Operation International Returns from Ghana


Team New York completed its mission at the Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana on March 25, 2014. The hospital is a very busy facility that covers a large region and provides service to more than 250,000 patients every year. It was quite obvious that the hospital is overwhelmed due to lack of resources and the large number of patients. The surgical services are covered by one surgeon, one gynecologist and a couple of anesthesia providers, but due to the lack of resources, a limited number of surgical procedures are being done, mostly emergencies.  

Team New York was able to provide surgical services to many patients who otherwise could not have received treatment either due to their complex pathology or due to the lack of appropriate equipment. In addition to treating those patients, the mission accomplished the goal of teaching the local doctors new on modern surgical techniques and donating equipment to upgrade the OR. The local staff was welcoming and the team chemistry made this trip a pleasure for all the members. The team has done sixteen previous missions and to many members this was one of the most satisfying trips to date. The team received a letter from the hospital administration reflecting on the mission and its effect. Read letter of appreciation from Holy Family Hospital.

Team performs the first Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy in Ghana


Dr. Geri Schmitt and Dr. Vito Alamia performed the first Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy in Ghana with Dr. Ibrahim Friko of the Holy Family Hospital. This technique is superior to the traditional open hysterectomy in many aspects, particularly due to the rapid recovery and return to work and the significantly less post-operative pain. More importantly, due to the fact that the patients are discharged home after a single night hospital stay, comparing to four to five nights with traditional surgery, this new procedure will reduce the stress on the hospital beds and increase efficiency.  Using a laparoscopic tower and equipment donated by Operation International, Dr. Schmitt and Alamia showcased several other advanced laparoscopic techniques that will benefit the patients, decrease hospital stay and improve overall outcome.  After the mission the team received a letter of appreciation from Dr. Friko, read letter…

Operation International donates one of only three LEEP machines in the country


Operation International donated a LEEP unit which will allow the surgeons from the Holy Family Hospital to diagnose and treat cervical cancer in early stages. A LEEP procedure enables the surgeon to sample tissues from deep within the cervical canal and look for early cancer cells and treat the disease right there and then. This will result in early detection and treatment of cervical cancer, a very fatal disease when diagnosed late, which is the case in many Third World countries. The LEEP unit donated by Operation International is only the THIRD unit in the entire country of Ghana with roughly 14 million women living there.

Reconstructive procedures help burn victims regain functions of their extremities and improve disfigurement


Plastic Surgery is not a service that is provided in the region surrounding Techiman. Dr. Mehul Mehta treated a variety of patients, the majority being children with burn contractures preventing them from the use of their extremities or risking losing bodily functions such as eyesight.

One of the cases treated was Afi Annan. Afi, who is 13 years old is a sad and frightened girl suffering from severe burns to her face with non-healing areas and damage to her eyelids that prevented her from closing her eyes and would have resulted in loss of vision. The circumstances of her “accident” are not clear and quite suspicious. As we learned from the community and church leaders, due to the severity of the disfigurement, there were several attempts to raise funds to send her for surgery in the capital city of Accra. However, despite their best efforts they were unsuccessful in doing so, a common occurrence in impoverished countries.

Dr. Metha treated Afi and many other children and adults who wouldn’t otherwise have received help. Most of the reconstructive surgical procedures done by Dr. Mehta are aimed at restoring bodily functions, particularly the use of extremities. These types of procedures allow the patients to return back to the work force to earn a living, or if lucky to return to learning.

Shortly after joining Operation International, and faced with a large number of burn victims in India, Dr. Mehta said “the choice is clear and simple, I can spend the entire day making one patient look “pretty”, or restore the bodily function to eight kids giving them the chance to live in some form of normal life”.

General surgeons provide elective and emergent surgeries


The two general surgeons on the team, Dr. Medhat Allam and Dr. Ravi Kothuru, faced a large number of patients with neglected surgical pathology requiring a wide variety of procedures from head and neck to abdominal surgeries, and from elective to emergency cases. There were many amazing stories: of particular interest are two young patients requiring major abdominal operations to remove massively enlarged spleens that were literally destroying their blood cells and endangering their lives as a result of sickle cell disease.  Sickle cell disease is most common is people from Africa, caused one of the children, Sadiq, to be admitted to the hospital for blood transfusions more than ten times, increasing his risk of acquiring many blood transfusion related diseases such as HIV. Additionally, he was admitted many times with severe pain due to sickle cell crises.  Sadiq’s spleen has enlarged enough to occupy almost 50% of his entire abdominal cavity making normal life impossible for him. Sadiq, who speaks fluent English, wants to be a doctor when he grows up.  His story is one of many documented on a video that soon will be available on our website, stay tuned…

A death of a child, a preventable tragedy but a frequent occurrence in third world


Salmonella, a bacteria transmitted from feces to food or water, can cause typhoid disease. Typhoid is common in Ghana due to the lack of clean water, poor public sanitation conditions, and the prevalence of flying insects. One of its fatal complications is bowel perforation, which is rarely seen in the USA. According to the local surgeons, at least two or three children present to the Holy Family Hospital every week with bowel perforation due to typhoid.  One of these such children was discovered by the team in severe sepsis. An emergency surgery was done right away but unfortunately the child did not survive due to the lack of appropriate post-surgical equipment on hand in the hospital. Such preventable death is almost a daily occurrence.

Operation International treats Patient bitten by Viper


Dr. Rajesh Patel, Maryellen Spandonis, Erin Grismer and Edina Lula were in charge of pre and post-operative care to the patients. In addition they assisted with the care of children in the pediatric ward when possible. One day they encountered a child who was bitten by a Viper. This caused a life-threatening condition known as Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC) which prevents a person’s blood from clotting normally. The child was deteriorating rapidly, he was coughing up blood with a swelling of his arm that was moving progressively towards his neck.  The hospital and parents could not afford the 4 vials of anti-snake venom or transfusing him with much needed but not readily available blood products. Operation International team immediately purchased the anti-snake venom and the blood products which saved his life. Job well done.

This year’s team


Back Row: Michael Sherwood CRNA, Robert Mineo CRNA, Geri Schmitt MD, Kim Williams RN,

Middle Row: Rose Wiseman RN, Edina Lula RN, Myhanh Phan Nguyan NP, Vito Alamia MD, Erin Grismer RN, Mehul Metha MD, Ravi Kothuru MD, Maryellen Spandonis RN, Medhat Allam MD, Mia Dallorso, Rajesh Patel MD, Christopher Torres CRNA,

Front Row: Daniel Byers, Patricia Mitchell RN

Not pictured: Grace McCarthy RN