These are the bags and devices patients use after they have had surgery on their bowels or bladders, leaving them with the need to collect their waste in a device attached to their bodies. In the UK these are provided by the NHS. In poorer countries the patient has to pay for them and often they are in very poor supply, so the price of the items is beyond most peoples wages. Without these bags the patients are effectively housebound and there life is very desperate.
There are many reasons why someone might need to have colostomy surgery, including:-
- Crohn’s disease
- Cancer of the bowels
- Obstruction of the bowels
- Trauma & injury
- Bowel incontinence
- An emergency situation
Colostomy bags are very expensive, in the unlikely event that the local pharmacy would have them in stock. Imagine the humiliation if you couldn’t get one and had to make your own out of leaky carrier bags – something that frequently happens in poorer countries. We have seen one young teenage boy using a tin can that he strapped to his belly.
Jacob’s Well helps people, particularly in West Africa and Moldova by sending the ostomy supplies that otherwise they would not have, enabling patients to live a dignified life. We are very grateful to receive any donation of unwanted Ostomy products including pouches (even if they have been pre-cut) and accessories. We can also accept lotions, powder, sprays, gels and wipes – provided they are unopened.
You can either post them via the post office, using www.parcelmonkey.co.uk or www.myhermes.co.uk which usually works out cheaper for items over 2kg. They can come and pick up the item from your home and courier it to us.
Back in 2015 with retirement looming I approached the Beverley based charity Jacob’s Well Appeal (JWA) about the possibility of using my skills as a Paediatric Physiotherapist on one of their projects abroad. A few months passed and then I heard from JWA that they had found through Sandra, their Project Worker, that there was an opportunity to volunteer at Tamale Teaching Hospital in Northern Ghana, to work alongside one of their Physiotherapists as I had experience of working with cerebral palsy patients. So, after various injections against yellow fever, rabies and other diseases, malaria prevention tablets, and getting my visa I was on my way to Ghana in October.
My main task was to work alongside Esther, a qualified Physiotherapist and show her how we use the toys in the UK to encourage increased function in the children. Ghanaian children have very few toys at home so the opportunity to play can act as an incentive to engage in active treatment, rather than the passive treatment which is more often used. Mothers are keen to bring their children for physiotherapy, fortunately in Tamale many are diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age so treatment can begin early.
There is a lack of children’s mobility aids, standing frames and supportive seating, which we take for granted in the UK. Many severely disabled children spend a lot of time lying on settees or beds to stay safe and so have no sitting balance. On my return to the UK I contacted a Physio called Diane whom I had met previously at an “ADAPT” conference (Chartered Physiotherapists in International Health and Development). Diane had already taught an APT (Appropriate Paper based Technology) Course, in conjunction with the Cerebral Palsy Africa charity, for parents in Ghana.
I enrolled on a one week APT course in Hampshire and learnt to make standing frames from cardboard and newspaper. We arranged to go out to Ghana in February 2017 and I visited Tamale in September 2016 to begin organising and informing people about the forthcoming course. Unfortunately, Diane was unable to come to Ghana in February, but arranged for Marian, a Dutch Occupational Therapist who has taught several APT courses in Africa and other places for Cerebral Palsy Africa, to come with me to Tamale. Marian and I set off for Tamale on 23rd February 2017 to run our first two-week course. Jacob’s Well volunteer Liz Lyle came with us as a helper.
Despite an extra day at Manchester Airport due to Storm Doris we made it to Tamale just 24 hours late. Marian had been on the last plane leaving Amsterdam so had stayed in Accra, thanks to Mandy Budge of Multikids School who also re-arranged our internal flights. The delay meant we had only a half a day to set up the course venue in the Physiotherapy Department at Tamale Teaching Hospital, visit the local market for essentials such as plastic bowls and wheat flour to make the paste and travel to the homes of two of our potential patients to assess their needs. Esther and a friendly taxi driver came with us to help with introductions and the language barrier. On the Monday morning we arrived at the Department at 8am and were in business by 9am meeting our course participants. They were from a wide range of backgrounds including nurses, a medical student, physio staff and Occupational Therapists, an art teacher and student from the King’s Village School, a Pastor, his wife and six week old baby, and a couple of mums. The CPA course to make chairs lasts for two weeks, but due to the Independence Day bank holiday one of the sessions was held on Saturday and we had a day off on Monday to watch the parade. Four chairs were made, one by each group of course students. On the last Friday afternoon (one of the hottest at 48°C) there was a grand presentation ceremony when the hospital Directors and Administrators, some in their best traditional robes, presented certificates to our course participants. The completed decorated practice stools and the chairs were on display. The hospital is happy to support the participants, now known as the Tamale APT group in continuing to provide chairs for more children.
Liz and I are visiting Tamale Teaching Hospital again, to offer support with treating cerebral palsy to the Physiotherapist who has replaced Esther, catch up with the APT group and then travel up to the Regional Hospital at Wa in the Upper West Region. The plan is to see if they would like to start an APT group to make supportive seating and standing frames for the children with cerebral palsy that they are treating. Then we can make the arrangements for an APT course to run in early 2019. Hopefully on our return to Tamale there will also be time for us to visit the King’s Village.