Persis Makes it Home Safely Amidst Pandemic
Pamela Artigas, Executive Director of A-BE-C, joined a team of US physicians, nurses and social workers who traveled to Ahmedabad, India, for the 12th Annual Operative Workshop on Exstrophy and Epispadias Complex in January, 2020. Following the workshop, Pamela then traveled to Nadiad where she met up with Blessing and her daughter Persis, who would be receiving closure surgery at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital (MPUH). Following is Pamela’s reflection and glimpse into Persis’ story.
It’s been roughly 7 weeks since the exstrophy team returned from India, but it feels like a lifetime ago. The coronavirus outbreak started escalating in China while we were there, and I remember texting my husband every night with the latest numbers. I was in China during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak adopting my oldest daughter Anna, and I knew this could escalate into something serious. By the time I left India on February 5th, the coronavirus had infected about 28,000 people in Wuhan, but it had barely impacted the United States.
But I was anxious. I was anxious because for the past 2 weeks, our team of surgeons treated and operated on over 130 little patients. Many of these families had traveled from all over India. While others came from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and as far away as Ghana. Some came for their yearly check-ups and tests, while others had a major surgery and stayed in India for several weeks to recover.
Persis Arrives in India
I was especially nervous about Blessing and her daughter, Persis. It’s challenging bringing international families to another continent for surgery under normal conditions, and I knew their return home would be anything but normal. Prior to surgery, I had spent months planning; sharing medical history with the international surgeons, coordinating medical letters, visas and travel plans for the family and Dr. Nimako, their local doctor.
Blessing and Persis arrived in India on February 1st. After getting them settled into the hospital, Persis had her surgery two days later. I, along with the traveling medical team, returned to the United States on February 5th and our little Ghanaian patient was left in the care of the local team at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital (MPUH).
Persis Goes Home
For the next seven weeks Blessing and I communicated via WhatsApp and we waited for the “all clear” for her and her daughter to travel back home. During this time, the Coronavirus kept spreading and I was becoming increasingly nervous. Would we get mom and toddler home before the borders closed? Finally, on Monday, March 9th we were given the OK to book their tickets back to Ghana, but Blessing would have to bring Persis to their local hospital in Ghana where Dr. Nimako was waiting to continue their care. They left India on Thursday, March 12th, one day before India’s borders closed. After 2 days of travel, Persis was admitted to the hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, where she still is today.
I am so grateful that they made it safely back to their home country. And I am humbled that Blessing put her trust in A-BE-C to coordinate the care of her little girl. She traveled across continents to give Persis the best opportunity to realize her greatest life purpose and potential. And now their new journey begins.