In January, 2019,when a team of reconstructive plastic surgeons from the Paris-based organization Doctors of the World (MDM) (www.doctorsoftheworld.org) visited the Seventh Day Adventist hospital in Masanaga, Sierra Leone.
Betty Brima, age four, and Lamine Sesay, age 20, had their cleft lips repaired. Lamine’s palate is also cleft, however this will have to be repaired at a later date, after the lip has healed and the surgeons return.
Though not a life-threatening condition, having an untreated cleft lip and palate affects a person’s speech, social life and status.
Also, in Sierra Leone this still sometimes believed to have been caused by a devil who wants the baby’s life and who will cause misfortune to the whole village if the child is not left out in the bush for the devil to take. A similar belief is that God made a mistake, and if the baby is left in the bush, God will take him or her away and the child will be returned without the deformity when the mother gives birth again.
So, when a mother comes to us with a baby with a cleft, one can assume that she is a very courageous person, possibly defying the wishes of the elders of her family and village.
Joseph Sesay, 22, and Mabinti Turay, 27, are recent patients who came to us with jaw infections originating from decaying teeth. They are just two of the 37 patients whom we had Dr. Davis begin to treat during the six-months I was in Sierra Leone. Many have completed treatment and returned home to their towns or villages.
When Joseph Sesay, 22, came to us on March 28, 2019, an aggressive infection of his right jaw was spreading quickly and was likely to kill him within a few days. We had Joseph started on antibiotics at the nearby Holy Spirit Catholic Hospital and got him to the oral surgeon in Freetown by April 2. The oral surgeon had Joseph admitted to the Connaught Government Hospital in Freetown where he received intravenous antibiotics. His condition improved to the point where he could endure surgical treatment to remove decayed teeth and to start removing infected bone and gum tissue.
A few days after his surgery, Joseph Sesay’s jaw was bandaged, his infection was under control, and he was out of the danger of dying from an aggressive infection or sepsis.
Mabinti Turay, 27, came to us on April 10, 2019, after having suffered for four years with an abscessed right jaw caused by a decaying tooth. She had pain and no open sinus on her face; instead the pus from her infection entered directly into her mouth. She arrived with her baby girl and her mother. The three ladies joined the three men and four women already staying at our rented lodge, while being treated by Dr. Don Davis, the oral surgeon in Freetown.
Mabinti settled into the routine of X-rays, medications, and oral surgeries. The other patients were able to help to care for her baby while she was in recovery.
Kadiatu Kamara, 6, fractured the tibia bone in her left leg due to a fall. An infection developed in the bone, resulting in too much pain to walk and she had to be carried on her mother’s back.
On February 5, 2019, we took Kadiatu to one of the teams from the German-based organization Orthopedie-Fuer-die-Welte (O-D-W) that, while I was in country, was visiting the St. John of God Hospital in Lunsar. The surgeon, Dr. Artur Klaiber, told us that he would first have to operate to clean out the infected bone and then install an external fixator (a device that would hold the two ends of the bone in place). This device would also extend and be exposed on the outside of her leg so that small adjustments could be made to the positions of the bones through the fixator.
Two-months later, Kadiatu had already had a second surgery. She was out of pain and able to walk on her own with crutches, and with the external fixator still attached. Her mother and she are still boarding at a house near the hospital in order to have the dressings changed and adjustments made through the fixator. We are all hoping that in another month the bone will have healed completely and she will be strong enough for the fixator to be removed. Then, she will be able to walk without crutches and her mother and she can return to their home in Freetown.
Joel E. Mansaray was born about six-years ago to a strong and hard-working woman who is continuously filling and hauling five-gallon containers of water for her neighbors at no cost. While she works, Joel is taken care of by his maternal uncle who is also working to support several members of his extended family.
Joel posed for this photo wearing his primary school uniform during the 2018-19 school year. We hope to be able to find a sponsor for Joel to help us send him to school again this September.
Through the ASI Student Sponsorship Program, Africa Surgery is helping to educate 132 students. However, many of these students remain without their own sponsor and might have to be dropped from this program as result. It costs $200 per year to provide a student in need with school uniforms, shoes, school bag, books, and other supplies and costs.
Each time I return from my visits to Sierra Leone I bring thank-you letters, written by each student to their sponsor, and photos of each student, which are then sent to each sponsor personally by me.
Esther Conteh first came to us in January, 2016. She presented with the right side of her face ballooned out, her jaw being shifted to the left by a tumor. She had been previously been working as a police officer, but had to give up her job due to the appearance of the tumor. We had Esther start receiving weekly chemotherapy treatment from our oral surgeon in Freetown, but her tumor only grew larger.
In 2017 we were able to send Esther to the Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. There her tumor was successfully excised, and she returned to Sierra Leone. However, despite the surgery, the tumor had eaten away so much of her lower-and-upper-right jawbones that her face was left with a large divot, and she wore a sling to hold the right side of her mouth closed.
I was very surprised on April 1, 2019, when Esther turned up where we were unloading supplies from our storage container. She was nicely dressed, no-longer needing the sling to hold her mouth closed. I learned that she is now living in our village just a few houses away from our storage container and that she has been reinstated as a police officer.
We are a unique organization in that we use 100% of of the funds donated here for the medical and surgical care of Sierra Leonean children and adult patients. No part of these funds go for administrative costs.
In Sierra Leone, simple surgeries cost slightly over $100. No donation is too small. Every dollar counts.
Africa Surgery, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit. Your donations are tax-deductible in the United States.