Black Hills State University student Aleesa Fedt spent a month in Ghana volunteering at a medical clinic. Here she is pictured with two of her lab partners Joe, left, and Raymond. As part of her volunteer responsibilities, Fedt took blood samples to test for malaria parasites.
 On Sundays, Fedt volunteered at the Children's Friend Orphanage in Adaklu Village. She spent a lot of time with the children including 2-year-old Anim. Fedt's experience as a certified EMT came in useful during her time in Ghana. She has spent the last two years working as an EMT for the Spearfish Ambulance.
Ever since she can remember, Black Hills State University student Aleesa Fedt has wanted to be a doctor. She spent hours at her grandfather’s house in Watertown flipping through physician books and playing with medical instruments. 

“I’ve always wanted to go into medicine,” said Fedt who, as a child, told her mother she wanted to “take babies out of mommies’ tummies.” While her specialty has changed to orthopedics, her desire to go into medicine has never waned. This past summer, Fedt’s compassion for helping others and her background in medicine took her all the way to Ghana where she spent a month volunteering in a medical clinic.

“It has always been a dream of mine to go to a third world country and do medical work,” Fedt said noting that she assumed her lack of a medical degree prevented her from volunteering.

However, as a certified EMT with two years of experience with the Spearfish Ambulance and her BHSU pre-med program classes, Fedt, biology major from Pierre, had enough knowledge to participate. After researching several volunteer programs, Fedt decided on Volta Aid Foundation which placed her at the Miracle Life Clinic in Ho, Ghana.

Her time in Ghana gave her a whole new perspective on the world especially the medical profession. “The trip really changed my perspective on medicine and where I want to focus (my experience). I want to do more of these types of trips,” she said. “It made me appreciate the things we have … the technology we have.”

Fedt spent a month at the clinic working in a different area each week. “I got to see all aspects of the clinic.” She worked the first week in triage where she took vital signs and assessed patients giving the critical ones priority. She said every day the waiting room was full with people waiting, sometimes for days, to be evaluated.

The second week she worked in the lab mainly taking blood samples and testing for malaria, and her third week was dedicated to treating malaria.

“Malaria was pretty much all we treated for,” she said adding that even if patients tested negative for malaria, they were treated anyway because of the high risk of death associated with the mosquito-borne disease.

“It’s so fatal because by the time the parents can afford to bring their children in, it’s a lot of times too late,” she said.

Fedt had to take preventive malaria medication prior to leaving for Ghana and for another month after she returned home. “That was the hardest thing for me, coming in as an outsider and having to take all these medications to prevent me from getting malaria and seeing all the people who don’t have a choice.”  

For her final week, Fedt worked with a physician doing patient consultations. “It was really neat because I got to see every aspect of the disease – test for it, treat it and then see how the patients were doing.”

Fedt said her BHSU biology and chemistry classes along with her EMT experience prepared her for what she experienced in Ghana. BHSU’s small class sizes allow for more one-on-one time with professors which Fedt said has benefitted her.  “I didn’t know exactly what to expect because I didn’t know what setting I would be put in, but when I got there, I felt comfortable especially in the beginning with the triage.”

In Ghana, Fedt grew attached to her host family, especially her 13-year-old host brother Senyo. She hopes to one day see him again, but realizes that it is unlikely.

“He became like a brother to me. It’s hard because you know you will never see them again,” she said. Fedt recently sent a letter along with some photos she developed from a disposable camera she gave to Senyo.  “They taught me so much, just about life in general. It makes you realize how wasteful we are as a culture.”

She also grew accustomed to the villagers’ relaxed way of life. “They have a very simple and cohesive way of living. Everything you get comes right from the ground. They work very hard, but also if they are tired, they don’t work.  There are no clocks anywhere.”

She experienced more of a cultural shock coming back to the states landing at JFK airport surrounded by swarms of hurried travelers.

Fedt has no doubt that she will travel overseas again to volunteer her medical expertise, but for now she is concentrating on graduating in December and applying to medical school.