Trip Report May 30, 2017
On October 30 Africa Surgery sent Alusine Kargbo, about 40, and Mateneh Marrah, 38, from Sierra Leone to Kenya. Both had large tumors which had begun about five years earlier. Alusine’s was on the right side of his face, and Mateneh’s on her left side and neck. While Alusine’s caused pain, Mateneh’s tumor did not. Both tumors were removed by Dr. David Nolen, a young
American surgeon volunteering at the Kijabe Hospital, a faith-based institution which has been helping poor patients in Africa for 102 years, by offering, in their own words, “Health Care to God’s Glory” (http://kijabehospital.org/).
Alusine’s tumor was benign. It had encased a major nerve so that its removal left Alusine with a partial paralysis of the right side of his face. His pain is now gone, as is the threat of a slow death, had tumor been allowed to grow unchecked until it invaded his
brain, or cut off his blood flow, or his ability to breathe. Mateneh’s tumor proved to be
malignant, requiring Africa Surgery to have her receive six-weeks of chemotherapy. Both patients are now back in Sierra Leone where they can carry on with their lives without having to try to hide their faces.
Sierra Leoneans with various types of tumors, mostly of the mouth, face, and neck, continue to find us. We have been able to have some surgically treated in Sierra Leone. For others we can only provide palliative care. Although I left Sierra Leone last March 25, the work I started goes on. On May 4 the Africa Surgery team in Freetown was about to send nine more tumor patients and one caregiver to Kenya for treatment at the Kijabe Hospital. But on May 3 the oldest patient, a man, age 42, passed away. We hope that the other eight, including one boy, age 11, will all have successful treatments now that they are at the Kijabe Hospital.
On November 14, Daboh Kamara, age 12, showed his first smile in a long time, while he recovered between surgeries at the St.
John of God Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. About one-year before, Daboh had fallen from a mango tree and fractured his left arm. He was brought to an Africa Surgery field agent in October, with a piece of bone protruding from one of four orifices, all oozing puss from his badly-infected arm. Because of his condition, Daboh had not attended school for several months. Africa Surgery had Daboh surgically treated by two teams visiting Sierra Leone from the German organization
Ortopädie-Für-die-Dritte-Welt e.V. (www.o-d-w.net). Daboh’s first surgery was to clean out the infection and remove decayed bone tissue. The next was to reconstruct his forearm. When we visited his home on January 9, he was still wearing his dirty cast. We were told that his arm was fine, and that he was scheduled to have the cast removed at the hospital in about another month, but that he was a bit impatient at playing in a soccer game interrupted by our visit! I look forward to seeing Daboh when I return to Sierra Leone next November. His cast must be off by now. I hope to find him able to use his left arm and attending school again.
History was made when we had one of the O-D-W teams perform the first hip replacement surgery ever attempted in Sierra Leone. Because of the otherwise healthy condition of the patient and because her bad hip was not too extensively damaged, the operation was very successful, but because of the risk of introducing infection, O-D-W does not plan to do any more hip replacements for us in Sierra Leone at this time.
Adamsay Kamara was thirteen years old when she came to us at the Holy Spirit Hospital in March, 2014. She walked painfully on two clubfeet, and stood mortified as I photographed her in front of the hospital. Because we told her to return for treatment the following November, she gave us no phone contact, only naming Magburaka, a large town in a neighboring district of Sierra
Leone, as her address. The Ebola virus epidemic then struck and made it impossible for the neglected-clubfoot specialist surgeon from O-D-W to visit Sierra Leone until after the crisis had ended. With no phone number, we still managed to find Adamsay by showing her photo around the market of Magburaka, where a few people were able to tell us in which of the surrounding villages she lived. Dr. Fritjof Schmidt and his orthopedic team surgically corrected Adamsay’s right foot on November 15. He plans to correct her left foot this coming November. Dr. Schmidt corrected clubfeet for eight other Africa Surgery patients. Six of these only needed correction of one foot. The other two, who had bi-lateral clubfoot, will have their second foot corrected this November. We already have three more children and a young man with clubfeet for Dr. Schmidt to evaluate and hopefully treat as well.
Fatu Masou, 70, had a tumor growing on her right wrist for about 18 months. It was causing her pain at times, since it had started to wrap around a nerve and threatened to restrict her blood flow as it pressed against veins and an artery. But Fatu felt
greater pain because of her rejection by the members of her community at Thunder Hill, a suburb of Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown. They began to be afraid of her because they thought she was a witch. Forced to live alone in an abandoned building without doors, what Fatu missed most was contact with the local children, whose parents believed that her growth concealed a “witch gun” which she could use to inflict injury and disease.
Africa Surgery brought Fatu one hundred miles inland, to the Holy Spirit Hospital, where Dr. Odhran Shelley, a surgeon from Ireland visiting with a reconstructive-plastic surgery team (resurgeafrica.com), was able to excise the tumor without diminishing the use of Fatu’s right hand. Her former friends and neighbors readily accepted Fatu back into their community, when she returned with her tumor removed and her wrist and hand back to normal.
When Amadu Bangura, 27, was brought to us on December 1, the left side of his face had been severely swollen for the past
week, because of an infected jaw, causing pain that made it impossible for him to speak. We
immediately sent Amadu to Dr. Don Davis, the Chief Dental Officer at the Connaught Government Hospital in Freetown. Thanks to an operation and a regimen of medications, by January 12, Amadu had fully recovered, to the point where he could speak clearly and he could not stop smiling.
Dr. Davis is the only dentist/oral surgeon in a country of about six million people. He is capable of treating cases like Amadu’s, and there are many of them. Between November and March, while I was in-country, Africa Surgery had Dr. Davis relieve the suffering of 17 people with abscessed jaws. In 2015, Dr. Davis took a young secondary school graduate as an “apprentice” to get hands-on experience in this work. Africa Surgery has raised funds from an anonymous donor to send the student to study dentistry at the Ternopil State Medical University in the Ukraine. He started attending classes there in February 2017. Africa Surgery hopes to be able to fund his studies for the remaining four years of formal training, before he will return to Sierra Leone, where he has committed to practice dentistry and oral surgery for a minimum of five years. Africa Surgery hopes and expects that he will treat patients in Sierra Leone for the rest of his life.
In late January, Prof. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei visited Sierra Leone to check on post-operative spinal deformity patients who
already had spinal surgery and to evaluate candidates who might need it. Prof. Boachie is the founding director and chief surgeon at the Foundation of Orthopedic and Complex Spine (FOCOS) hospital in Accra, Ghana (www.orthofocos.org), where he is now also a Professor of Surgery. In just over three days, he and his team of two physicians and a nurse examined and evaluated 29 post-op patients and 55 pre-op surgical candidates. Of these 84 people, Prof. Boachie identified 38 who need spinal surgery and prescribed back braces for 7 patients, as a means of reducing pain and preventing the further collapse of damaged or diseased vertebrae. Africa Surgery already had braces to fit the four adult patients. Our tailor, who is instructing students in our skills training program, designed and sewed braces to custom-fit the three children who also needed them. Africa Surgery will soon send ten spine patients to the FOCOS Hospital in Accra. Of these, two are post-op patients who, unfortunately, need revision surgery. One is a post-op patient who broke one of his implanted rods, shortly after Professor Boachie and his team left Sierra Leone. We hope that all ten of these patients will have their pain relieved, their mobility restored, and the danger of paralysis eliminated.
The teams of Africa Surgery field agents continue to have decayed teeth extracted for scores of patients, cataract surgeries done and patients with other eye conditions treated, hernia and other general and gynecological surgeries performed, and skin grafts and other plastic surgery procedures done. They are monitoring two leprosy patients, for whom we had toes and parts of fingers amputated.
Thank you for your prayers and the support that enables us to continue this work. The patients, some of whom are mentioned here, are truly grateful for your help. Special thanks go to the George Washington Council 359 of the Morristown Knights of Columbus and to the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick of Morris County for their support, amounting to a total of $3,000, which covered the cost of my airfare and in-country personal expenses.