In 2019, I started the Hope Surgical Foundation which was born out of my desire to reduce the number of diabetes-related lower limb amputations that resulted from clients reporting late to the hospital due to the inability to afford quality healthcare services. I believed strongly that prevention, early detection, and proper management of diabetic foot complications were going to play a role in reaching this vulnerable group and identifying these complications early.
In my quest to see this through, I started looking into any organizations that have a passion that strongly aligns with mine. In my research, I read all the work the Lions Clubs International was doing in the fields of diabetes, eye care, and childhood cancers. Without a doubt, I knew they were the perfect partners for this. As passionate as they are, they were equally receptive to the idea and vision I had. This led to the launch of the Hope for diabetic foot project in June 2021.
Since the launch, we have trained over 400 community volunteers who will play a strong role in diabetes awareness as well as conduct paper risk assessments for people in the rural areas.
In the last medical and surgical outreach program which was held from May 16th, 2022 to May 28th, 2022, it was a different experience for me and everyone else on my team. I arrived in Ghana on the morning of May 16th, 2022 jetlagged but with a mountain of responsibilities waiting. With this in mind, I started running on adrenaline as I identified that that was my best bet to getting through the period.
I was very confident that at some point, my body will yield to the tiredness I had been ignoring for so many months of riding out an MBA program. To my surprise, as soon as I jumped into action, I just kept going. I only felt just how much more tired I was at the end of the day. It was a struggle to get out of bed everyday but the moment I get into the community and see all those people who came to find hope and a solution to their medical problems, I immediately forgot how difficult it was to get out of bed.
We offered free outreach services in 16 communities in four districts. A total of 2,153 persons were tested for diabetes and other medical conditions. In addition, 67 free surgeries were performed to help patients who had foot complications. These surgeries were carried out at the Abenkyiman Hospital, the Westphalian Hospital, Asunafo South District Hospital, and the Mampong Government Hospital.
According to Gatimu et al, in Ghana, general population studies have estimated that 6% of the population has diabetes, with incidence increasing with age and being greater in urban than rural regions.
Diabetic foot problems include everything from neuropathies to diabetic foot ulcers and gangrene. Many people have lost limbs as a result of these issues because they lack the resources to receive periodic checkups and even follow up on treatment after they are detected.
According to a retrospective study at the Tamale Teaching hospital by Tolgou et al, Diabetic vasculopathy was the most prevalent indication (44.6%) for lower limb amputations in the region. Osei-Safo Kantanka et al, in a study between January 2010 and December 2015 found that The average incidence rate of diabetes-related LLA was 2.4 (95% CI:1.84-5.61) per 1000 follow-up years: increasing from 0.6% (95% CI:0.21-2.21) per 1000 follow up years in 2010 to 10.9% (95% CI:6.22-12.44) per 1000 follow-up years in 2015.
This was such a humbling experience for me and my team as we realized that the issue of quality healthcare in Africa is much deeper than we think. People truly need all the help they can get and it is our responsibility to use our God-given talent and resources to reach out to this vulnerable group.
It is imperative that as professionals on the African continent, we continue to apply ourselves every single day to the struggles of many on the continent as it is the only way we can ensure continuity in the efforts that have already been laid to strengthening most of the sectors that we lack so much quality in.
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