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Opinion | Nov 8, 2018

Guns Don't Kill, Our 'Heartless' Leaders Do

By James Oppong
Guns Don't Kill, Our 'Heartless' Leaders Do

As a nurse working in a rural community in Ghana, one is exposed to an array of life experiences;some memorable, but most, pathetic.

However, an incident I encountered recently has left me in a turmoil; so many unanswered questions. These questions get even more radiating when I think about some of the corruption scandals and mismanagements in our political arena.

On 1st November 2018, at about 6:35pm, a call came in to us at the emergency unit from one of the CHPS compounds in the the surrounding village about a young man (who loads cocoa for one of the cocoa buying companies) who suddenly started vomiting 'dark coloured blood - medically referred to as UPPER GASTROINTESTINAL BLEEDING.

The CHPS compound certainly could not handle such a condition hence the need to refer the patient to my hospital, since it's the nearest hospital with an ambulance (despite being about an hour and half drive apart) .

I quickly gathered some supplies and, with the ambulance driver, headed towards the village - we left at exactly 6:45pm. However, before taking off, we were made aware that at a certain point of the journey, the stretch was in an impecunious state so it was agreed that we will meet the patient midway (at where the accessible road ends).

After an hour of driving on a humpy-bumpy road sandwiched with thick forests and cocoa farms, we arrived at our proposed meeting point to no sight of our patient. All attempts to reach them on phone was fruitless because there was no mobile coverage at that point.

After waiting for close to 20 minutes (at around 8:05pm), we sighted a tractor loaded with bags of cocoa approaching and on top of the load was a middle aged man whow had two intravenous lines secured from the CHPS compound and 500mls of Normal Saline connected to each. When queried about what caused the delay, they accounted that only a motorbike or tractor could access that part of the stretch. Sadly, the patient was so restless that he couldn't sit on the motorbike leaving them with no option than to resort to a tractor - which undoubtedly travels at a much slower pace.

Hurriedly, our patient was transferred from the tractor into the ambulance. Upon assessment, the patient was breathless, pulse was absent (radial, femoral, and carotid pulses could all not be felt), no heart sounds heard on auscultation, his pupils were dilated, fixed and non- responsive to light. The unfortunate had happened, we had lost a young energetic man who was working to put food on his family's table and by projection, was contributing to the country's huge foreign exchange we get from exporting our cocoa beans.

Upon return to my hospital, my mind had gone haywire with litany of questions that I had absolutely no answers to. Do the people of these villages cast their ballot on an election day? How does the electoral commission transport ballot boxes there on election day but developmental projects fail to follow suite in that same manner? Would we have lost him if the road was to be good thereby reducing the transportation time? How many of such people die due to lack of accessible roads to reach nearby hospitals in time? Why is that the farmer who toils to give us the cocoa lives in such a deplorable condition while, the COCOBOD director and his cohorts who might have never held a cutlass or a sickle live luxuriously at their expense ?

Indeed, it's not guns that kill but our political leaders who fail to prioritize human lives by way of not providing basic necessities like good roads and accessible healthcare.

James Oppong (BSN, RGN)
[email protected]

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