In America, you are taught, from the time you are able to hold a phone, that if there is ever an emergency, you must dial three numbers, and help will arrive in the form of an ambulance, firetruck, or patrol car.
I know well how important this service is. A friend and I once found an unconscious man in our neighborhood, and had to dial. My own brother had lung blockage at when he was four days old, and would have died if no ambulance was available.
Here in Ghana, my host brother has been very ill. He’s been plagued with headaches so severe he is unable to stand.
On Monday, September 17, my host parents decided he needed to go to the hospital. This was a good judgment because he could no longer sit up straight, and his breathing became labored.
My host family doesn’t own a car. This is not usually a problem, as there are frequent tro-tros into Kumasi from Boko. But getting Kofi to the village station would have been impossible. Ma decided to call a taxi.
I didn’t think much of it, mostly because I was so worried.
When the taxi finally arrived, Ma said: “I’d like to carry him, but I can’t.”
I stepped forward to offer my help, but Ma began speaking very fast in Twi. Before I knew what was happening, I was holding Ma’s purse, and Marta (my host cousin/sister), an Auntie, and Ma were carrying Kofi to the taxi at breakneck speed.
I held the doors open for them, trying my hardest to help. I have never been more afraid and confused in my life.
It was only after the taxi drove away that the gravity of the situation began to sink in. A taxi. Ma had called a taxi. Why not the Ghanaian 9-1-1? What about ambulances? Stretchers?
Then it hit me. I had not heard a single siren the entirety of my two weeks in Ghana.
Are there ambulances in Ghana?
I considered voicing my question to Marta. But if it needed to be asked, I knew the answer.
Ghana, in spite of having electric lights, running water, and houses at least as well accommodated as the one in Laporte, is a developing country.
We were lucky. Kofi will be all right. He’ll come home from the hospital soon. (UPDATE: he came home Friday, September 20. He has to have some scans done, but he’s recovering well.)
But, I wonder, how many Ghanaians weren’t so blessed? How many taxis didn’t get there on time, caught in that infamous Ghanaian traffic?
Ghana will be okay. It is a developing country, and is developing very fast. (I hope to devote a few blog posts to that subject.) In a decade or so, I believe Ghana will have the infrastructure to support emergency services. But how many lives will be lost in that decade?
And how many nations, in Africa and all over the world, have no reliable ambulances?