On 27th November 2018, at exactly 5:30 am, I was wheeled from Room 31 of Anoff Ward, 37 Military Hospital to the Surgical Theater, a distance of about 5 minutes.
I was received by an Anesthetist who asked me a few questions and also re-assured me about the procedure I was about to go through.
She proceeded to insert an intravenous ( IV ) line into my left arm with Normal Saline. She subsequently injected the first anaesthetic drug. And that was the last thing I remember.
I woke up at 10:30 am completely refreshed as if I had just woken up from a long , deep , uninterrupted sleep. I momentarily thought the surgery had not been performed yet because of the complete sense of well-being I felt. What convinced me the surgery had been done were the urethral catheter and the wound drainage tube I saw hanging from my body. Such was the excellent pain management by the team of Anaethesiologists and Anaesthetists led by the very able Drs Irene Opai-Tetteh and Ardayfio.
The Surgery itself was performed by Col ( Dr ) Gordon Appiah and Commander ( Dr ) Seth Adjetey. The surgery consisted of an operation on the lumbar spine as a result of multiple disc prolapse with resultant canal stenosis and nerve root compression. This operation is mostly performed as a last option; when all other means of management , including pain relief, bed rest and physiotherapy ( Conservative Management) , have failed.
In my case, I’d been having recurring low back pains for about ten years . In all these cases, conservative management has always been successful. However, two weeks prior to my admission to the Military Hospital on 17th November 2018, the low back pains recurred. I tried to manage the pain on painkillers but it only worsened to the point where the pain was now radiating into my legs making me limp.
I had an MRI of the lower back done on 17th November which showed several slipped discs causing canal stenosis and also compressing some of the nerves. This was the reason why I was having the radiating pains in the legs.
I was admitted on the same 17th November, a Saturday , and put on several painkillers including some of the most powerful available. After three days , there was hardly any relief so physiotherapy was started on the 4th day. After three days of physiotherapy, the pain rather worsened and I could neither sit nor stand .
Exactly one week after my admission, the pain was so excruciating and intractable that I cried like never before. The pain was no longer responding to even Pethidine . At that point, I was ready for anything , including even death , just to escape the pain. I had reached the stage of no other option than surgery to secure permanent pain relief.
Doubts in the capabilities of our medical professionals?
So, exactly one week after admission I told the Neurosurgeon that I was ready for surgery. And this is where the ‘drama’ began.
It appeared I was the only one eager for the surgery to take place. Family members , friends and even some medical colleagues of mine were so apprehensive that they advised against it. Some went further to suggest that if I have to do surgery at all, then I should have it done abroad. In particular, since I have contacts in South Africa, I should activate those contacts and fly there.
I believe in my own
My resolve was firm. I disagreed with those who wanted me to fly out. I have always disagreed with our leaders who, for the minutest of ailments, would fly out for treatment.
Even if I wanted to fly out, my pain was such that there was no way I could wait another week or more for hospital arrangements and for visas.
More important for me was the need to demonstrate my faith in our own. If I don’t have faith in my own, how on earth do I expect others to have faith in them. And if others do not have faith in my colleagues, then I do not expect them to have faith in me either. Because these are professionals I trained and worked with and therefore have similar levels of training and expertise in our different specialties.
Our medical professionals are comparable to any anywhere. All they need are the right tools to be able to deliver.
On this note, I would want to thank the following who made my surgery and post-op care comparable to any anywhere else and by so doing have succeeded in silencing the doubters and reinforcing confidence in our healthcare system:
1. The Neurosurgical Team led by Col ( Dr ) Gordon Appiah and Commander ( Dr ) Seth Adjetey
2. The Anaesthesia Team led by Drs Opai- Tetteh and Ardayfio
3. The Anoff nursing staff led by Col Djokoto and SNO Afi Togbe
I appeal to our political leaders to live my example. They should show confidence in our healthcare system by patronizing it instead of dashing out for treatment on the least excuse. It is also another way of appreciating the problems in the health sector and therefore would be more serious in tackling them.
Instead of an Appeal, maybe we should legislate against politicians seeking medical care abroad.
Quest Medical Imaging