VCH Features KBNF President Marj Ratel

“In neuroscience nursing, a nurse’s skills and intuition are critical to the wellbeing of our patient population,” says Marjorie, registered nurse at Vancouver General Hospital’s neurosciences unit. “In most disciplines, a patient can advocate for themselves. For example, a baby can wail, a patient experiencing chest pain can cry out. However, in the neuroscience population when a patient is deteriorating, they are dependent on the observational skills and actions of the primary caregivers. They have lost the ability to advocate for themselves. Often, a neuro nurse is required to use their 6th sense in determining a patient is in trouble. ‘Something just doesn’t feel right.’ Narrowing down the cause and proactively informing the physicians may prevent permanent disability or worse. Early detection can be the difference between life and death, returning home fully recovered or transferring to rehabilitation or longterm care.” In addition to her busy life as a neuro nurse, Marjorie also finds time to operate a charitable organization named, “Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation.” In February 2000, while working in the NICU in an educator capacity, a West African neurosurgeon approached her and asked if she would consider traveling to Ghana in order to train his nurses. The outcome: 16+ years of VGH and BC Health Authorities participation in supporting some of the most vulnerable regions in West Africa. Providing hospital equipment, beds, recycled consumables, educational support, surgical and medical expertise – Marjorie has made it her mission to balance the scales in favour of care. She recalls, “during the Ebola outbreak, our international team of neurosurgeons, nurses, RTs and biomedical engineer conducted neurosurgery on 20 patients in the eastern jungle of Liberia. Lives were transformed, tumours were extracted and lives restored. During Ebola’s height, hundreds of hospital beds along with humanitarian aid were shipped over to this most vulnerable region. They felt like someone truly cared, something that had been almost extinguished. It brought hope that a new day would dawn. The Liberian Minister of Health visited VGH post Ebola to give official thanks.”

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Can you Hear the Angels Sing?

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Vraeyda Media announces the release of Rev. Prof. Seth Ayettey’s first book Can You Hear the Angels Sing?, a memoir on grace, faith and healing in West Africa. Both adventure and treatise on humanitarian efforts, Can You Hear the Angels Sing? is a glimpse into the breath of the miraculous, and the heart of a modern day humanitarian.

In October 2010, Professor and Pastor Seth Ayettey was assaulted in his home. Shot and left for dead, he and his family experienced a series of miracles that culminated in a choir of angels. Now you can read his memoiron experiencing the best and worst of mankind, and how grace will save lives.

In collaboration with Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation, partial proceeds of Can You Hear the Angels Sing? will be donated to enrich health care and education in West Africa.

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Analyses of the Types of Neurological Disorders

Amara Uzoma-Uzo, Third Year Medical Student UTMB School of Medicine Class of 2015

Analyses of the Types of Neurological Disorders- Korle-Bu Hospital 2012

Amara shares:

“During the summer of 2012,  I was fortunate enough to visit Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. While there, I participated in a project that analyzed the  types of neurological disorders that presented at the Korle-Bu Hospital. I hope to continue working with the faculty and physicians there so that Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital can continue to maintain its excellent standard of care.”

Rheumatic Heart Disease – Renewed Attention to an Old Problem

Rosalyn Adigun, MD PharmD 2013 Graduate, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Rheumatic Heart Disease – Renewed Attention to an Old Problem-Ghana 2013

Rosalyn shares:

“During my second visit to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (March — April 2013),  I was interested in evaluating the burden of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) diagnosed via echocardiography  in the patients at the National Cardiothoracic Center located on the grounds of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra Ghana.

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains a major cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in developing countries and with the transatlantic migration of people for various reasons, it is increasingly important  to implement better surveillance by health care personnel  in developed nations.  Although the preceding infection Acute Rheumatic fever (ARF) and RHD are rare in developed countries, they pose major public health problems among children and young adults in developing countries where these diseases are endemic with their most devastating sequelae presenting during the most productive years of the affected population.

The objective of my project was to evaluate the burden of RHD in Ghana by evaluating the echocardiography data in patients evaluated at the National Cardiothoracic Center Accra Ghana between November 2010 and November 2012. I was able to review over 9000 echocardiograms conducted during this period, and the World Heart Federation criteria for echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD was used to determine if a patient met the criteria for RHD.

While there are still limitations to capturing the real burden of the RHD in Ghana, this information learned from the project will provide evidence-based information to clinicians in educating patients, establishing surveillance programs, and providing better care to patients presenting with RHD. I hope to submit an abstract of my research findings for publication in the near future.”

KBNF Recognizes UTMB Research Students

The Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF) Recognizes Students from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston who have performed Health-Care Research in Accra, Ghana.

A goal of the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF) is to encourage student interest in the continued development of healthcare and medical research in West Africa. As Chair of Research for KBNF, as an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Cell Biology and as a University of Texas Distinguished Teaching Professor, I find it significant to inform students of the importance of viewing healthcare, education and research on a global level.  I relay to them my experience with the KBNF, in regards to assisting in creating a team to develop a neuroscience research program at the University of Ghana.

We want to recognize the outstanding students from UTMB who dedicated their time and service to contribute to health-care and research in West Africa. I served as a faculty mentor to the students listed below and The Global Health Program at UTMB provided financial support and additional mentoring to the students for their travel to Ghana. Posted on our website the coming week are comments from Rosalyn Adigun, MD PharmD,  Roslyn Oduro and Amara Uzoma-Uzo regarding their experience in Ghana. We congratulate these ladies for their unselfish commitment to others.

Lisa Cain, Ph.D.

Chair, Research for the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation

A Letter from Megan (Patrick Update)

Firstly, an apology — it has taken far too long for me for me to update you. For those who have yet to be informed, I hope you can understand why it has taken me some time.

January, which seems like years ago now, was a very very tough month. When I returned to Patrick’s side just after the new year, I saw a massive difference in Patrick’s physical and psychological state.  Throughout the month of December, Patrick’s mind and body had deteriorated incredibly. Not only were his existing sores not healing, but nearly TEN new sores had formed. I could not believe it. What was only a blemish when we arrived in Ghana was taking his life.

After suffering for the past two and a half months, Patrick was ready to leave this world. We spent only one week together before his suffering finally ended.

After 6 days of preparations, with the support of my Godsend, Jocelyne Lapointe (Canadian radiologist working to build capacity at KBTH), I traveled with Patrick’s body back to Sierra Leone to join his friends and family in prayer and celebration of Patrick’s life.

Following the traditional march (walking/driving alongside the hurse through Patrick’s neighbourhood), vigil (or “waking” — prayer and speeches with friends and family, throughout the night before the burial), funeral and burial, many of Patrick’s extended family stayed with his mother in their family house in Bo until the 40 days’ ceremony, when we gathered again for a waking and celebration the following day. After the 40 days, the Christian belief is that Patrick’s spirit will have then left this world and reached the gates of heaven.

I am touched by the way in which my friends and family, in Canada, Ghana, Sierra Leone and even other countries have reached out to Patrick and I during this difficult time.  Thank you for all your contributions and support. We were touched and very grateful for all the love and support you have shown.

Looking forward from this, KBNF is offering to contribute to a project in Patrick’s name. After consultation with existing rehabilitation providers in Sierra Leone, we are planning to collaborate to help improve the existing services, so that people such as Patrick have an option for rehab in Sierra Leone, where they can be surrounded and supported by their friends and family during recovery.

Further, KBNF is also supporting Korle-Bu Hospital’s Nursing heads to adapt their practices to better support patients with mobility challenges, to help prevent (life-threatening) pressure sores. For more information on KBNF’s activities:

Again, my apologies for taking so long to notify you.

Warm Regards,


Savour or Squander

Danny Moe

I wonder sometimes how often I squander opportunities I should have savoured.  What you savour you tend to remember the rest of your life.  What you squander you forget and often never know what you missed.

I think of all the people I have met and their great lives and experiences that I have savoured or perhaps squandered.  I remember arriving at a friend’s open house and knowing no one.  I thought of leaving early but instead stayed and met people.  I asked a man cooking hamburgers what his profession was and he shared how he was the captain of one of the world’s largest private yachts touring the world.  Talk about an interesting conversation.  I also met a woman that evening who was a designer of the inside decor of some of the great private yachts built.  I left for home that evening so thankful that I had savoured and not squandered the evening.

Every person we meet has something about them to be savoured.  Scenic views can be savoured or squandered.  Flowers, birds, streams, and simply anything God created can be savoured or squandered.  I can’t imagine the mind of God creating anything that did not have something worth savouring.

As I write, I had one of those experiences yesterday.  My daughter Damara had just delivered a darling blond haired 8 lb. 21 in. boy.  Visiting her and her husband hours later, I got to hold that precious little bundle.  He was hungry and had been crying.  Yet, as I carried him and talked, asking him what he thought about this great new world, he stopped crying and intently looked straight at me as I talked.  I continued to talk as I looked at his big hands and suggested to him that he would be better at basketball than a hunter like his dad.  I thought of the amazing and immediate change from a womb to the world…from loneliness to lots of people…and from silence to sound.  I was holding a grandson who was only hours (not days) old.  I was so glad there was no rush as I got to savour that moment.  I will never forget it.

God will give you some great moments to savour every day.  They will often come unexpectedly, but they will come.  They are never the same. They often come in disguise.  Seize them and savour them.  Don’t squander what God excitedly gives you to savour.

Major Step Toward an Alzheimer’s Vaccine

Below is a news release that may be of interest to our blog readers.


Quebec City, January 15, 2013 – A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This major breakthrough, details of which are presented today in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), opens the door to the development of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a vaccine to prevent the illness.

One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta. Microglial cells, the nervous system’s defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called senile plaques.

The team led by Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center, identified a molecule that stimulates the activity of the brain’s immune cells. The molecule, known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), has been used extensively as a vaccine adjuvant by GSK for many years, and its safety is well established.

In mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms, weekly injections of MPL over a twelve-week period eliminated up to 80% of senile plaques. In addition, tests measuring the mice’s ability to learn new tasks showed significant improvement in cognitive function over the same period.

The researchers see two potential uses for MPL. It could be administered by intramuscular injection to people with Alzheimer’s disease to slow the progression of the illness. It could also be incorporated into a vaccine designed to stimulate the production of antibodies against amyloid beta. “The vaccine could be given to people who already have the disease to stimulate their natural immunity,” said Serge Rivest. “It could also be administered as a preventive measure to people with risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.”

“When our team started working on Alzheimer’s disease a decade ago, our goal was to develop better treatment for Alzheimer’s patients,” explained Professor Rivest. “With the discovery announced today, I think we’re close to our objective.”


In addition to Rivest, the study’s co-authors are Jean-Philippe Michaud, Antoine Lampron, Peter Thériault, Paul Préfontaine, Mohammed Filali, and nine researchers from GlaxoSmithKline.

Techiman and Nsawkaw November Mission Visit

Samuel teaching in Techiman

Marj’s visit to Ghana in late November 2012 got Jocelyne and me involved in a flurry of fruitful ventures. Notable among them was our visit to Techiman and Nsawkaw, two towns located in the upper section of Ghana.  The visit was upon the invitation of Dr. Kessie, a great volunteer who had been the proud recipient of a container full of medical equipment from KBNF on the behalf of the Nsawkaw government hospital.

Dr. Kessie, who hosted us, drove us to the Nsawkaw hospital for a firsthand look at how the beds and other donations from KBNF had been utilized.  Apart from a few broken beds, most of the equipment was still in use in the hospital. The hospital had also generously donated some of beds to another needy hospital close by.

We had the opportunity of visiting Dr. Kessie’s private hospital as well as his new 100-bed hospital, which is at the final stages of completion. Jocelyne and Marj gave him some general insight about the structure as well as how to get the community behind him in support of his efforts.

Much as he is running a private hospital, its apparent he is also running a charity given the endemic nature of poverty in the area and the high demand for health care.  He however serves his community with his heart, and that has greatly endeared him to the people. It is most probable that his new 100-bed hospital might turn out to be the toast of the area in the near future, provided he implements some of the good counsel Marj and Jocelyne have graciously offered him.

Nonetheless, there remains many avenues to touch the heart of the community through generous support to hospitals in that area. It is in the light of this that Dr. Kessie appreciated the suggestion to ship a container of medical supplies to his hospital. He willingly agreed to find the resources to pay for the shipping costs and clear them on arrival in Ghana.

One feature of the visit was a three-hour teaching session of two groups of students in care giving from Dr. Kessie’s school. They received insights into radiology, life-saving basics in health care and some of Danny’s Heart Power lessons.  I am convinced that they will long remember their encounter with the two Canadian ladies and a gentleman from KBNF, as much as we ourselves will cherish that memorable visit.

My Vision for KBNF

First and foremost I wish to express my appreciation to the Executives of the KBNF for appointing me as a member of the Board. The thought and trust reposed in me are very much appreciated.

As a Ghanaian with some Canadian experience, I believe my best contribution to the team would be to offer local insight about the project and other projects, and to make the relationship between Ghana and Canada as seamless as possible. Among other things, I think I should be disposed to do the following:

  • Sensitize Ghanaians about KBNF through the media and other networks.
  • Encourage Ghanaian contribution to the projects in Ghana, thereby spreading the power base and ownership from major donors and medical professionals to ordinary Ghanaians, including corporate Ghana.
  • Engage in such other activities that will promote KBNF in Ghana and elsewhere.