Kaday Conteh lost her mother when she was three. Her father, a poor farmer, had never been able to send Kaday or her two older sisters and older brother to school. Kaday’s neck was mysteriously fractured when she was left in the care of neighbors for two weeks around the time of her mother’s illness. Kaday then remained in the care of her grandmother, who is blind, while her father and siblings did farm work
By age five when Kaday was first seen by Africa Surgery, she could not hold her head up straight, she was partially paralyzed on the right side of her body so had difficulty standing or walking, and seemed to be is some pain. Africa Surgery fit Kaday with a neck brace in the hope that it might help straighten her neck as she continued to grow. After eight months Kaday had grown a bit and her neck was much straighter, her pain seemed over, and she had regained the complete use of the right side of her body.
In September, 2018, Africa surgery had Kaday enrolled in the local primary school in her village, and found a donor who committed to sponsoring Kaday’s schooling for $200 per year through Africa Surgery’s Student Sponsorship Program. Kaday is making progress in her school work with help from a Sierra Leonean ASI team member who tutors Kaday after school. It is hoped that Kaday will become the first person in her family to be able to read and to write.
On October 25, when Africa Surgery first saw Kadiatu Conteh, a 27 year-old mother of one, we feared that the large tumor that was blocking most of her mouth might kill her. We needed to get her a passport and have her cleared for travel on a commercial flight to Kenya, where her tumor could be excised by surgeon specialists. Fortunately, Dr. Don Davis, the oral surgeon in Freetown, Sierra Leone, determined that because the 14-month old tumor seemed to be benign, it did not involve her bone, jawbone, teeth, or tongue. He could remove it himself. At first, however, it was not possible to operate on her because of the level hemoglobin in her blood.
After lots of liquid dietary supplements and a few blood transfusions, Kadiatu was finally ready for surgery. Her tumor was removed on December 24. Kadiatu will need some further reconstructive surgery, but her prognosis is very good and her gratitude, expressed with few words, is immense.
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.
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.