Mar, 12

Ghana 2012: Clinic day

(Reported by Sam Levitt and Cliff Goldkind, volunteer members of the Ghana 2012 mission)

Sunday, March 25: After a 6:30 am wake up, the 34 member team gathered for a breakfast of beans, oatmeal, and pineapple slices before heading to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to begin the day’s clinic. During the meal, Dr. Marc Levitt moved the team to action with an inspirational speech about the rewards of “Tikkun Olam,” the Hebrew expression meaning “Repairing the Earth.” Dr. Levitt used the children’s tale of  “The Rainbow Fish” to explain the origin of the symbol of the Colorectal Center at Cincinnati Children’s and the overseas mission to Ghana.

Today the team was joined by Professor Afua Hesse, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital’s head pediatric surgical officer and head of Medical Affairs, as well as the head of the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA). Professor Hesse has been a key partner in establishing a collaborative relationship with the hospital.

At around 8:30 am the team opened the clinic doors, and the urgency of this medical mission became instantly apparent. Dozens of children and family members waiting to have their cases examined spread throughout the waiting area, the adjoining hallways, and the hospital courtyard outside. To add to the scene, noises from a jackhammer reverberated throughout the building, as construction of Africa’s first and only pediatric OR ward commenced on the second floor of the hospital.

At around 9:30 am Eva Levitt, director of patient relations, and South African anesthesiologist Dr. Rebecca Gray, opened several suitcases containing  t-shirts, toiletries, and toys to distribute to patients and their siblings.

“Everywhere I turned there were people tapping on my shoulder asking for a coloring book or a t-shirt to give to their children. I couldn’t hand out the donations fast enough,” says Sam Levitt, a team volunteer.

Amidst all this chaos, nurses calmly registered and ushered patients into one of  five examination rooms with amazing efficiency.

By 11:00 am, 33 patients who came seeking treatment had been examined, and 32 had been scheduled for an operation. The one remaining patient will be treated through medical management, allowing the child to function properly without surgery.

Only minutes before the clinic was scheduled to finish, the last patient of the day entered the waiting room – a 13-month-old girl whose frantic mother carried her into the doctors’ arms crying: “I just want you to fix my baby.”

After an examination, the doctors determined that the patient’s gynecologic system was intact but ended blindly. To the joy of her teary-eyed mother, her daughter was the last patient scheduled in today’s clinic.

Dr. Levitt was thrilled by the Ghanaian medical staff’s organization and efficiency, as well as the radiology that they had in place. Additionally, he was impressed by the surgeons’ diagnostic accuracy, saying their diagnoses were “spot on,” and that the two teams were “speaking the same language.”

After the clinic, the team ate lunch in the playroom of the pediatric recovery ward, which had been refurbished by the Colorectal Center team on a previous Ghana mission. The beautiful artwork painted by Jamie Fisher still illuminated the room, prominently displaying the center’s symbolic rainbow fish. Many chairs, desks, and toys had been donated by the Merton International School, providing an opportunity for recovering children to play and transition into normal activities.

Another aspect of this year’s mission is the Mother’s Hostel, which is being supported by the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cincinnati. The hostel currently operates 21 bedrooms and three common rooms, including a laundry room and kitchen. Up to six families sleep in one bedroom before the the operation of their child or relative, as well as during the recovery period.

 This year’s project, spearheaded by Eva Levitt, involves repainting the building and its entryways, adding several much-needed appliances, commissioning artwork and murals for the building, and arranging donations of bed linens, pillows, sheets, and blankets.

Monday will be the first day of surgeries, with the first operation beginning around 7:30 am.

Tim Bonfield

About the Author Tim Bonfield

Tim Bonfield is an associate in Marketing & Communications at Cincinnati Children's. He joined the medical center in 2009 after 17 years at the Cincinnati Enquirer as an award-winning health beat writer, assistant local news editor and Butler-Warren bureau chief. Tim is a proud Cincinnati native and the frazzled father of two teen daughters.


  1. We are proud, proud, proud of Marc, Eva, Sam and the entire team for their performance of “Tikun Olam” in the best sense of these words.

    Abe and Sandy - March 26, 2012 at 10:22 am Reply
  2. We are proud, proud, proud of Marc, Eva, Sam and the entire team for their performance of “Tikun Olam” in the best sense of these words.
    Abe and Sandy

    Abe and Sandy - March 26, 2012 at 10:24 am Reply
  3. I am so proud of all of you. The work you are doing is such a blessing to all. Missing the team.
    Jan Fellows
    Liver Transplant

    Jan Fellows - March 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm Reply
  4. It is very good to see the team in beautiful rainbow fish blue doing their dedicated work together with THE team of Ghana!! Thanks Sam and his mate for THE good lively blog today!! We are ‘s enjoying it over Here in THE Netherlands!!!!

    Nicole, janne , koen and myrte - March 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm Reply
  5. It is most heart-warming to see what CCHMC is doing for the children of Africa. The establishment of a true exchange of ideas, expertise, and cultures is also “spot on!” I have shared this story, along with those of the first trip, with many families from Ghana, and they all say, “Bless you, Cincinnati Children’s.”

    I spent two months at Korle Bu Hospital as a fourth year medical student—truly one of the most significant things I have done in my life—and I am not surprised that everything at Korle Bu is organized and efficient. The doctors there work so hard with so little, and they are absolutely the best of the best. This just brings tears of joy to my eyes – never did I ever think that CCHMC could have such a huge impact.

    Go Team Ghana! We love you!

    Camille Graham MD - March 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm Reply
  6. I have previously traveled to Ghana twice on mission trips. It brings so much joy to my heart to know the team is helping these wonderful people.

    Rebecca - March 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm Reply
  7. Kudos to the Team for doing such good work in Ghana. They can never be thanked enough. I am especially proud of my grandaughter, Julie Guttman, who has been in Ghana before on a like mission. We need more young volunteers for this good work. Go forward Julie!

    Dorothy Engelhardt - March 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm Reply
  8. Such an important life experience for the volunteers. Sam, wishing you a meaningful time in Africa. I know you will come back richer for the experience. Remember the eyes of the parents and children you help as you finish your important work. Wishing incredible success to you all!

    Debby Applefeld - March 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm Reply

Leave a Comment