By Nii B. Andrews.
I had heard of my beloved senior neurosurgeon colleague – Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko, long before I met him for the first time in Malawi in 1999.
Anytime there was an international conference of neurosurgeons (brain and spinal cord surgeons), as soon as I introduced myself as a Ghanaian, his name was mentioned in glowing terms.
Kofi Dankyi was trained in Germany by renowned neurosurgeons Axel Perneczky and Majid Samii; he excelled at his craft and was highly respected internationally.
For several decades he served as a consultant neurosurgeon in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and was no doubt one of the pioneers who established neurosurgery on a sound footing there.
When he returned to Ghana, Kofi Dankyi set up the neurosurgery department at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Kumasi.
Kofi Dankyi was a true cosmopolitan: he travelled widely; mixed easily; and was spontaneously gregarious with unfailing impeccable manners.
His mastery of several languages was spectacular: Mandarin, High German, Classical Arabic, English, Twi and Ga.
His close friend, Dieter von Zeppelin, confessed that there were so many questions that his daughter asked him in reference to German culture, language and history that he, Dieter, could not answer; but Kofi Dankyi always answered and resolved with effortless eloquence.
As a result the young lady was often on the phone with her Uncle Kofi in order to get his expert assistance with her homework.
I was once with Kofi Dankyi and Dieter in Antwerp at a high end Chinese restaurant. The well poised Chinese lady maitre d’ approached our table soon after we were seated.
Immediately, Kofi Dankyi proceeded to address her in perfect Mandarin and she almost fainted; she quickly pulled herself together and summoned all the staff to our table to hear him continue speaking.
It was an electrifying moment that occurred before many foreigners started visiting China.
Again in Cairo, after I had introduced him to the Egyptian conference chair during a coffee break; Kofi Dankyi addressed him in flawless Arabic.
The gentleman exclaimed, “Whoa, he is speaking the Arabic that is written in the scriptures! Where did you learn to speak like that?”.
As was always usual for him on account of his Presbyterian background, Kofi Dankyi only smiled shyly and said, “I am still learning”.
He was at all times honest, sober, self-effacing, compassionate and a consummate professional with an uncanny ability for accurate clinical decision making and an excellent pair of hands in the operating room.
His microneurosurgical skill was formidable.
There was no way that he would settle for second best; he coupled this with a quiet patriotic fervour and an undying pan-Africanist zeal.
Anytime there was a discussion about procurement of medical equipment for Africa, Kofi Dankyi was a relentless advocate for the best. In one such discussion he derided those who settled for baseline standard equipment.
In poignant fashion Kofi Dankyi asked, “If what we need is a car, will you take one with only three tyres?”.
We miss him already since he always provided the needed dose of plain common sense and savoir faire.
May the earth rest gently on him; may God grant him mercy and eternal rest.