On a mission: Father Appiah brings medical care to Ghana

Ghana residents gather in a waiting area for treatment at a clinic staffed by volunteers from across the Diocese of Knoxville who offer medical, pediatric, dental and eye care in the village of Nkonya-Wurupong.
Photo submitted by Father John Appiah.

Father John Appiah can add medical missionary to his resume.

The associate pastor at All Saints Church has completed his third medical mission trip to Ghana and already is planning a fourth mission.

Father Appiah led the most recent mission trip Aug. 5-9, where he and a medical mission team served nearly 3,000 people in clinics in two villages. In addition to medical and pediatric care, the team included two dentists, an optometrist and an eye-glass fitting group. The clinics were held in Father Appiah’s home village of Nkonya-Wurupong and in Abotoase.

The medical team included Dr. Elaine Bunick, an endocrinologist; Dr. Randal Robbins, an orthopedic surgeon; Dr. Rodd Daigle, an emergency care physician; Dr. Peter Emanuel, an interventional radiologist; pediatricians Dr. Charles Campbell, Dr. Gregg Swabbe, and Dr. Leo Hamilton; Dr. Gerald Brocker, a pediatric anesthesiologist; dentists Dr. Gary Cooper and Dr. David Hoffman; Dr. Tona Neal, an optometrist; Lucy Freytag, a family health nurse practitioner; registered nurses Carrie Freire, Abbey Conley, Bernadette DePrez, and Heather Schubert; Deacon Michael Nestor, Alex Daigle, Cora Daigle, Tracey Robbins, Aryanne Robbins, Mary Ann Emanuel, Mary Julia Emanuel, Elizabeth Emanuel, Catherine Emanuel, Mark Huckabee, Ethan Huckabee, Ron Stellhorn, Erin Neal, Sidnay Fischer, Allison Miles, Andre Charitat and Karen Swabbe.

The medical staff of the team treated a total of 2,981 patients, 992 of them children and 1,989 adults. The dental staff treated 169 patients by doing 339 teeth extractions and 16 other surgical procedures. The eye staff gave care to 1,255 patients and fitted residents with 355 prescription glasses, 500 reading glasses, and 400 sunglasses. Special procedures also were performed, including diagnostic ultrasound examinations, wound debridement, abscess drainage, seizure control and stabilization of a patient with septic shock, who required transporting to a hospital 16 miles away.

Father Appiah’s team reported that the most common medical cases treated were malaria, parasites, joint pain, back and neck pain, sinus and respiratory infections, skin rashes, wounds and infections, abdominal pain, hypertension, diabetes, eye allergies and infections, ovarian dysfunction, and pregnancy.

The medical team also visited a leprosarium, where they were instructed in the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy and made medical rounds on the hospitalized patients.

Father Appiah said the medical mission weathered heavy rains, bus breakdowns and other obstacles (numerous large potholes), but was able to visit Elmina Castle, Kakum National Park Walkway, Wli Falls and the Art Center for cultural and wildlife experiences before returning on the 17-hour return flights to the United States.

Father Appiah said that for those who had been to the village before, they received a heart-warming welcome and special thanks for keeping promises to return. He said for the new members of the mission team, it was a life changing experience to leave the comforts of home, to share limited amounts of food and water, and witness how people survive without fresh water, electricity, adequate food, toilets, access to health and dental care.

Father Appiah noted that each missionary was showered with love and appreciation that will not be forgotten.

The team was welcomed with an opening ceremony led by Father Emil Kander and the chiefs from the villages with libations, prayers, music and dancing in full Ghanian tradition.

At the closing ceremony, head Chief Nana said the chiefs would donate land needed to build a medical clinic in Nkonya-Wurupong—a major commitment that will require significant fund-raising to make the request a reality.

Father Appiah thanked the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge, represented by Ron Stellhorn and Dr. Elaine Bunick, for providing funding for the medications and supplies for the pediatric clinics. A Bausch and Lomb Pharmaceutical Co. grant provided eye medications and Americares provided medical supplies.

Father Appiah also expressed appreciation to those who donated money, supplies, medications, time and prayers to help make the mission trip a success because it served so many.

The fourth Ghana Medical, Dental and Eye Care Mission is scheduled for July 2014.  Anyone interested in going on this mission or helping to support the medical mission team’s efforts are asked to contact Father John Appiah at All Saints Catholic Church, 865-531-0770.

 

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