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    Volunteering has Health Benefits

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | April 1st, 2018

    Volunteering has Health Benefits

    One who serves benefits from the service.

                                                                                                                      African proverb


    I was in Nigeria for a Medical/Surgical Mission trip with the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) this past two weeks. I was fortunate to go with my mother who provided pastoral care. We saw about 400 patients in 5 days and performed over 80 surgeries. The experience was moving for all those involved.

    The hardest part of the mission was knowing that there were so many more patients that needed to be seen and so many more that needed surgery. Nigeria is a country where the disparity in income is quite noticeable. If you do not have the money, you will not have access to health care. There was a 2 year old who had a shunt* in his head. His family had raised money to have the lifesaving shunt placed. When the shunt stopped working, the doctor who placed the original shunt refused to see him, until his family raised more money. Fortunately, we had a neurosurgeon on our team who had brought a new shunt and took care of the problem.

    I continue to think of what could have happened to the 20 year old who fell off a mango tree, whose family rushed him to the hospital (there are no ambulance services). The hospital refused to see him even though he was in severe pain. His family did not have any money. When he arrived at the hospital where we had our team, he was found to have a belly full of blood due to a ruptured spleen. He ended up having his spleen removed. If we were not there, he would have died.

    There was the 26 year old woman who looked as if she were 5 months pregnant. She had camped in the health care facility for 2 days with her mother. They had heard that the there was a medical team coming from the United States. She had an ultrasound report that showed she had uterine fibroids that were extremely large making her look pregnant.  She stated that every month during the time of her period, she was in extreme pain. Her menstrual flow was very heavy. She was told that we could perform her surgery the next day. She could not go to her house because she lived very far away and did not have the money for the transportation to have her come back the next day.  She slept in the facility with her mother for another day. During surgery, she was found not only to have fibroids, but also an ovarian mass. The fibroids and mass were removed. There are so many more stories I could share.

    I am extremely grateful to have been part of a wonderful team. We all agreed that we benefited more from the experience that the patients. There have been many studies that have shown there are many health benefits to volunteering.  Volunteerism has been shown to prolong life, help with management of chronic disease and in some cases lowering blood pressure, and decrease depression. You can get all the benefits, regardless of what age you start.

    There are many opportunities to volunteer. It does not necessarily have to be a medical mission. We have churches, schools, our neighborhoods, shelters, etc. and the list goes on. I promise you, you will benefit from the service.


    *A shunt is a medical device used to relieve pressure on the brain by caused by an accumulation of fluid.


    One Response to “Volunteering has Health Benefits”

    1. Chinwe Okpalaoka says:

      Welcome back! Sounds like a fulfilling mission. So much need…….

    Leave a Reply

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