New Playground At Ghana Hospital to Honor Late OI Team Member

November 27, 2023

During Team UK’s first medical mission with Operation International in 2019, team members remember how pediatric nurse anesthetist Craig Mastracci, CRNA, made patients, staff, and his fellow volunteers smile every day.

Soon, a new playground will ensure those smiles continue for generations to come. Returning to Ghana this December, Team UK has raised more than $13,000 to build a playground in honor of Craig, who passed away suddenly in 2021.

The playground, set up next to the pediatric ward, will be the first dedicated play area on-site for the thousands of children treated at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana each year.

“This will be a safe space for the children to play and forget about their ailments for an hour or two,” Team UK wrote in a GoFundMe for the project. “We are certain that this playground in [Craig’s] name reflects his joy for life and his love of play.”

A father of two and ranking U.S. Army veteran, Craig dedicated his life to serving others long before joining on Operation International’s medical missions.

Craig began his career as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit before becoming a flight nurse for the University of Michigan and eventually a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) with the U.S. Army reserve division, where he achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. In his 20 years with the Army, Craig completed five tours in Afghanistan and several other regions as a CRNA on military humanitarian missions.

“Craig…was a kind, generous man who gave of himself, always,” Team UK and family wrote in the GoFundMe.

In addition to finalizing plans for Craig’s playground, Team UK’s December mission will include making arrangements to use remaining money from the fundraiser to donate pediatric equipment to the hospital. The fundraiser has raised £11,200, surpassing the original £10,000 target for the playground cost.

The 2023 mission to Ghana will be third trip to the country and the largest mission yet for Team UK, which was formed in 2019. Joined by its largest group of volunteers, the team hopes to perform more than 150 life-saving procedures during its week-long trip, including hernia repairs and gall bladder operations.

“Team UK is thrilled to be returning to Holy Family Hospital, Ghana, for another charitable surgical mission this December,” team leader Dr. Sala Abdalla said. “With 16 passionate and dedicated volunteers, team UK is hoping to perform more surgeries than ever before during their week-long mission.”

While in Ghana, the team will also help train local doctors for the first time with a one-day surgical skills course taught by Dr. Abdalla. Plus, through a partnership with Surgical Teams Working in Africa Together for Safer Surgery, the team will bring low-cost mesh needed for hernia surgeries to the hospital.

Be sure to follow Operation International’s social media pages to see updates from this important and inspiring mission!