I am Sarah Lachman and I am a recent graduate from Temple University. This past summer was my first time to Ghana, Africa and my first time on a Medical Mission. It was a month before we, International Healthcare Volunteers, were leaving for Ghana and I was getting nervous. The reality of the trip had sunk in and this was the first time I was traveling without close friends or family. I have traveled all over before but never experienced anything like that in which I was embarking on. When people think of traveling and seeing the world, they normally associate that thought with vacation. I knew this was not a vacation and I would be taken out of my comfort zone completely, was I ready? I remember landing in Accra on our first day and I still questioned myself if I was ready. And to be honest, being a part of this organization quickly settled my nerves about if I was. I am appreciative to the 52 volunteers this year, not only did I experience a medical mission but it’s also the people that make the experience and this was a great one.
If you were to tell me that I would do anything medical, I would have laughed out in tears. My whole life I have been surrounded by ultrasounds, babies, free HIV testing pens, and scrubs thanks to my OB/GYN mother, Pamela Brug-Panton, M.D.
Yet the thrill of my mother’s career never caught up with me. I wanted to be everything in the book growing up: an archeologist, fashion designer, scientist, actress/ model. Medical doctor was not even number 50 on my list. I guess being so exposed turned into over exposed and the thought of medicine did not appeal to me. It was only this year that I began to consider the field of medicine as a whole. No, it wasn’t a long talk with my mother, an inspiring and profound story on Discovery Channel, nor Gifted Hands by Ben Carson, but Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, Dr. Grey, Christina Yang, and “B-A” Alex Karev stole my heart. I don’t know what it was but it was that moment I decided I wanted to become a doctor, a plastic surgeon to be exact. Boobs aside, working with burn victims peaks my interest.
My voyage to Ghana, West Africa was a trip and experience like no other. This trip was one of unique encounters and valuable cultural confrontation. It gave me a new perspective on life. Ghana was a trip that was not only enjoyable, but one that was life altering. All of those who traveled with the International Healthcare Volunteers; doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, dentists, and volunteers all gave up their time and money to assist those who had limited resources when it came to their medical well-being.
Life is precious. While most people would hastily agree with that statement, not enough people truly understand what it means. I am just a young man only newly acquainted with some of the beauties and horrors of life, but after having accompanied my father and the International Healthcare Volunteers (IHCV) on two medical missions to Ghana I feel confident in saying that I now truly understand that life is precious.
My role on these medical missions was that of Junior Volunteer, essentially it was my job to do whatever it was that the nurses and doctors on the mission needed of me. Whether it was managing the medical supplies, organizing the patient paperwork, running necessary equipment into the Operating Room, or helping to round on patients in the wards, I was constantly kept busy. There seemed to be a never ending and relentless stream of patients in need of care. There were so many different faces, each with their own story, all requiring care and assistance. It was a daunting thing to face.
My experiences in Ghana far exceeded my expectations. Working with the team of doctors and nurses gave me insight into the medical profession and also inspired me to pursue my own professional career in the hope that I can one day contribute my services to an under served population.
This was my first experience in the operating room and though I was totally new to the surgical environment, I felt very much as though I was a contributing member of the team by documenting the procedures with photographs and retrieving supplies during the operations.
My daughter Jackie (17) and I joined the mission with IHCV this summer and were amazed by the things this group of hardworking professionals was able to accomplish. As the first clinical psychologist to go on the mission I was unsure of how I could contribute as was my daughter, a youth volunteer, who had no previous experience working in a medical setting.