Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grateful Christmas

An attitude of gratefulness is a requisite for greatness.

Being grateful for the little things of this life open doors for greater things to happen to us. The most successful people in this world required some help at some point in their lives. There’s no such thing as self-made riches. 
‘What have you that you did not receive?’ If we received everything we own, then we should be grateful for everything.  

In this life, I have seen many tragedies. In my short practice as a medical doctor, I have come to appreciate the brute mortality of man. I cannot describe in words how heartbreaking it is to watch on helplessly while life slips from somebody. Utterly distressing to see a newborn baby expire despite your best efforts. It is such that I cannot put it into words, this sickening feeling. How tragic.

We should be thankful on an hourly basis for the gift of life. I am thankful to God for this precious gift we call life. It is in Him we live and move and have our being.
To be able to do the routine daily activities is such a blessing we shouldn’t take for granted. The ability to talk and be understood, move from one place to the other and to do as your free will tells you to. Tis’ such a blessing to be conscious and fully aware of what is going on around you and to decide on what you want to do.

Let’s not lose sight of the love of God for all. God’s love for those less fortunate than we are.  We have all been blessed in various ways. Even unto the dying, God’s love remains undiminished for both the sinner and the saint.

God’s love for the sinner is the reason for this season thus the sinner cannot be ungrateful. The sinner must show appreciation for this love by embracing the salvation that Jesus brings.
[John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on Him should have eternal life]

The saint should rejoice for the gift of eternal life and the fulfilling promise of a victorious life here on earth.

Merry Christmas – God has blessed us. Let us be thankful.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I thank God for the gift of love and what it means even though we have not a full understanding of what it means to love here on earth.

I thank God for the promise of love eternal, unconditional and unfailing here on earth; none can grant such graces – faithful and ever sure.

I thank God for the opportunity to experience and also share in His love daily through the people around me; these were created in His image.

I thank God for His love and promise of a second chance everyday even though I deserve not these more often than not.

I thank God for the sunshine after the dark clouds and rain. It reminds me daily to have hope in the midst of adversity.

I thank God for His love daily; I could never do anything to merit such. I can never understand why He loves me so much even though I still falter and fail in my daily walk. I can never comprehend neither the height nor depth, neither the extent nor reach of His love for me. I can never love Him back in an appreciable manner as I ought to yet He sustains me by His unfailing love.

While I am thankful daily, I am mindful of the fact that I can never thank Him enough for all that He’s done for me and what His promises are for me. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Looking ahead

I choose to move on! I choose to look on the brighter side
I choose to put on that positive attitude as if nothing ever happened yesterday
If yesterday's past catches up with me,
I will confidently face it and overrun it.
Cos' what lies ahead of me is far greater than what is behind.
Oliver Wendel says...What lies behind us, and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us!

There's something inside so strong! I'm gonna make it!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

'Virtually social'

Me: Good day (I make a waving gesture to great a ‘friend’)
‘Friend’: No response.
I take my seat beside this senior colleague. His eyes intently fixed on his 3.5’ screen with fingers scrolling down on his touch screen.  Was he absent minded? Had he noticed my greeting but disregarded it as a random person greeting him? I started having these thoughts because this was the second time I was meeting this colleague who seems to have no idea who I am. Not that I was offended for thinking myself important to him while I was not. But I was perplexed! I was at a loss as to how my ‘friend’ could simply ‘know’ me so well in the digitalized world and have no clue who I am in the real world. Never mind, he was busy on his iPhone checking his Facebook comments and now I could see him smile reading some comments or whatever pleasant thing he was reading on his ‘wall’.
But this is a colleague known to me very well, okay at least very well known to me in the social world and whiles he was in school too! He is a friend on Facebook, a follower on twitter and a fellow in some groups we both belong to on Facebook!! He had made comments on my ‘wallpost’ in Facebook before. I ‘follow’ him on twitter and he follows me back. I have in the past ‘re-tweeted’ some of his tweets even! Of course I knew him personally too! As my senior colleague, I remember having this encounter with him whiles he was in his final year in medical school. For obvious reasons, I won’t divulge information on this encounter with my colleague here.
As I mulled over these thoughts, I began to contemplate the possible impacts social media might be having on our generation with particular emphasis on our relationships with others; what I call our real social connection. I share my perspective on this matter in this article. In a sense, these are largely shaped by my personal experiences as a heavy user of social media particularly of Facebook.
So I am on Facebook, have a twitter account, Google+ account in addition to the two blog sites I manage both on google blogger and wordpress. I use applications like tweetdeck and hootsuite which brings these social networking sites together. And yes, I have forgotten some sites I signed up for something like Facebook created by Ghanaians – I think two of them or so. I belong to uncountable groups on Facebook having created and managing a lot of these and I have a BranchOut account on Facebook too. Quite a lot huh? Some of them, either I have forgotten the name of the site or I have forgotten the password or even the username for such.
In this information age, you must be connected so you can make the best use of technology around you productively.
But just when is social connection, especially an impersonal one like these online connections too much? Just how many of these can be considered one too many? How personal or how impersonal should it be? How much information should we give out publicly or how secured and safe can we be on a daily basis with the current proliferation of spam messages on these sites and the impuned invasion of our privacy. The price to pay for our free usage? Interesting observation; these days you can have a conversation with someone on a daily basis without ever seeing or meeting the person! 
On the productive side, you can plan and organize events, have meetings and raise funds for projects. Social media has increasingly become the portal for news delivery – most of us having to feed on news stories from these sites. I particularly have found it useful in these past weeks when I have had to rely on it for making announcements to medical students in Africa and also for reading announcements/ notices from my class wall on Facebook. People share news about events both blissful and mournful. Conversations/ discussions about topics ranging from politics, sports, religion and other social issues are held on such sites with news channels taking advantage of this to reach out to their listeners.
You can share photos of memorable events with loved ones on these sites (albeit you may not know most of your friends on Facebook). ‘Prominent’ people have Fan pages. Politicians are taking advantage of this too likewise the ministers and evangelists.
Seems to me people have rather become quite philosophical churning out volumes of wise sayings on daily and sometimes on hourly basis! Never mind the blatant plagiarism or the frequent infringement of copyright laws. People have rather become very expressive and confident in a sense.
Question still remains, what are the limits? What is considered too much?
Some of us have thousands of friends and we barely know 40% of people on our friends’ list! I have known a lot of people from within the IFMSA and also during my term as a FAMSA official and even from my exchange program and numerous conferences attended worldwide. I am not quite sure I know up to 50 percent of the 1,345 people on my friends’ list! Even more compelling, I am not sure I know on a personal basis up to 20 percent of my 'friends'. For ‘fanatics’ like me, we just click the ‘accept friendship request’ button anytime we see that red notification on our page. Some of us even have anonymous profiles on these social sites and only God knows the intention of such sketches.
Going back to the opening story, is it possible that I might I have considered many of my ‘friends’ as random people I met on the streets or on a bus? Is it possible I sat next to one of them at a place and never opened my mouth to say hi cos' I has no clue who they were just like my 'friend'? Did someone start wondering where they knew me? Was my face seemingly familiar? The affirmative to these are all possible and I don’t know what effects these may have but certainly these are not connections you would give thought to or expect positive outcomes from. At best, they make us appear sociable when in fact, we really are not. I have been culprit a number of times cutting conversation short and continuing essential discussion online via chat or email. Seems to me real friends are becoming distant even though they are so close on these social networking sites. We can have long chats with our friends online and only visit their room which is only four doors away from us occasionally. We so much want to get inside our rooms and switch on the PC and see what people are saying, doing or to put it in a more apt way, posting. We want to comment on their post, join in the celebration, sympathize, advise or comfort and yes, share God’s word with our friends. We want to do all these but on a digitally social platform! Makes me sometimes feel we are heading for an era like in one of those sci-fi thrillers where computers take over human race and control everything – in this case our communication and relationships (which is everything actually). I sometimes get the sense we are just sitting back watching the computers do all the communication for us. We shouldn’t forget communication is more than just words. What about the smileys you may argue now. Well, I think they are just characters typed out. Nothing can replace the smile on a human face or the warmth of an embrace or the pleasure of a kiss. Nothing can take away the tears on a face, or the moans and groans of an ailing friend. Nothing can take away that touch of healing. The soothing touch of a loved one, the nudge or shove or the poke of a friend – these are human and cannot be replaced. Action indeed speaks louder than words. Video massaging you may now say. But hey, it's just an image (it being a moving image of a person) but not the person. There is something ritual about having the person in person to communicate with. 
My dear reader make no mistake, I am not against social networking but what I am highlighting here and advocating against is the dehumanization of these relationships. When we remove the element of humanity from these connections so it seems we have another life out there encrypted and encoded in computer messages or even multimedia. We seem to have that sociable and expressive personality only he cannot touch or be touched. Only he cannot see, hug, kiss or dry our tears no matter what sweet words he may write. I have heard action speaks louder than words.
The social profile we create out there must of necessity conform to our very own personality. What we represent out there must also represent us indeed. For safety reasons it is not wise to give out so much information about ourselves out there but whatever we choose to give must reflect our being – religious, Christian, or whatever creed we profess to believe in. That is the challenge for us. We may not know all the people in our digital social domain, but we must value personal relationships above these. These must not supersede the personal relationships we have with people. Sometimes it's practically impossible to communicate with people without the aid of social networks and that is fine. After all, you have in mind that the network is just an aid to the relationship you have with A PERSON! That is fine and good reasoning. What I am against is the removal of the person element in this relationship.  
For other purposes, we may reach out impersonally to people sometimes but to wallow in the virtual world of socialization is to deceive ourselves of our social well-being. That is not healthy according to the WHO.
Easily the adage that the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know comes to mind. We must mend our broken physical relationships, consolidate the good ones we have already with people and then build genuine virtual relationships to our benefit and that of those around us. We must reach out purposefully and as widely as we can through social media to achieve the best we could possibly achieve and help our generation. We must put back humanity into social media and make it more relevant to our human relationships. My thoughts to you via social media!

Safe in the arms of His love

He was amongst us as one of us

He showed us the way to victory and beckons us

He loved us and died for us

He defeated life’s most feared foe and gave us hope

He was glorified and seeks glory for us in Heaven

One day, He will welcome us,

Sinners turned Saints into His Father’s house

He saved us so we may live for Him!

Lift His royal banner high.

His name is Jesus!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Faith, Hope and Love: Conversations from my ward

Some stories from CRH Ward 9...
The author is a medical doctor sworn to protect secrets of his patients even after their death... Nothing shared in this violates this sacred oath.

This is a story about a 26 year old man and his family and of course me, his doctor! It's a story about fighting to survive. It's about Hoping against hope and staying strong despite agonizing reality. When doom looms and hope elopes, when all you do seems pointless and you feel helpless and the odds are against you, it is then that you must have faith and hope! You have to have hope and the courage. 

So I mustered courage and with the diaphragm of my stethoscope placed on his frail chest - barely any skin to cushion my tool, I listened to his chest and the heart sounds and satisfied myself he was not in heart failure. What was intriguing and satisfying was his smile and what came out of his mouth; "What you listened to, is it okay?" Even more intriguing are the next two words and the accompanying smile I'll never forget, "My doctor". 

Here was a man confined to his bed and barely of any flesh. With fistula big enough to admit my glove size 8 fitting hands on his abdomen. Here was a man barely alive yet smiling with pride as he called me his doctor. I can never forget that smile. 

I had been called to see him the night before as he was bleeding from this huge ulcer on his abdomen which communicates with the outside draining faeces and anything the bowel wanted to extrude out. He had a bad enterocutaneous fistula after an operation for perforated bowel from another hospital. His days in the hospital outnumbered my entire stay in Cape Coast. 
It's another day and I had been called to see him again because the nurse on duty who wanted to dress his ulcer saw this huge haematoma that would likely cause profuse bleeding and probably lead to exsanguination should it be evacuated. 

I smile back hiding my disappointment that we had not been able to do much for him. He's so frail he probable wouldn't even last the journey from our center to Accra where he'd probably receive same treatment as we're giving him - Nutritional support, adequate hydration, anaemia treatment and other supportive treatments in addition to the daily wound dressing for the ulcer on his abdomen.

Everything around him seems hopeless and within my heart I feel sorrowful. Sometimes we are reminded of our humanity as doctors by such cases. We are reminded of our empathy, emotional frailty and our own mortality. I laugh uncontrollably whenever the chance for laughter presents itself, ask him irrelevant questions just to take my mind off his sorry state. Yet on this particular day, I'm touched by his smile. As I reflect on him whilst I recline in my bed to rest my hurting back, I feel more touched by the support of his mother and father. This must be the meaning of the expression; 'nothing like a mother's love'. The parents of this 26 year old man have practically abandoned the comforts of their bed for their son. They live with him, watch over him, nurse him and care for him like nothing I have seen before. The will is so strong and hopes high that their son will live. They're illiterate too! They can't understand a word of what the doctors discuss each day; about the dwindling hopes, the frustration and anything dooming the doctors say sometimes. probably a blessing to be illiterate on such occasions because in their 'ignorance', they have kept this boy alive in hope and in enthusiasm and a joyful expectation that he'll soon get well and be out of the place. Such is their blessing - an unwavering faith and an expectant heart. 

I comfort myself with the words that in his misfortune, he's been blessed with such loving parents. In his misfortune, he's enjoyed a mother's love and a father's care as I have never seen before. 
I'm also encouraged in my faith and in my profession - give your best no matter what and you'll be blessed with a smile in the least. How comforting it is to give your all to the patients you have been entrusted with. How fulfilling it is to find that your care and profession is appreciated. On yet another day, this ailing man told his parents in a frail shaky voice, "anytime I see doctor then I get happy". I guess I won your heart with the many smiles and encouragement and the 'conversations' we have. Not so much with the blood samples I take or the Iv lines I set and the drugs I prescribe to relieve your symptoms. 

One night I wrote down these words fearing you'll leave that day; "If you should leave your doctor today, I know you're going to a better place where the Master Physician Himself will be your doctor! I'll comfort myself with the truth that in Heaven, there are no sorrows, no tears, no disease nor death. In His arms you'll be safe forever! God bless you Isaac! You and your family have touched my heart forever!

Now I'm beginning to have a strong feeling that you'll live through this and get out of the hospital soon. Today you asked me if you can start taking soup and fish cos' you miss it so much. Of course anything you want Isaac! I'll be praying for you.  I have faith in a God who heals. I'm hopeful you'll get better. And that God loves us all so much that he answers us!

Two weeks after, you are gone to your maker and I know you are in Heaven. God bless and keep you Isaac. RIP.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Houseman on call; Life at the Regional Hospital, Cape Coast

Maybe I'll summarize earlier weeks and add it later but for now, I'm just itching to let this out in my third week as an intern at the Central Regional Hospital in Cape Coast. Here it goes...

Yesterday (Sunday, 27/05/2012) I did my first suturing! yay! I'm obviously excited about this cos' it gives me hope that I'll be justified in my decision not to stay in Korle Bu for my first year in House job. Having hid behind numbers most time (cos' we had a large class in Medical School), I decided it was time I stood on my own. A hard decision that has seen me even part ways with my best friend from school even though he also opted to stay outside Korle Bu for first year. 
Anyway, I have to get that off my mind and simply focus on gaining as much as I can gain from this experience.
It's now 1:48am on 28-05-2012 and I have a crazy schedule ahead of me;
- I'm the only house officer on call 24 Hours at the Department of Surgery here in CRH. That means I'm in charge of both male and female wards, I review cases on both wards every morning, I do OPD work, prepare patients for surgery and also assist in theatre, sometimes review surgical cases at the ER and in addition, do ER work almost every other day! That translates into about 15 hours of work/ day every other day and also means my short sleep hours can (and actually is) interrupted at any time of the day! 
So much for my personality which is the kind that wants to do things at its own pace, be in charge and control how events unfold. Not anymore! The times are set for me and I must follow through and come out clean if I am going to be a good doctor (or so I have come to believe).

As I realized, my day typically begins few minutes before 6am and by 7:30am, I should be by my patients side and reviewing cases already. By 9:30am/ 10am, ward work including reviews and taking samples and doing other procedures should be done. Then depending on the day, I set off for the OPD to see patients. 
By 2pm/ 3pm, I should be done here and really my day should end there if I don't have ER duties. But no! Theatre calls and I must answer. Emergency or elective cases, I must answer the call.
As I have realized also, there are good sides to being an overworked intern;
I get to do so many things that I would have otherwise missed. I get to be more responsible and also get more opportunities at practice.
But later today as I would realize, my responsibilities just got a little bit overboard! I will be running the department of surgery alone tomorrow the 29th of May 2012!
None of my 5 superiors will be around in the day and the onus lies on me to keep the department sane and running smoothly. God help me.

So it turned out I have worked for 20 hours non-stop! I had duties at the ER and my night started at 10pm on 28/05/2012 and ER duty ended next day at 7am. So much for the night already and I must get ready and move straight to the ward and review cases. Little did I know know I was going to be in the hospital premises for the next 11 hours or so! Hey! I don't even know if my new American friend was around. I simply didn't notice this. First year medical student from University of North Carolina here in Cape Coast. So much for the girl in my opinion. I had a good time at the ER with my colleague and classmate helping me out. The only problem I had with the night was this baby with Malaria and gastroenteritis with dehydration. I had a hard time finding an IV line for him to get the fluids in. He needed these IV fluids and his inexperienced doctor couldn't find his tiny little veins buried in his thick skin. Days you wish not all 14 months babies were not that well fed and dehydrated with collapsed veins. There was also this teenager who for strange reasons had drank some liquid soap and fallen unconscious! Thank God he was revived after a lot of IV fluids! I guess it was a good experience for me. I'm learning everyday and I count myslf blessed under these circumstances. Today itself would have been a good one if not for the emergency cases we had to operate on. I had anticipated it to be a crazy one cos' I was going to be alone but the H.O.D for surgery at the UCCSMS came around to do the emergency cases. So I reviewed all the ER cases, and the ward cases as well and did the labs for the patients whiles I waited for Prof. to prepare for the cases. He let me do my second skin suturing! The case we did in theatre included a 9 year old girl who was initially thought to have perforated her bowel from typhoid fever. It turned out to be a perforated gallbladder! Cholecystectomy it was then. The youngest Prof. had done in his many years of work both in the UK and in Ghana.

It's 12:33am on 31/05/2012- Awake and listening to good country music. I really should be sleeping but I simply can't! Not with the thoughts of the demise of my colleague and friend under bizarre circumstances at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. I'm starting to have thoughts of seeing a psychologist cos' I simply can't sleep with these thoughts. Sometimes just blank thoughts and at other times, memories of the many nights I walked the lonely dark road to my late colleague's room to play video games with him. I remember the excitement in his eyes, sometimes the shock at my incredible comebacks in FIFA12. Oh, I can remember one game he scored 3-0 in first half and I equalized in second half to 3-3. eventually, he had the last laugh when he won in extra time but he congratulated me all the same. He would really laugh loud and tease hard when he won against me. I had my revenge on some days but truth be told, he won more than I did. Now I remember also one time he had asked me to go for a ride with him in his brand new Nissan Primera. Just so much occupying my mind now. So young, so full of life and enjoying his new status as a medical doctor. Just murdered coldly in your own room at the doctors' flat without a clue. Desmond, Rest In Peace!