An 11-person Project HOPE volunteer surgical team is in Liberia training local surgeons, conducting surgery at Phebe Hospital, and instructing 100 medical professionals from across West Africa. Dr. Akpofure Peter Ekeh, Associate Professor of Surgery at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio provided this first-hand account from his experience.
The Project HOPE surgical/education team left team left Monrovia early Saturday morning for a three-hour journey up north to Phebe Hospital in Bong County. When we arrived, the hospital was very receptive and surprisingly vibrant for a Saturday morning.
We made some quick rounds and selected five patients for surgery. We were in the operating room until almost midnight.
We stayed overnight in the neighboring town of Gbarnga, at a guest house provided for by the hospital, but were back to work early Sunday morning to perform six more surgeries and the management of a trauma case.
The experience was very satisfying as we were able to complete all the surgical cases needing to be done at the hospital.
There are only two active surgeons in the entire nation of Liberia with its population of four million, and we performed surgical cases that no one else was available to do, including five thyroidectomies in two days. While some of the cases were very complicated, we were fortunate to have the expertise of two seasoned endocrine surgeons on our volunteer team.
In addition to the surgeries, we were also able to supply the hospital with needed equipment and supplies specifically requested by hospital staff, including soda lime for anesthesia machines. By hospital staff accounts, this was one of the best gifts they had received in a long time.
We also provided teaching for the doctors on site. There is great interest from the local health professionals for more educational missions like this one, which provide care for patients and education for local health professionals at the same time.
The only downside is that we wished we had more time.
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