A UK heart team, led by consultants from The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough are going to perform life-saving operations in Ghana for a third time.
The team are giving up their holidays to take the trip and are set to jet off to hospitals in Accra and Kumasi on Saturday 12 March for a week.
On this year’s mission the team will be helping several patients who require cardiac surgery and upskilling the Ghanaian team to perform more advanced procedures.
The team of nine, made up of cardiothoracic surgeons, perfusionists, nurses and other allied health professionals, as well as cardiology colleagues from both South Tees Hospitals NHF Foundation Trust and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, will fly out to help perform heart surgery and complete further training with the Ghanaians.
Excited to go back
Once again, the team will be led by consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Enoch Akowuah, who grew up in Kumasi, Ghana.
Enoch said: “We’ve had such a big gap because of COVID. We had a first trip in early 2019, followed by a second trip six months later. Then everything stalled hugely and that’s been a real shame because we put in quite a lot of work and the momentum has just been taken away.
“But having said that, there was a point where we thought we would never go back – and so the opportunity to go back is quite exciting. We’re excited to reconnect with the team over there.”
One visit: Two hospitals
“The other exciting thing is that we’re going to two different places this year. We’re going to the place that we normally go to in Kumasi to build on some of the work we have done before and then we are going to do some work in the capital Accra.
“We’ve been trying to get the team in Kumasi Hospital to learn how to put a pacemaker in independently and they have done that over the COVID period, which is amazing.
That over 20 patients have had pacemakers put in over the two years we haven’t been there is testament to the first two visits really; the fact that we were able to leave some tangible skills behind.”Enoch Akowuah
The aim now is to upskill the Ghanaian team to put more in complex pacing devices and internal defibrillators.
They will also learn how to do angiograms for patients who may need cardiac surgery and do some stents.
Heart surgery in Accra
Enoch added: “We are going to do some heart surgery in Accra with the University of Ghana Medical Centre. This will be a huge milestone for the hospital as they have never done heart surgery before.”
During their previous visits, Enoch and the rest of the team have worked with a charity called Pace4Life to try and supply the Ghanaian team with pacemakers.
“Although the teams in Ghana are skilled in putting them in, the biggest limitation remains paying the £1,000 that it costs to buy the actual pacemaker. So the partnership with the charity allows the team to get the much cheaper pacemakers.”
Just the start
Enoch hopes that the work that is being done with the heart and lung team can lead to other specialties linking up with Ghana.
He said: “We really want this relationship to grow and develop and other specialties get involved because that’s when you really see the benefit – and we continue to be well supported by senior the leadership team at the trust to make this happen.”