King's College London 2021

Physiotherapy, Ghana Takoradi

I’m very much a planner. I get anxious when I don’t know what’s going on, and that was definitely true during the pandemic. But the regular emails and calls from the Work the World team in the UK really put me at ease. Any time there was a government update or an update on the destination we were going to travel to, there was always someone at the other end of the phone talking us through the details. There was great support from the Work the World team, they were really diligent in their communication.

I found out I was going to be able to travel around six weeks before my departure date. I wasn’t expecting to be able to travel so soon. I managed to get my visa application off, and by the time it came back I had two weeks to get everything packed and ready to fly to Ghana.

When I landed in Ghana the first thing that hit me was how hectic the airport was. There were long queues everywhere and there was a lot to do before I could get through to arrivals — filling out immigration documents, taking a Covid test, collecting luggage… but it’s all part of the experience when you go on a trip like this.

When I got through to arrivals, I met the member of the Work the World team who was there to take me to my accommodation. We arrived at 3am, so we didn’t do our house tour until the next day, but the first thing we noticed was how spotless it was!

When we did the tour in the morning, we saw the house was like a villa. It was lovely. And it was nice to see that there was hand sanitiser everywhere. During our stay there were always cleaners in the house and our bedding was changed over really regularly as well. The team was really diligent when it came to cleanliness.

We visited our placement hospital later that day. It was nothing like an NHS hospital. At first it was hard to see some of the conditions the patients were treated under, but staff worked with what they had and they got by. It was just about respecting what they did with the limited resources and facilities they had.

On the first day we went round to all of the departments to get a feel for the hospital. We visited the physio department (where I’d be spending my placement) at the end. We met the head of department and she was lovely! She told us how she was looking forward to us starting and was really welcoming from the get go.

When we actually got stuck into the placement, the differences between our placement hospital in Ghana and the typical NHS hospital started to jump out. We saw the biggest differences in treatment — the local physios would use a lot of electrotherapy and infrared therapy. And we don’t really use those treatments in the UK because they’re not evidence based. But we saw that it was working for some patients and again, we just had to respect that that was the way they did things over there.

They didn’t have any hi-tech rehabilitation equipment, but the gym was more or less the same as what you’d find in the UK, just a bit older. And when they didn’t have a piece of equipment they just made do with what they had. They even had the steering wheel of a ship on the wall to help with shoulder mobility!

When it came to cases, we saw a lot of Erb’s palsy. The staff told us this was common in Ghana but we don’t see that at all in the UK — cerebral palsy is more common for us. Anyway, there was a patient in Ghana who one day just woke up with Erb’s palsy. It had affected her cranial nerves to the point that one side of her face had started drooping. The treatment was electrotherapy, and they placed the pads on the patient’s face and sent electric current through to try and reactivate the affected nerves.

As I said before, this isn’t something we do in the UK. But the patient said it was working for her, and over the two weeks I was on placement I definitely saw an improvement myself. 

We had plenty of downtime outside of placement to experience Ghana itself. At the weekend we travelled to a place called Mole Game Park. On the way there we stopped off and went horse riding and canoeing on a big lake, and swimming in a waterfall — not too shabby. Once we actually got to the game park things started to feel surreal. There were wild elephants, antelopes and monkeys everywhere and we had this amazing view of the jungle. It goes without saying that it was very different from East London, where I’m from!

If you’re thinking about going on a trip like this, I’d just say go for it. Work the World will support you all the way. And if you’re a solo traveller like I was, they’ll put you in touch with other people in the house so you can get chatting before you go.

It might be a bit scary at first, but by the time you come out of the experience you’ll feel like it was the best experience ever. The impact of the experience will overtake the anxiety you feel about going.

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