Magnesium is a mineral, one of six alkaline earth metals - along with beryllium, calcium, strontium, barium and radium - that make up the second column of the periodic table. In nature, it can only be found as a salt, that is, in combination with other minerals such as magnesium carbonate, magnesium sulphate, magnesium citrate, to name but a few. Elemental or free magnesium that is not combined with another element is a highly flammable, lightweight, shiny gray solid that can only be produced artificially.
First this one morning, a man made his way into the clinic leaning heavily on the shoulder of a young boy. As he entered, my attention, initially grabbed by the brilliant violet tunic top he wore, subsequently fell on the telltale curl of his left arm and the dragging of his left leg.
Falling into a chair, he explained that in the night he awoke with the sensation that the left side of his body was heavy and weak. Now, he was breathless, dizzy, his head hurt and his heart felt too large for his chest. There was also a burning sensation internally and especially in the left thigh.
You haven't partied until you've attended a funeral in Ghana - or, at least, in this region of the country where I've spent the last month. Apparently, celebrating the dead is the main social event that takes place here. They don't do birthdays and I haven't heard mention of a wedding, but I've seen more funerals than I can count.
It is hard to miss them because they are three-day public affairs occupying the village center or some such prominent location to which, it seems, everyone is invited, regardless of their connection - or lack thereof - to the deceased.
Mafi Kumase is a small town of 2500 persons in the Volta region of Western Ghana, about an hour from the border with Togo. Other than its technical high school and a weekly market, it is a fairly nondescript place: basically a crossroads with low slung shops, cinderblock houses and simple structures that serve as churches. The main thoroughfare is busy with 2-, 3- and 4-wheeled vehicles, herds of goats and groups of schoolchildren.
To the outsider's eye, what is most striking are a handful of buttes that rise up in and around the town as well as the plastic garbage strewn everywhere. The buttes make for nice hikes and views over the surrounding fields of cassava and okra. The plastic is an eyesore and probable health hazard that makes one not want to look too closely.
The Hope Homeopathy Clinic is located just at the outskirts of town on the main road. It consists of a few rooms and front porch of a house set back behind some shops and another home. But it is a well-utilized facility that everyone in town knows - along with the man who created and runs it.
One of the cases that stand out in my mind from the beginning days in practice was of a woman with Alzheimer's disease who was brought in by her husband for treatment. They were old time Vermonters - Earl, a farmer who prided himself on ingenuity and self-reliance, and Mary, a sturdy, strong looking woman. (Not their real names.)