Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our First Day of Clinical Work in Ghana!

Ready for our first patient!
The day we have all been waiting for has finally come.  After breakfast at the hotel we briefly discussed our plan for the day before heading on our bus.  We drove only a few minutes to Korle Bu Hospital, where we met Albert Osei Bagyina, who for decades was one of the very few practicing speech language therapist in Ghana. (nb: in the past several years a new Ghanaian SLT qualified in England and is practicing in Ghana, a U.S.-Trained SLP moved to Ghana approximately 6 months ago, and 3 Ghanaians who were sent to England to qualify by the University of Ghana have recently returned to Ghana and are waiting to begin work.) Albert was very welcoming and informative, explaining his role at the hospital and his plan for us while we are here!

We then began to see patients who have come to the hospital to see our therapist team.  Although we broke our big group into 3 smaller groups for the majority of the time, we began by evaluating 2 patients together.  The first, a toddler who arrived with his mother said few words, such as 'yeah' and 'bye' and pointed to objects he wanted without sounds, was assessed as having a language delay.  After discussing his development with members of our team, the mother was given recommendations to expand his speech by modeling 'bi' for 'biscuit' and waiting for him to respond.  The more he does this, as well as other techniques, the more he will connect saying a certain sound, and eventually a word, for a specific item.

The second, a school age boy who has had hearing aids for 2 weeks had problems articulating /s/ /k/ /r/ /z/ and /t/.  The team worked with him by isolating the trouble sound in a word, such as 'seal', by running his finger along his arm while saying the /s/ sound for tactile stimulation.  As the parents were very attuned to his speech abilities, they were able to give detailed information about his school life as well as progress since he has had his hearing aids.

While in 3 smaller groups, there were a variety of cases we were able to assess and evaluate, including individuals with Cerebral Palsy, Aphasia due to a Stroke, Expressive and Receptive language delay as well as many other communication disorders.  This gave us all the unique experience of working with different patients of different ages in the course of just a few hours.  We all came away from our first day of clinical work in Ghana with a sense of accomplishment that we were able to help parents and family members communicate better to their loved one, as well as more ways their loved ones can communicate with them!

After a busy morning at the hospital, our team, along with Albert, enjoyed a wonderful lunch while outdoors, learning more from Albert as well as discussing our plans for tomorrow.

Proverbial Coffin at Artists Alliance
The rest of the day was enjoyed by all, going to the W.E.B. duBois Memorial for Pan African Culture, visiting where the African American leader lived and was buried with his wife.  We then drove to Umanye House where there were many beautiful paintings, beadwork, items of clothing and carvings for sale by a local artist alliance. The most intriguing pieces of art, however, were the coffins, which are called Proverbial Coffins.  These amazing coffins are made into shapes very specific to the deceased lifestyle, or a symbol of their clan or tribe.  Coffins on display at the alliance included a Coke bottle, Nike sneaker and tiger!  It would not be unusual in Ghana for someone to be buried in a Nike sneaker coffin if they were a well known basketball player.  Aside from being functional, the amount craftsmanship and artistry displayed through these coffins is truly unparalleled.

We ended the day by going to a local market where fabric, shoes and food (as well as many other items) were sold before heading back to our hotel for dinner and discussion about the day. Tomorrow is sure to bring more rewarding experiences!

- Shemaiah Villani


  1. Ashleigh, this is awesome! This is very cool what you're doing, hope you are all having a good time. Xox This keeps me entertained at work everyday.

  2. I'm reading about your experience in Ghana and thinking about how it compares to a day at one of your placements in New York. It sounds like you will encounter more SLP challenges in two weeks in Ghana than in months back home. Congratulations to all of you for taking this on!