By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.
Well, not literally in water, but in the mission effort.
During a two-week stay in Africa at the Nigerian Christian Hospital, Dr. Bone and his coworkers Dr. Henry Farrar, Dr. George Robertson and Don Thompson from Nashville performed more than 60 surgical cases in this Third World facility. The types of procedures performed ranged from routine hernias sometimes called ruptures, to resection of malignancies. Especially rewarding to Dr. Farrar were the results of cleft lip cases he did on young children and one 50-year-old man.
Immersion happened daily in sweat produced under the hot operating lights in the inefficiently air-conditioned environment. It also occurred with cesarean sections when the water broke. It occurred with surgery on tumors filled with fluid in such volume that it filled your shoes by the end of the case. (Suction equipment doesn’t work when the electricity goes off.)
Dr. Bone was astounded by the patient’s pathological processes which often reached the extremes. We started the week by helping a local doctor with an ectopic pregnancy. The blood in the abdominal cavity was removed through a needle and given back to the patient intravenously, a life-saving process rarely if ever used in the USA.
Life also hung in the balance with another case of a 5-year-old child near death from getting a ballpoint pen top caught in his throat. He was given new life with a tracheotomy (cutting a hole in his windpipe so that he could breathe).
The doctors thought the patients were the most trusting and appreciated their services more than ones seen in this country. It was overwhelming to have the hospital completely filled with preoperative and postoperative patients. Many had to wait for a bed opening before coming in for their procedure.
Dr. Bone made quite a hit with the hospital staff when he started giving out Obama buttons (left over from the Presidential campaign). Everyone there likes the idea of a black American being president. Bush is also revered for his contributions to securing help to the many people in the nation who have HIV AIDS. More than 300 patients at the hospital clinic have been signed up for this program supported by funds initiated by the Bush administration.
Living conditions in the area have not improve in more than 30 years except for the introduction of the cell phone which many of the patients possess (how can they afford them?).
There is less crime now, according to the taxi driver, because of vigilante efforts of throwing gasoline on a thief and immediately setting him on fire. This astonishing form of punishment is simplified by cell phone users who can report a robbery in progress.
Editor’s Note: Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.