Mission of Mercy--Part III - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/26/06

Mission of Mercy--Part III

As soon as the Goodness and Mercy volunteers walked into their examining rooms, they got to work. As soon as the Goodness and Mercy volunteers walked into their examining rooms, they got to work.
Doctors were treating and even performing surgeries on patients with chronic illnesses. Doctors were treating and even performing surgeries on patients with chronic illnesses.
Dr. Thomas Shook sees a patient. Dr. Thomas Shook sees a patient.
Dr. Eugene Nwosu Dr. Eugene Nwosu

Remember those school projects, What I did on my summer vacation? Those reports would be amazing for many of our area doctors who took a trip of a lifetime. They spent a week in Ghana on a medical mission with the Goodness and Mercy Foundation.

WTOC's Dawn Baker and photographer Channing Beacham went with them on their mission of mercy.

The people of the Konongo Village are beautiful, hard working and gracious, and Dawn was equally impressed with the volunteers who took the 12-day journey, giving their all to the mission in hopes of giving their patients a new lease on life.

No matter how early we opened the clinic, the patients always beat us there. As the word spread about the mission, the crowd grew larger every day. When the clinic opened, there were already 200 people waiting for a chance to see a doctor.

As soon as the Goodness and Mercy volunteers walked into their examining rooms, they got to work, giving medical treatment and medical advice.

This was the first medical mission for Dr. Lorraine McRae and Dr. Thomas Shook.

"It was more than what I expected," said Dr. Shook. "I thought I knew what I was going to do. I had a little bit of an idea. But the experience is completely beyond what I could imagine."

"I just hope that I am a seed planter and something that I say will take root and grow and will be used well," said Dr. McRae.

"We all came with the hopes of improving somebody any way we could," said Dr. Connie Nduaguba. "Some people are improved by their vision. Some people are improved by being reassured that they are healthy."

We could see lives improving around us almost immediately. Those changes were happening right before our eyes. People who couldn't see well were getting reading glasses and cataract and glaucoma surgeries. If they were losing their hearing, a hearing aid was making a major difference.

Doctors were treating and even performing surgeries on patients with chronic illnesses, and giving them medicine that they otherwise could not afford.

"There is a lady we saw who had been pregnant for four months. No prenatal care," said Dr. Eugene Nwosu, the Goodness and Mercy Foundation's founder. "She heard Americans are coming and came."

Dr. Janet Unonu and Dr. Norgie Bigger held workshops for the patients who were diagnosed with diabetes to teach them the right things to eat to control their blood sugar.

"We trained two ladies to take over this diabetic group," said Dr. Bigger. "They are going to work with Dr. West and get one day a week that they can all meet and teach each other."

Many of the volunteers found great reward in offering something that had nothing to do with medicine.

"Just being there to show a sensitive side to people who aren't feeling well, people who are anxious, people who are wondering when they will see a doctor again," said Dr. Connie Cooper. "Just being there to talk to people to let them know that there is a sensitive side to Americans."

Dr. Thomas Shook brought his children on the mission. He wanted this opportunity to be a real eye opener for them. "I really wanted them to see that their privileged life and the life that we lead is probably just a very small portion of those who live in the world."

They really got into the mission. Thomas and Taylor spent time assisting their father with the patients and helping anywhere that they were needed.

Registered nurse Vicky Agyekum Ajookoom grew up in a town not far from Konongo, but she lives in Savannah. As a member of the Goodness and Mercy Foundation, it gives her great pride to bring this kind of help to her people.

"You always dream about doing things, but when it happens it just overwhelms you," she said. "One person can make a difference and I am so grateful that through Goodness and Mercy we are able to do this on a regular basis."

For at least ten hours every day, the volunteers treated hundreds of patients under some pretty tough conditions. No air conditioning in sweltering heat with just a half hour break for a snack.

"The conditions here are very harsh and the expectations are not the same," noted Dr. Nwosu. "But we realize that we are here to make a difference. We are here to extend the love of America to them. And they greatly appreciate that."

So even though it's hard work, the volunteers would gladly do it again. In fact, Dr. Dave Dereczyk has been going on medical missions for the last 20 years all over South America and Africa.

"See it once, live it once and go back and spread the word," he said. "I think that if you are really into the true medical model of providing help and care and easing suffering and pain, then I think you can easily get hooked."

And that sentiment was echoed by everyone in the group. All are looking forward to the next time they can be of service in this very special way.

Tomorrow on THE News at 6, we're going to school. You don't want to miss this story. You'll be very impressed with the children who may not have a lot of material things or big fancy school buildings, but that is not stopping them from excelling in school.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com

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