who have now undergone successful cardiac surgery, grow up along side me. I first met most of them in a non-clinical role, playing games on our cement stoop late at night after a long days work, when I would read books out loud in the library or play football in front of our coordinator house. I would visit over the years in medical school working in tandem with both NGOs (GHEI and Ghana Hearts and Minds). It has been an honor to now wear a clinical hat almost 9 years later, to talk about birth control, how they are going to raise their families, and long-term outcomes of their congenital heart disease. We are growing up together.
When I was applying to Med-Peds residency, I knew I wanted to combine my worlds; bring together my passion for pediatric to adult transitional care within a resource limited setting. I feel so fortunate to have been able to continue do the work I am so passionate about, and support two NGOs with such honorable and respectable missions such as GHEI and Ghana Hearts and Minds. But mostly, I feel thankful for our children, who are now beautiful young adults who have allowed me to grow and learn from them over the last 9 years and call Ghana my home.