For those of you who may have missed it, last Monday, September 12 was one of two main Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. You guessed it, it commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael. It also marks the end of the annual Hajj to Mecca.
We live in a predominantly Muslim country (60%), so as soon as the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia set the date officially as September 12, it became a national holiday. So Mobile Clinic was cancelled, but things were pretty much as usual at the hospital. A hospital, like Las Vegas, never sleeps you know, or takes vacation.
That being said it was pretty much an uneventful quiet day until about 4:30 in the afternoon. Mr. Fobbie came to my office as I was starting to pack things up to go home.
“Mr. Abu is going to Mamamah to attend to Mr. Augustine Conteh”, he told me.
“Oh, why is that? What happened?”
“He was on his way home and was in an accident.”
“Is it serious?”
“I think so, they took him to his house.”
I am a surgeon after all, and so I thought I should go along and check it out for myself, plus I figured it would be a morale booster for Mr. Conteh, who is our head nurse.
Mr. Abu and I quickly got together a few supplies, not having a clue what we would find. Afterwards I realized we left the BP cuff and IV supplies behind. Next time we will try to have an emergency kit prepared.
Pa Sanko, our intrepid driver, the man who has no fear, holding Augustine’s older girl, Rachel.
We hopped in the van with Pa Sanko and Mr. Abu had prayer. We desperately needed that prayer. I have spent many hours in the van with Pa Sanko at the wheel. He is a pretty aggressive driver. This time it was the Indy 500 and we were making up for too much time lost in the pits. I buckled in tight, and tried to concentrate on my solitaire game and not count the times we passed one or two cars going our direction while being passed by cars going in the opposite direction. These guys have incredible depth perception, they miss each other by millimeters, or sometimes not.
20 minutes later (of the usual 30 minute trip) we pulled into Augustine’s front yard. Abu and I hopped out and followed the sounds of wailing to the little carport behind the house, where they had held the naming ceremony for Augustine’s baby girl, Sarah.
Mr. Conteh was laid out on the cement on a pink lacy sheet. He was surrounded by probably 50 friends and relatives, many of whom were wailing and wringing their hands. One woman was standing over him pointing to a mass protruding from his bare abdomen. At first I thought he was dead, but then I noticed he was breathing. We did a quick primary survey and found nothing imminently life threatening, other than all the noise and commotion. His pulse was full and strong and didn’t feel too fast. I breathed a sigh of relief as we began the secondary survey.
The mass in his abdomen turned out to be an old hernia, apparently this woman had not seen him before without his shirt, so she thought it was new. He was able to talk fairly normally and answer questions. They said his left leg was broken and it had a traditional splint in place. Abdomen was soft and non tender, chest was normal. Glasgow Coma Scale was 15.
OK, this is good. I really didn’t want my head nurse dying on me in front of all these people, actually I didn’t want him dying on me at all. But I did want him back at the hospital where we could watch him in case something did show up.
I suggested we get him moved to the van, so 5 guys got on the right side of the sheet leaving me and one other skinny Sierra Leonean for the left side. I had visions of this not going well, but it was still better than the Tchadien method of transport; 4 men, each one holding a different limb with the head flopping around loose. We got him in the van without incident and tried to reassure the weeping crowd that he was going to be alright. Unfortunately, it is a van, so he had to sit semi-upright on the seat so we could fit all of him inside.
As we headed out I told Sankoh that Augustine was OK and we could go a little slower. I have always been opposed to accidents involving rescue vehicles, especially if I am inside.
I was now able to talk with Augustine and find out what had happened. He had been on his moto and was turning left onto the road going to Mamamah and failed to see the other motorcycle trying to pass him on his left (very common practice). So the left side of his body took all the force.
As we drove along I reflected on all the people weeping and wailing as they gathered around Augustine as he lay there. I realized that they had seen this before and knew that he was badly injured and for all they knew he was going to die. Augustine is the one who has the good job, so he supports a large part of the family. Their future lay on that sheet. What would happen to them if he died, or was no longer able to work? So it was truly a cry of frightened desperate people who had no control over the situation or the future.
When we got to Waterloo his brother-in law, who had come with us, said he was hungry so we stopped at a favorite cafe and picked up some food. At that point Augustine still looked pretty good, but then he commented that he was tired. I was really hoping that it was all the excitement and the broken leg talking…
At the hospital he was loaded up on a gurney and quickly moved to the private room that had already been prepared for him. I found out later that while we were gone the whole staff had gathered together and prayed for Augustine and for our safety as well. God answers prayer is all I can say.
As we moved Augustine onto the bed I noticed his skin, previously dry and warm was now cool and clammy. Oh boy, direct left side hit, hard enough to break a leg. Hard enough to break a spleen, too? His pulse, once full, regular and slow was now fast and thready. While the staff got things together for starting an IV I got my ultrasound to do a quick scan of his abdomen. I really am not very experienced at these, and frankly not very good, but by God’s grace I quickly found his spleen and it looked pretty good. I didn’t like the black at the end of it though. I looked in the pelvis, a little black around the outside of the bladder. Then I looked at the left abdomen, black in the gutter, and I could see the bowels floating in a black sea. Black on normal mode ultrasound is liquid. In this case blood. Great.
My head nurse has a ruptured spleen. I have no night time OR, yet. I hope and pray he is not one of the few that don’t stop bleeding on their own. Mr. Abu got two IV’s going. I noted that we would need to be talking about the concept of “LARGE” bore IV’s for trauma. But the 22 gauges worked. 500 cc of fluid later he started to look around again and he quit sweating. After a liter he was talking normally and his skin started to warm up. Adequate blood pressure for brain perfusion has always been a favorite of mine.
Augustine feeling much better.
I examined his leg and decided he just had a broken fibula, the little bone on the outside of the leg. The main bone, the tibia, was fine. I put a splint on it and then had prayer with him and told him I would be back in a couple hours to check on him.
At home I filled Bekki in and confessed my worries about what I was going to do if he didn’t stop bleeding like the book said he was supposed to. Patients have a nasty habit of not reading the books before coming into the hospital. We are not really set up yet to do surgery outside of regular hours. We are working on it, but it will take some time yet. So she called on her prayer team through e-mail and face book.
About 9:00 pm we went down the hospital and checked in on him. He looked pretty good, awake, alert, pulse good, abdomen soft, no pain except in the leg. I gave the nurses their final instructions and told them to call if he got sweaty again.
I have to confess I did not sleep well that night, waiting for my phone to ring. Praise God my phone stayed silent all night. I hurried down to the hospital early so I could check on him before worship, and was greatly relieved to see him holding court in his room very awake and alert and already busy disobeying doctor’s orders.
The big grin is because he had been eating against my orders.
At worship that morning I noticed that Augustine was the scheduled speaker. I told him later that if he really didn’t want to do worship all he needed to do was talk with someone, having an accident was really not necessary. He got a good laugh out of that.
A very relieved Mrs. Conteh holding the baby Sarah, and a shy Rachel standing next to the bed.
By Friday he was well enough to go home. Sunday morning at 6:30 my phone rang. Augustine called to thank me for taking good care of him, and to assure me that he was doing OK. I thanked him for calling, but have to confess that my thoughts were more of, “If you really want to thank me, don’t call me at 6:30 on Sunday morning:)”
Intercessory prayer works, it kept us alive during Sankoh’s mad dash to Mamamah, it stopped the bleeding in Augustine’s spleen, it helped us get the IV’s going in time. I cannot praise God enough that I was not faced with doing a splenectomy on him at 2 in the morning. We are not set up to deal with major trauma’s, but by God’s grace our head nurse will be back at work in early October.
It also showed me that we really do need an ambulance. Lights and siren would have been nice. A real ambulance gurney in the back of an ambulance that was already stocked with the supplies we needed would be nicer. As we grow, these kind of emergencies are going to be more common, we need to be ready to meet them. When we do the best we can with what we have, God makes up the difference. When we are just lazy and don’t plan ahead, and don’t work to remedy our deficiencies and ask God for help, it is presumption.
Despite the fact that Bekki did not serve mutton for supper that Monday night, it was an Eid al-Adha I won’t soon forget.
Paul checking Augustine’s BP at his home today.
Epilogue: We visited Augustine today as he lives just a couple hundred yards from our Mobile Clinic in Mamamah. He is doing well. Hemoglobin is stable, he is eating, no dizziness, minimal pain. We praise God for His mercies and healing. sg
A very happy Mr. Conteh on his bed at home, showing off his fancy cast-boot, and sitting up with no dizzyness.
For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.
We welcome volunteers.