Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Journey Continues...

The journey continues for Naamal. (Her given name is Gloria!) I visited her yesterday. She is still a patient in Comfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The biopsy was on Friday. Her father told Rev. Job that they remover two of her teeth when in reality the took two small samples of her tumor. That , in a way, tells you her mouth is very mis-shaped! The results won't be back until the 30th of this month.
Naamal will be treated as if she has Burkitt's Lymphoma because the doctors are 99% sure of it. The biopsy was to confirm it. So, she will not have surgery, only chemo therapy. Her first chemo treatment was on Monday. Tuesday, when I saw her, she was doing quite well...probably a bit bored because there is nothing to do. Her mother came to Kumasi to be with her for a few days while her father went home for a few days. As soon as her mother left the room, Naamal changed her clothes & started playing with the items in her backpack. Plus, my sister sent her a coloring book and crayons that kept her busy for quite a while.
One of the many blessings has been Rev. Job, a friend (really, he has been part of my Ghanaian family) of mine who lives in Kumasi. Rev. Job Chewogo has kept in touch with Naamal and her parents. He speaks to them on the phone every day and visits every time he is in the area...about four times a week! He has also agreed to be the person to help deal with the financial aspects of her treatment, since I live so far away. I thank God for everything he has done for us!
Naamal will probably be discharged sometime this week, but I don't know for sure. Please pray that her parents will follow through with the chemo treatments. That is the only way she will get addition to the prayers that are being lifted up world wide for her.
The next update will probably be in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Komfo Anokye Bound

For Naamal, the journey to health via Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) began in the wee hours of the morning on Monday, August 12, 20013. I met her and her father, Joseph in "downtown" Lawra at 4:00 AM! Naamal had her best dress on, complete with holes. But, she was dressed in her best! We waited for the bus to Kumasi where we would find Komfo Anokye. We waited. And talked. And waited. Did I mention that we waited? Finally, a bus came. YAY! Oh, it was full. Now what? We took a tro tro to Wa. Then, from Wa, we took a tro tro to Kumasi. At leat the tro tro to Kumasi had more room in it. Naamal was able to sleep. We covered her with a piece of cloth (that is what people use here instead of blankets) so she wouldn't get cold in the cool morning air.
We arrived at Komfo Anokye around 3 PM. I tried to call Rev. Job, one of my Ghanaian family, but I wasn't able to reach him. He had told us to go to his house first & he would go to KATH with us. Since I could not connect with him, we went straight to KATH. KATH has very tight one is allowed in unless it is visiting hours or an emergency. The taxi stopped at the gate. The guard leaned in to ask why we were there and he saw Naamal. "That is serious!" he said. So, without any of us saying anything, we were allowed in.
First, we went to Emergency. Naamal's vital signs were taken, and basic questions were asked before we were sent to pediatric emergency. There, more medical history was taken and blood work was done. Everyone was so kind! Naamal would be admitted since she lived so far away. The diagnosis from the start was Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Now, "investigations" (tests) would be done to confirm it. 
Joseph would stay at the hospital with Naamal since the parent is expected to care for their child. Food for Naamal would be provided by the hospital. This is very rare in Ghana. Usually the family has to provide the food, too. The investigations would begin on Tuesday.
The tests that were done this week were a massive amount of bloodwork, chest x-ray, bone marrow test, ultra sound on her liver since it was enlarged and a biopsy of her tumor. She was given a unit of blood on Thursday because her blood counts were low.
The hardest day for me was Thursday. And, up to that point, it was probably the hardest day for Naamal. I arrived early in the morning with a backpack filled with new underwear, a dress, shorts & a top and a pair of flip flops. She was thrilled! Every once in a while, she would unzip the backpack, take out the clothes and try them on herself or on her baby elephant I gave her when she was admitted. But, the fun did not last. The nurse came to take Naamal for the bone marrow test. When her father carried her back into the room, she looked so small, she was very tired and went to sleep. Joseph was asked by the nurses to go and get something, so I stayed with Naamal. As she slept, she was whimperong. And, my heart broke into a million pieces. I tried to comfort her. She wouldn't let me. So, I held her hand and sang to her..."Jesus loves you..." At the same time, she was receiving the unit of blood. Later in the day, she was herself again. I left for Lawra early Friday morning. Rev. Job called me Friday night. Naamal had the biopsy. When he visited her, she was crying. Oh! How I wish I could help her so she wouldn't hurt. But, it is bound to hurt more before it gets better.
Naamal will be treated for Burkitt's even before the lab results are in because doctors are 99% sure that is what her tumor is, it has to be varified. Her treatment will consist of chemo therapy, no surgery! That is amazing to me. The nurses said that they have seen worse. The chemo will shrink the tumor! Once discharged, Naamal will have to return to KATH evry three weeks for treatment. Joseph was STRONGLY encouraged to stay in the Kumasi area as a precaution. Naamal would not be able to travel to Lawra and back every three weeks. Plus, she needs to be closer to the hospital just in case she gets sick, has a bad reaction, etc...This trip was a cultural lesson for me. The hospital is different than what I am used to in the USA. Plus, the insurance does not cover blood work, x-rays, bone marrow tests, lab reports, pathology reports, gauze, bandages, etc. Right now, to start, the chemo itself will be free because the hospital has it in stock and it was donated. But, we don't know how many times it will be available at no charge. No one would even give me an estimate for the cost, but I will keep on trying.
When I look back on the past week, I can see God's fingerprints all over it. He has been so good to us, caring for us all the way, protecting us and providing for us. And, I know He will continue! Thank You, Lord God Almighty, healer of our bodies and everything else we would ever want or need!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sakawa - Get Rich Quick, for a Price

Sakawa is from the Hausa word, "sakaawa," meaning deception, as in Internet scams to get rich quick. But, it has taken on a new meaning in recent years. It now used in blood money rituals in Ghana. It is believed if you go through with the ritual, you will become rich very quickly.
The "sakawa" ritual involves traditional priests who demand blood from those who go to them for financial assistance. The kind of blood that is demanded depends on what kind of financial rewards that you want to reap and how quickly you want to acquire the money. The priest can demand the blood of a child, boy, girl, woman or man. This means that the "client" has to kill one of these people to get the blood demanded. I have heard stories of this in the area where I live. It is very real!
I know of only One Person whose blood really made a difference in the lives of men, women, boys and girls. That person would be Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God. What good does it do if a man (or woman, boy or girl) has all the riches in the world but looses their soul? A person's relationship with God is the only thing that matters as one is on their death bed. Where do you have your riches hidden? In heaven or on earth? Are you ready to see Jesus?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Me? A Basket Case...Yep!

Today was one of those days...a day that as time went on, I became overwhelmed by the next "big" task that is on the horizon. I felt the fear creep in. I was ready to cry...This is the story:
Monday, I will be traveling with Naamal (5 years old) and her father to Kumasi. We will be going to a teaching hospital where Naamal can receive treatment for the tumor that has been growing in her mouth for three years. Today, it hit me...I have no idea where we are going, where we will stay and, I have a limited amount of money for travel and treatment. What will I do? Up to this point, Naamal's parents were not involved. No relative would travel with her. So, I didn't have to think about these things. But, now, her father is here. So, we made plans to travel on Monday. Everyone that I tried to contact in Kumasi was unavailable or didn't answer their phone. Ugh! What would we do? I am not Ghanaian enough to just travel and see what happens when I arrive. I have two other people to think about. What to do?
I called Razak. He would know what to do. He said, "I am on my way coming." An hour and a half later, I called him again. "Oh, Mama Sue, I forgot. I am on my way..." He showed up in five minutes. He called Rev. Job. who lives in Kumasi and could help us. No answer. He called Rev. Lawrence...he is in a meeting, will call back later. He called Rev. Dery...he will call back later.... (They are all related.) I was almost in tears because of the uncertainty of it all. What to do?
Rev. Lawrence did call back. He called Rev. Job in Kumasi. Rev. Job will take care of us. Either himself or his daughter, Grace will go to the hospital with us and help us through the process. Grace...God's grace...I didn't have to be a basket case...God heard the cries of my heart...and He ANSWERED!

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Rainy Day

When I left home last week, to travel to Wa, the sky over my house was a little gray. The temperature was cool...a nice day for sitting in a crowded tro tro! By the time I walked into town, the sky had turned black! There were not many people at the tro tro station yet, so Habib and I went to have bread and egg at the Tea Shop. As we were eating, the Metro Mass Transit bus arrived. It is not comfortable, but much better than a tro tro. So, we grabbed our uneaten food and ran...Habib ran, I walked fast, to the bus. We were able to get seats and before long, we were on our way!
A few minutes after getting on the bus, the heavens opened up and it started pouring! I was grateful we were on the bus as most of the tro tros leak, if they have windows that actually close, and would have gotten very wet, even before getting to Wa. By the time we arrived, the rain had reduced and only coming down small (only raining a little.)
Now, I know that everything in Lawra closes when it rains, but, Wa is a "big" city. I really did not expect everything to be closed. Everything wasn't closed, but almost! We went to the Post Office to buy stamps. We waited an hour and ten minutes for someone to show up with a key so stamps could be sold to us! The stamp person did not go to work because of the rain! Next, we walked down to the store that sells REAL butter. Of course, that was closed, too! I knew market would be closed because it is outside, so no fresh veggies! But, now we were going to buy the drum that was ordered the week before. It was the purpose for the trip!

As Abu drove us to the other end of town, I was amazed...99% of the businesses were closed! A person could walk down the middle of the street and not get hit by a moving vehicle! I couldn't believe my eyes. Like I said, I expected this in Lawra, but not in Wa! We finally arrived at the "drum" store...the drum did not arrive yet. This was the reason we went to Wa! So, we called Yaro to find out where he was. We planned on  traveling back to Lawra in his tro tro. We did get back to Lawra, stamps in hand, a little damp and grateful for the much needed rain!