Of Unsung Heroes…

On January 19, 2018, the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) with the Rebecca Foundation (the Foundation of Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, 1st Lady of Ghana) held a grand ceremony to commission a Mother & Baby Unit and Paediatric ICU Building, which had been started and completed in less than 6 months.

This structure is meant to be a temporary/stop-gap measure to provide better structural support for the overwhelmed existing structures of the Hospital while further funding is being sourced for the completion of the original Maternal and Child Health (MCH) building – a halted construction which has been left uncompleted for decades so far, only a few metres from where this new structure stands.

It was a joyous event with the usual grand speeches, pomp, and pageantry. The new centre was christened the “Nana Afia Kobi Ampem II Centre”.

Of note were citations handed out to individuals who had contributed in various integral ways to the project, including journalist Seth Kwame Boateng of Multimedia Group, who made the documentary “Next To Die.”

This production served to draw much needed attention to the state of the Mother & Baby Unit (MBU) and several overtaxed structures of the Obstetrics & Gynaecology Block A at KATH as it was and could not have been more masterfully scripted.

In a rather unfortunate oversight, however, it appears that the laudable efforts to recognise such excellence fell short of two particular individuals of note whose contributions to the edifice we see today should be the last to be forgotten.

Their ingenuity in bringing the initial need to the notice of the general public, coupled with the tenacity they showed in knocking on the right doors and following up on commitments made by well-meaning donors and authorities kept the dream alive for long enough to become a reality.

It would be the height of ingratitude itself to fail to commend these two gentlemen for their parts played in what we’re seeing today, hence our penning this article to do them justice.

Instead of letting their names and efforts die in obscurity, we believe that it is our duty to honour them for their selfless service as everyday heroes of our generation.

We do this so they may not only go on to do even greater exploits, but also take their rightful places as role models for other Ghanaians – both the young and old alike – to emulate in the daily struggle to advance the course of our great country in the years to come, no matter the personal or professional cost.

Dr Richard Selormey

DR RICHARD SELORMEY

Being a Ghanaian Doctor under the age of 40 is not usually the time for standing out of the crowd, even amongst colleagues, but you have already proven yourself to be a man of the people on multiple fronts, known to both senior and junior colleagues far and wide for supporting the just causes of your fellow man.

Being named in the illustrious “60 under 60” – a prestigious list to honour Ghanaian youth making huge strides in their field of work while impacting society in positive ways – barely a year ago we are far from surprised that you still have continued making waves wherever you go.

Being unsatisfied with merely working hard in your field of profession, you have branched out  from just clinical care into health education, social and health advocacy, and so it was still not surprising to us when you were awarded the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship by the US Embassy a few years ago in recognition of your efforts.

Being an  Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Resident (Specialist-in-training) at KATH, Dr. Selormey, did not stop you from taking up a major challenge facing the Child Health and Obstetrics & Gynaecology Departments – neither of which you were even a part of – just because you saw a depth of need and had the wherewithal to be part of the Solution.

Recognizing the sheer size and logistical limitations of this issue, you took it upon yourself to initiate discourse among fellow Doctors and formed a small team of concerned individuals to draw the attention of journalists and politicians to the abandoned MCH building with the aim of sourcing funds to complete the project.

Through this, you managed to bring Mr. Seth Kwame Boateng on board with a like mind after multiple initial difficulties in communication – which you did not permit to slow you down-to collaborate in this endeavour.

That partnership is what led to the production of the aforementioned documentary which shone light on the situation like never before.

Being the go-getter that you are, you did not end there but continued to use your influence to garner support for the movement that had been started and in collaboration with the Rebecca Foundation and other concerned parties donated your time and energy further to guide the process culminating in a well-received fundraiser which provided the money for the new Mother & Baby Unit we see today.

Being who you are, you never stopped pushing through other avenues  while work was ongoing  to better the state of the then unfinished Unit, even going as far as to reach out to the American Embassy to explore the possibility of securing funds to procure even more equipment for the centre.

Being a family man and a Resident this whole time, finding the time, courage and the willingness even to continue this great endeavour with not a single cedi to look forward to at the end of the day (probably most of all) has left all your colleagues not only amazed but challenged and energized to emulate your impeccable example.

In light of all this, we the Ghana Association of Doctors in Residency say, “Ayekoo!” to you, Dr. Richard Selormey.

The children who will live because of your work in not only igniting the spark, but causing it to spread to others and not die out till today say, “Ayekoo!”

The mothers who will get another chance at a better quality of life because you never stopped doing what you do in spite of the odds say, “Ayekoo!”

Though the bulk of your reward may be in Heaven for your selflessness and passion in pushing for positive change in the Ghanaian health sector, we all choose to celebrate you today while you yet live and continue to inspire us. May the good Lord abundantly bless you.

Dr John Adabie Appiah

DR JOHN ADABIE APPIAH

Contrary to the way most people want to be served as they move up the academic ladder, you embody the exact opposite characteristic, choosing to make service your watchword.

It is undeniably obvious that you are not deterred by hard work, but rather challenged by rough and uncharted terrain to give out your best.

Having the unique role of being at the forefront of providing intensive care for sick children and babies, you didn’t think it enough to just point out the inadequacies and shortcomings of the system in which you found yourself, but forged on to find long-lasting solutions to them.

Noting the need for a dedicated Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, especially for a Tertiary Hospital such as KATH, you first of all set out on the long and arduous path through advocacy, lobbying and fundraising with passion to make that dream a reality.

From February 3, 2015, the KATH PICU began operation and since then over 400 critically ill children have passed through, the majority of whom are alive today because of that Unit.

All these led to the recognition of the KATH PICU at the opening ceremony of the World Federation of Paediatric Intensive & Critical Care Societies in 2016 at Toronto for being the first of its kind in West Africa.

Your passion also leads you to wholeheartedly support the Little Steps Foundation – a fund set up by the Department of Child Health to support parents/caregivers who cannot afford medications and other investigations for their sick children – on a regular basis, even going as far as to personally lead groups of younger colleagues to source funds for the Foundation at various events.

Not content with laurels achieved till date, when plans to build the new Mother & Baby Unit under the auspices of the Rebecca Foundation were still in their infancy, you identified a golden opportunity to expand the PICU concept into a larger space to serve even greater numbers of patients in response to the growing need.

Acknowledging that a PICU was not originally part of the plans for the new facility, you still insisted to the hospital administration, ‘’If you give me the land, I will find a way to build a new PICU’’. True to your words and supported by people of similar spirit, you led the way to lobby and raise funds from scratch to fulfil that dream.

As a direct result of those efforts, the new KATH Mother & Baby Unit has incorporated within it a sterling new 11-bed Paediatric Intensive Care Unit today.

With all your work on these fronts – lobbyist, funds raiser, academic, and clinician – it is not lost on us that you happen to be a successful family man also.

What is admirable is the manner in which you have managed to excel in all these arenas, wearing each hat with dedication and commitment, providing a laudable example worthy of emulation.

For all you do, and in spite of numerous challenges and setbacks you have experienced in your endeavours to do good for your fellow man and the vulnerable in society, you have not focused solely on the adversity of it all but kept looking forward to the dream to be achieved.

For all these qualities and many more, Dr. John Adabie Appiah, GADOR says “Ayekoo!”; your colleagues all say, “Ayekoo!”; your patients and their families say the biggest “Ayekoo!” of all.

The First Lady cutting the ribbon to commission the new MBU facility at KATH

Authors:

Dr Solomon N. Kotey

Dr. Christiana Adu-Takyi

Dr Seth Tele Hassan

(The Authors are members of the Ghana Association of Doctors In Residency – GADOR)