On Thursday, May 15 general surgeon Gwen Liu and orthopedic surgeons Frank Wijffels and Harry de Vries went to Arusha on behalf of the Njokuti Foundation to do their orthopedic work.
It was this time a somewhat special tour because of the equipment we brouht with us: an incubator specially designed for tropical conditions by the Dutch Gynaecologist van Hemel from Delft.
The whole package weighed no more less than 32 pounds, but thanks to the help of the “Pilots Without Borders”, we could take the incubator with us for free. Also we were allowed to take 40 pounds of plaster and bandages with us; an orthopedic surgeon is indeed very handicapped without his plaster.
Upon arrival we were shown to Arusha to spend the night in the monastery of the Spiritans, originally an American Catholic missionary order. Friday we were shown the surgical wards of the Selian Hospital. for an extended visit to go to the surgical wards. The Kenyan orthopaedic surgeon Morilla works together with the Tanzanian surgeon Kisanga.
As always we ended working in the operating room, in particular to clean up infected wounds and doing re-amputations.
On Saturday we went to Lake Manyara to see the beautiful nature and watching hornbills.
On Sunday, the Flying Medical Service took us to Wasso, where the Dutch physician Christiaan van Rij works, together with his wife Mariska and their newborn son. Wasso is located in the province of Loliondo and forms the border with Kenya. The population consists of the Maasai people. They migrate with their herds through the plains, where they often come into contact with wild animals. Indeed, just as previous visits, we did see patients from the region with lion bites. (see photo below).
The Sunday afternoon was spent on the ward where we saw many children with burn wounds who could be helped by Gwen. These children often develop scar tissue around joints, because of which the joints no longer function properly. By removing scars and placing skin grafts you can avoid a lot of grief later. Christiaan was instructed by Gwen Liu in doing skin grafts and after three days of intensive training, Gwen left Wasso a better doctor. For me Monday and Tuesday were special. I did a consultation with the Congolese doctor of the hospital, Dr. Felicia. There were a lot of contractures of hands and fingers to been seen. We thought it that it could be useful in the future to ask a plastic surgeon may to visit Loliondo with us, together with an orthopedic surgeon.
Many clubfeet, bone infections and bowed legs were treated by orthopedic expertise. Much advice was given on treatments in the long term. Again, instructions were given on how to treat clubfeet with a plaster.
On Wednesday afternoon, while Gwen was still in surgery, the aircraft flew over the hospital. This was the signal that we had to go to the airstrip to visit our next spot: Makiungu hospital, where the Medical Missionaries of Mary run a very well equipped hospital. Last year we were there for the first time. It was exciting for us to see if last year’s advises we had given were followed and to see how the operated children were doing. Gwen flew on to Arusha, while Frank Wijffels and I remained in Makiungu.
The visit was very nice because we saw 12 out of the 13 clubfeet operated patients back. All these children now walked without crutches and / or other support. This may seem strange, but the children we were operating last year, were mostly older than 10 years and had never been treated for clubfeet. Together with Dr. Sheila from the Makiungu hospital we have set up a special program set up for the clubfeet: Njokuti foundation takes care of all costs for operations and plaster after-treatment. Moreover, Njokuti foundations pays a penny to the mother if she shows up with her child for the plastertreatment. The sooner you start with plaster treatment, the more chance you have of preventing a bigger operation in the future. That is the aim of Njokuti.
On Friday there was time in the program for a very special visit: the rehabilitation center for children with physical and / or mental disabilities. The last few years I have seen a growing interest in disabled children in Africa, especially Tanzania. In a small village, about 10 km away from Makiungu hospital, lives an Irish priest who listens to the name of Tom. There, in the middle of nowhere a beautiful rehabilitation center for disabled children has been set up. The photos will speak for themselves hopefully. Last year, many of the children with clubfeet were sent to us by Father Tom. The center now houses 46 children, who have a special teacher in a special classroom in the school next to where the rehabilitation center is located.
As you can see on the photos, we have seen many children with orthopaedic problems because soon a Tanzanian professor in orthopedics would come along and we would like to discuss a number of these cases with him, to see if surgery was needed.
It was an emotional visit. We thought well to recommend to the board of the foundation Njokuti this wonderful work to get further future support.
On Saturday we left with a plane of the MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship Aries) to Arusha. On Sunday back to the Netherlands. What a visit: too short and too busy.
The next time will be no different.
Writen by: Harry de Vries