By Joseph Murray
A BYU professor is looking for individuals willing to donate frequent flyer miles to help a Ghanaian teacher of deaf children travel to India for a kidney transplant.
Richard L. Jensen, associate general editor of The Joseph Smith Papers at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History on campus, is working with a network of returned Peace Corps volunteers to save the life of their friend in Ghana, Richmond Oduro.
?It is very impressive to see his zest for life and to see the way he has dedicated his life to helping the disadvantaged,? Jensen said, his voice crackling with emotion. ?We just see here a tremendous opportunity for someone who can do so much good.?
Annalisa Jensen, Richard?s daughter, worked alongside Oduro for three and a half years in Ghana when she was volunteering in the Peace Corp. Annalisa taught art at the same deaf school where Oduro worked. Oduro taught tailoring, drumming and dancing, and sign singing to the students.
He taught sign language to fellow teachers and hearing adults in the community, helping to bridge the gap of misunderstanding of deaf people in Ghana, where very few people know sign language and much superstition surrounds deafness.
Annalisa said Oduro is in a key position to promote the rights and education of the deaf community in Ghana. His use of sign language serves as an essential link to information and education.
?He is the only person in that town who can speak fluently with and interpret for the deaf population,? Annalisa said. ?For that region to lose him, is a big setback for the deaf population.?
Annalisa said that in a society where people are struggling just to get by, it is remarkable that Oduro organizes his time in a way that puts serving others in the forefront. She said he empowered others to grasp their opportunities to learn.
The Jensens found out last spring that Oduro?s kidneys were failing.
?By the time we keyed into what was going on he was in very bad shape,? Richard Jensen said. ?At the time he was taking some medications that were sort of like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.?
The Jensens, among others, realized they needed to organize some way to raise funds. They began contacting friends and relatives and Richard contacted a local attorney who helped them establish and set up the Richmond Oduro Irrevocable Kidney Trust.
Before Richmond could begin dialysis, the Jensens, along with their network of friends, had to show that they would be able to pay long term for his treatments. The cost of Oduro?s dialysis is $1,300 per month and if, at any time, they lack the ability to pay, he will die.
?This is a case that, except for the very elite in Ghana, would not have the money to receive treatment for the disease,? Annalisa Jensen said.
The Jensens have not been without help. While searching for information on the Web, one of their contacts found kidney specialist, Dr. Charity Kankam who grew up in a region not far from Oduro?s hometown. Kankam, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, visited with him in Ghana while she was there to establish a dialysis center. She continues to provide assistance and counsel to Oduro.
While trying to find a hospital where the transplant could take place, one of the Jensens? associates in Baltimore had a friend who explained to them the lower costs of operations in India. Because of the growth of the Indian black market, where people sell their organs for money, there are stringent requirements that must be met for Oduro?s procedure.
Oduro?s nephew Godfred, who has agreed to be his donor, must be interviewed by a state committee along with his next of kin. They will examine his motives and make sure that he knows the dangers to himself. Oduro?s wife will also need to travel to India. For this reason, they need to provide airfare for all four Ghanaians.
The estimated cost for both operations, including airfares, is $35,000. The Jensens and their friends have on hand $29,000. In order to cover the flights, the Jensens are hoping to find individuals who are willing to donate frequent flyer miles with Delta, Continental, or United in chunks of 25,000 to 40,000 miles. Richard Jensen will coordinate these efforts.
A Web site called Friends of Richmond explains what resources they will need to continue helping Oduro and how donations can be made.
?The beginning and the end is that he is someone I care about and admire,? Annalisa said. ?He is my dear friend and I care about his life as much as I do for my own family. Because of this I feel it is important to do everything I can to help save his life.?
Donations can be made at: http://www.geocities.com/helprichmond/