Access to health care is a major factor in living a smooth and healthy life. It is important because the health care facilities and resources available should help you get back on track as far as your health challenges are concerned. But is this the reality? Does it always happen? Nope! However, we can never dismiss health care because it is a necessity…at least for me.
My experience with health care providers in Ghana has been very wishy washy. In some instances, I have had wonderful care but in other situations I have been disappointed. I fell sick, one day, I think with malaria, and was taken to a private hospital. Initially, it seemed like they knew what they were doing. However, a few days later an incident happened that shook me. I was going to be given some medication through my IV and thankfully my mother checked to see what medication it was. It turned out to be a wrong one! If I had taken that medication, I don’t know what my story would be now. Apparently, they had not even checked my folder so did not know that I was a sickle cell patient. I had been in that hospital for at least a day (rolls eyes).
Honestly if it was just me in the room at that time, I would have kept quiet and taken whatever it is that they were going to give to me. That taught me a big lesson. Ask questions!!! I know some health personnel don’t like that. They may think that you are acting like you know it all and questioning their authority. But please I beg, ask ooo because sometimes they really don’t know what they are doing and your life is too precious ‘to be doing trial and error things.’
When I have a crisis, my first point of care is usually my aunt. I have been blessed with an aunt who is a nurse, so depending on my level of crisis, I would go to her house and she would give me some pain medication. That usually works for me but there are times when the pain is too strong and my next step is to go to the hospital.
The hospital that I highly recommend is the Sickle Cell Clinic at Korle-Bu (that is if you are in Accra). That is my number one place and my mother’s favorite hospital. She knows almost everyone there. It is not a big place, at least when I was there it was not. I am reliably informed that there has been some minor expansion and more is expected. This was through the benevolence of one individual. However, they are very efficient. When you get there, you will see so many other patients who are in pain just like you. It’s sad to see but at the same time comforting to know that there are people who understand your pain. In my experience, the doctors and nurses are helpful and they know exactly what to do. I have never spent the night there, because they only detain but don’t admit patients. However, I am usually put on an IV for a few hours and left to rest. By the time I wake up, I am feeling much better and then I leave, usually feeling much better.
If I have to be admitted, I am referred to the main Korle-Bu hospital. That is my second hospital option. It’s such a big hospital that it may be difficult to get immediate help, but the good thing about Korle-Bu is that it is a teaching hospital and so there are a lot more health care providers who can take very good care of you.
I also highly recommend that you have a personal doctor who you can reach out to before you even get to the hospital. In the case that my doctor is not available, she would always recommend someone else on duty. I realize that this is not always possible for everyone so I suggest that you begin with the sickle cell unit. The people there are helpful and as you get to know them, they will also recommend others for you.
These two places are my holy grail. I will only go to another hospital if I had my crisis at some odd hour when the Sickle Cell Clinic is closed for the night and Korle-Bu is too far away. I have been to other hospitals before and they have taken good care of me but I usually come back home not completely healed, so instead of going there and spending so much money, I just go to my Sickle Cell Clinic.
Through my experience, I began to ask a lot of questions (well, mostly my parents) and if they are not satisfied with the response or my treatment, I leave and find someone else who I can work with. My mother always says, ‘your life is too precious to leave in the hands of one doctor.’
Your health is your responsibility, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. I know that some of our hospital and health care providers can be hostile but I urge you to keep advocating for yourself. It may be helpful to have someone with you because sometimes you may be too weak to do anything and that is when that person can step in.
If you do not have access to the Sickle Cell Clinic, I urge you to find a well trusted hospital near you and find a personal doctor who will understand your condition (most health care providers in Ghana usually know what they are doing. They have had so much experience working with sickle cell patients). Attend regular check-ups to make sure that everything is okay with you. I am unable to speak about other places in the country, but I do know that Komfo – Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi is currently running new born screenings, so, that is another resource that you can use as well.
As I type these things, I recognize my privilege to be able to do these things and my mind keeps going to others who can’t afford all these things, because sickle cell is expensive (I will talk about that in another post). Honestly, I don’t have answers to my own question but if you feel you can support someone financially, please do.
Health care in Ghana has been good because I have always come out feeling better. Can it be improved? Oh yes…we still have a long way to go. However, what I do appreciate is the fact that when I say I have a crisis, people know exactly what I am talking about and they immediately take action concerning my healing.
Thank you to all our doctors and nurses and all who work in the health care system, who work tirelessly with very little or no resources yet manage to take care of us and send us home alive back to our families. I am also grateful for all those that are doing research and also for those who keep funding these initiatives. The treatment of sickle cell anemia has come a long way because of these people, so kudos, and I hope more of us can contribute to the health care system in Ghana, not just for sickle cell patients, but for everyone.