Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day Two at Korle Bu!

We arrived eager for our second day at Korle Bu hospital (the 3rd largest hospital in Africa, with around 2,000 beds!) having an idea of what we would experience, with heightened confidence and enthusiasm. Upon entering the hospital, we were greeted by the stroke victim that some of the students had evaluated the previous day. He suffered a stroke 2 years ago, leaving him unable to express his thoughts through speech; however, through assessment, the students found his strengths lie in his comprehension and compensatory communicative abilities, using a variety of gestures, pointing, and intonation of vocalizations. Although he was able to get some wants and needs met, he lacked a more productive communication system that would allow him to communicate socially. After our strenuous day of therapy at the hospital, the students, motivated by this man's story, strengths, and deficits, stayed up late constructing a personalized booklet for the purpose of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). They used many of his interests, such as football (that's soccer for those Americans out there reading this), favorite foods such as fufu (a traditional Ghanaian dish, not a bunny rabbit), and family members, to create various pages for his book.

Although we felt accomplished and excited to share our patient's new book with him, we were apprehensive about whether or not his family would see the value of it as a significant means of communication since we learned in our classes here in Ghana that the Ghanaian culture holds eloquent speech in high esteem. Our fears were put to rest immediately upon witnessing the reactions of the patient and his brother to the page depicting football pictures (i.e. foul, team names, good game/bad game, etc.). Those smiles were truly worth the trip to Africa. Not only was the patient excited to explore these new avenues of communication, but his family began to recognize him as a viable communication partner once again. We recognized even moreso that this would truly be a sustainable system when we suggested that the family add items to the book that they thought would be useful, and his brother without hesitation named several more favorite foods and mentioned that he knew someone who could draw them on the extra pages of the book. One student guided the patient through using this new communicative system and how it can progress over time, and worked with the family to model its use. Another student dispelled the previous notions that the family held that his symtpoms were caused by a disease, by explaining the incident that occured in his brain, and what he can expect in his recovery.

Imagine that this was only our first case of the day! Next we split into three groups with our supervisors to see the remaining patients seeking our help. One group ventured off for a tour of the facility and to meet with other rehab specialists, such as physical therapists and audiologists. In an unexpected yet exciting turn of events, a few of the students were offered the opportunity to view a cleft palate surgery, and quickly scrubbed in. While the students jumped at the chance to see this live surgery after learning about it in our cleft palate class back at TC, our documentary film maker, Skye, agreed in the spirit of filmmaking while the color drained from his face.

Meeting with the Chief Executive of Korle Bu Hospital
When given the option to rest at the hotel after all our hard work or to meet with the Chief of the hospital, we all mustered up the energy and decided, "when in Ghana...!". At the meeting, we applied all the rules we had learned about Ghanaian etiquette. Dr. Crowley scared us enough in our first meeting for us to remember NOT to cross our legs! Fortunately we remembered this tip, among others, such as the way a group is always greeted by counterclockwise handshakes with the right hand. Stay tuned tomorrow for more details on this and what's to come... hint: you may want to ask your cable providers for access to Ghana's TV-3 to see the TC students in action with a surprise guest!

-Alana Krieger


  1. Wow - sounds amazing so far! I love the AAC story with the stroke patient, sounds like the book is really going to help him. Hope your television debut is a success!

  2. So wonderful that you all are making such a difference in your client's lives so quickly!

  3. Wow! Sounds like you are really making a difference in the lives of others. I am so happy to hear that the personalized AAC system was so well received. Great job explaining its use and including the family. I love how the family can see him as a "viable communication partner once again." Very exciting!

    I can't wait to hear more!