Would you offer absolutely free medical services, shelter and food for the poor and mentally estranged?
Honestly, I don’t think most of us could– or would. Think about not expecting any–and I mean ANY– sort of monetary compensation for your services. Think about the operation costs of your establishment? How will you pay your staff? Feed your patients and maintain the land? How will you support yourself and your family?
Well, David Abdulai is a man with a heart of gold. This man sees past all of these questions and relies first and foremost in God. The strength of his relationship with God manifests in his work and his reputation as a brilliant, humble and selfless man. When asked how he treats his mentally ill patients, Dr. Abdulai looked at the students sitting in front of him and said, “With love.”
I know there may have been some skeptics around us who were thinking, no drugs? no psychologist on board? But Dr. Abdulai was there to show us that he is a testimony to his own virtue of love and faith.
A woman, whose name I cannot remember, walks into the open structure where Dr. Abdulai is lecturing us on his work. Her clothes drape over her tiny frame, her one eye scans the room–smiling with rotten, decayed teeth at all the youthful, bright faces she sees. Although she doesn’t speak English, she opens her mouth to share stories of her own life. Dr. Abdulai translates all of her witty, spunky commentary and continues to laugh and engage with her. The air is made light, despite the tense burning sensation to find out where this woman came from and how is she managing?
The charismatic woman found her way to the clinic when Dr. Abdulai took her in. He said she did not like to wear clothes. She had sensory issues, and at times, she would use her fecal matter to draw and write on the walls. The woman also would not open up and Dr. Abdulai found it difficult to communicate with her. According to him, all that it took for her to get well was for him to show her that someone cared for her and her well-being. Without the administration of drugs or injections, Dr. Abdulai said it was love that cured this woman.
She shuffled away from us and returned shortly with a new outfit on and a smile on her face. Not once did her smile dull.
Dr. Abdulai told us that some of his mentally ill patients wonder into the clinic. Others were delivered and a great majority were found and picked up by Doctor and his wife. “There was this one woman who suffered from AIDS, and she laid herself down–waiting to die,” Dr. Abdulai said. “I went over to her, picked her up and put her in my car.”
Many of his patients are unwanted and destitute, with no family or friends. A widowed woman dedicated her entire life to her husband. She cooked, cleaned and looked after him until he died. However, she was blind and when he died, not only did she lose a friend and lover, but also a sense of worth and purpose. Doctor took her in and she stays on the compound.
Dr. Abdulai is no stranger to poverty and illness himself. Growing up, his mother was a beggar and his father was a leper. He had basically nothing and he was the only survivor of his parent’s children. It was through his schooling and the opportunities and mentors he gained that allowed him to continue his education and become a doctor. Seeing the inconsistencies in the health care system in Ghana– and more specifically in Tamale– Dr. Abdulai decided that his passion as a medical practitioner coupled with his desire to help the helpless was greater than the compensation and the popularity he received.
His clinic operates strictly on donations. He is the only practitioner in the clinic, but at times there are doctors who come and volunteer their time and services to Dr. Abdulai’s cause. When we were there, two German doctors had came in for two weeks as volunteers. Other staff members operate as volunteers. The buildings were all donated. Even the land on which he operates was donated to him. Medical supplies, drugs, everything: donated.
There is a sign in the clinic that reads:
Services at this clinic are aimed primarily at the poor and destitute, purely for the love of God and neighbour and are absolutely free. We depend unconditionally on divine providence.
And surely, this is all that it takes for this clinic to make a difference in the lives of those who society has ostracized.