A patient walking after the operation
Thirty-nine-year-old Nana Yaa Kunadu lies in her recovery bed in Ward B of the St. Joseph’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Koforidua, the Eastern regional capital.
With mixed expression of joy and discomfort on her face she says, “I went for a hip replacement surgery yesterday and it was successful.”
This is the second hip replacement surgery Nana Yaa has had in two years to correct her avascular necrosis of the femoral head- a deformity of the hip bone that causes an imbalance during walking.
This deformity, common among sickle cell patients, is normally corrected through the replacement of the deformed parts of the hip bone using implants. However, many patients who suffer from this health condition are unable to afford the cost of the surgery which costs about GH¢30,000 per a replacement in Ghana.
Nana Yaa, who has sickle cell anaemia, was diagnosed of the disease in 2016.
“I realised an imbalance in my walking so I went to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital where the doctors after medical examination told me both my hip bones have deteriorated and I will need hip replacement surgeries,” she narrates.
She however, adds, “When the doctors in Korle-Bu mentioned the cost to me, I said to myself, this is the end of my life because I did not know how I was going to raise that amount of money.”
Nana Yaa says she was living in pain till she was informed about Operation Walk Team from the United States of America (USA) offering free surgeries in Koforidua and “I followed up to this place- Koforidua- last year to seek help.”
“The pain is severe I am always in pain, you can’t sleep when it started I could not even open my legs I have to use the edges of my bed as support before I can turn when sleeping,” she recalls.
Nana Yaa was fortunate to be selected among the second batch of beneficiaries for the free surgeries after months of enduring unbearable pain when she walks.
Last year, she had the deformed part of her right hip replaced with implants at the St. Joseph’s Orthopaedic Hospital by the Operation Walk Team of medical experts.
The free surgeries are being done in collaboration with Vita Milk Child Malnutrition Foundation and the St. Josephs Hospital, Koforidua.
“I am fortunate to have been selected for the second time to benefit from the free surgery again. We thank them so much,” she says.
Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa, Chairperson of the Vita Milk Child Malnutrition Foundation, local partners of the Operation Walk, says the mission of the team is to simply provide hip and knee replacements to people who cannot afford the implants.
Painting a picture of the dire need for such outreach in the country, Prof. Akosa indicates that many people are living in constant pain due to knee or hip deformities that have come about through road accidents and certain health conditions like sickle cell.
“About two per cent of children born in this country have abnormal haemoglobin and there are a lot of our people with sickle cell disease which develop into avascular necrosis of the hip joint and that makes their walking imbalanced and the only thing you can do is to replace that head of the femoral through transplant,” he reveals.
He said the outreach starts months before the team’s arrival in the country with the screening of patients’ x-rays to select appropriate beneficiaries, after which further medical screening is done to identify any other co-morbidities before the final selection.
“This year, for instance, they came for 365 x-rays and brought 265 after the first screening and requested for further information from clients.
They then brought the final list of 150 patients and they again did a final screening for the patients in the country based on physical fitness and other information before settling on the final 82 patients,” Prof. Akosa explains.
Beatrice Addai Kwaning, Nursing Director of the St. Joseph’s Orthopaedic Hospital, says the specialist health facility is often choked with patients seeking treatment for bone related health conditions.
“In fact, we see a lot of cases. We do consultation on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and in each consulting days we have two orthopaedic surgeons and they see not less than 100 patients each a day,” she narrates.
Madam Kwaning says due to lack of funds, most of the patients report late, adding that but for the medical outreach by Operation Walk, most of the beneficiaries would still be living in pain.
Prof. Akosa indicates that the collaboration between the two entities is to bring relief and hope to the patients, who otherwise could not walk properly or would be living in pain.
“You should see the transformation after the surgeries, total transformation,” he states.
Recounting the transformation owing to the Operation Walk initiative, Prof. Akosa says people who could not walk because of bowed legs, knee and hip injuries could now enjoy a normal pain-free life after the surgery.
“After the first operation I realise there was no more pain and I that with the second surgery I will be totally treated and I can walk without any assistance of an elbow stick,” Nana Yaa says.
“What makes me happy about this surgery apart from me being able to walk without any assistance is the pain I will not feel.”
“If we are talking about Operation Walk, I will say it has really helped them financially because the actual cost of the hip or knee replacement surgery is very expensive and when you look at how much people are contributing to this surgery it is something small. Here patients pay just GH¢2,000 for the entire procedure,” Madam Kawning opines.
The Director of Operation Walk Syracuse, Dr Kimberly Murray, says it is a great experience “working together to do wonderful things for the patients here in Ghana.”
“We cannot do this without the support of everyone here on the ground working side by side on the wards and operation room.
It all works well when we all do what we need to do and we do it together,” Dr. Kimberly says.
She says although the team would have loved to make more frequent trips to the country the financial cost involved enables them to come once a year.
“But we do have other operation walk teams and we share sites so what we do something that we might be able to bring a second team here,” she stresses.
Prof. Akosa indicates the need for corporate Ghana, especially the Ghana Insurance Commission, to support such laudable social intervention since most people suffer hip and knee injuries because of accidents.
Meanwhile, in a few days, Nana Yaa Kunadu will be able to walk without any pain to the insurance company at Alajo in the Accra Metropolis, where she works, to continue her job.
The ‘Operation Walk’ social intervention initiative is spearheaded by the Operation Walk Syracuse, in collaboration with Vita Milk Child & Malnutrition Foundation, Ghana the St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The team which is made up of specialists from the United States of America and their partners visit Ghana once a year to offer free hip and knee surgeries to patients who cannot afford the cost of the expensive surgical procedure to correct their bone deformities at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Koforidua.
The first programme was in April 2016, where 46 surgical procedures were done on patients for free. The second programme was in September 2017, where 63 procedures were again done.
This year, the programme targeted 82 procedures.
The advantage of the mission to Ghana is multiple. In addition to the reducing the surgical load, they bring expertise and transfer knowledge to Ghanaian doctors and also bring on much needed material which assists in subsequent work within the country.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri, KoforiduaRead Full Story