Doctors Kerry Kreidel, MD, associate program director and assistant professor in the University of Arizona Department of Anesthesiology and Jeremy Nielsen, MD, physician resident with the department, volunteered for two-week medical mission at the Baptist Medical Centre, in Nalerigu, Ghana, West Africa.
The 123 bed Baptist Medical Centre services populations who come from vast regions within Africa and each year conducts 60,000 outpatient visits, 10,000 inpatient visits, 1,200 major operations and 2,500-3,000 minor procedures. In the past 50 years, it is estimated that over 3 million patients have visited the hospital.
The volunteers learned of the opportunity thanks to an invitation from Dr. Lynn Coppola, who was a faculty physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UA, before signing on for a two year commitment as medical director for the Baptist Medical Centre.
Dr. Coppola and her family welcomed Drs. Kreidel and Nielsen to Nalerigu, where she has been working diligently for the last eight months, taking care of an endless stream of patients at the center. Her dedication and sacrifice were an inspiration to the duo.
In Nalerigu, they provided anesthesia for obstetrical procedures such as routine and emergency caesarian sections, hysterectomies and provided regional and general anesthesia for general surgical procedures, the most common of which were emergent laparotomies for bowel perforations from typhoid infection and hernia repair. They also provided conscious sedation for outpatient procedures such as dilation and curettage and assisted in obtaining IV access on dehydrated patients needing fluids.
Drs. Kreidel and Nielsen taught local hospital health care providers the appropriate initial assessment and resuscitation of unstable patients presenting to the hospital, including simple airway management techniques.
They also took the opportunity to instruct the local anesthetist on various anesthetic techniques and to orient him on the existing anesthesia equipment and monitors which were unfamiliar to him to help improve patient safety. They helped to organize, categorize, and inventory existing anesthesia equipment, and also assembled the hospital's first "crash cart" for making emergency resuscitative equipment available for emergent situations anywhere on the premises.
Drs. Kreidel and Nielsen thank Wayne Jacobsen, MD, FCCM, former director of the residency program in anesthesiology, who recently took a new position as the departmental chairman, for his overall support for medical missions.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to provide care to the underprivileged population in Nalerigu, and feel that it afforded us an unparalleled opportunity to practice medicine in an environment devoid of the surplus that is often unappreciated in the United States,” said Dr. Kreidel, who is also a physician with the University of Arizona Health Network.
“It was an experience that I will take with me, and remember for the rest of my life. It really makes you realize the many things that you take for granted on a daily basis,” said Dr. Nielsen.