Monday, March 4, 2013

An All Too Common Story - Part 1

Written by Jessica Morse, 4th year medical student at VCOM

It was our third day here when we first met her. The mama had come to the hospital and was sitting in her brightly colored kanga in our intake area with the baby on her lap. I didn’t think much of it initially, as I was gathering supplies to suture someone in the next room. However, as I walked passed, the mama dropped the kanga from around the baby, revealing a severe burn. I winced. Burns are exceedingly painful, and this one was really bad. 

Most of the baby’s back and a significant portion of her trunk had been scalded. Hot cornmeal porridge (uji) is a staple here, and this little girl had somehow managed to pull a whole pot of it down on herself. 

Concerned, our team assessed and tended the wound in conjunction with the Tanzanian attending doctor. I came back in the room just as they finished dressing the wound, and we gave the mother instructions to return the following morning. Later, when we discussed the case with Ty, we came to realize how life-threatening burns like this can be in this setting. The mama and baby had already left the clinic to go back home, and we tried to figure out the best way to contact them to “admit” them to the hospital overnight for observation. Landline phones are non-existent, as are addresses. Someone had seen the family make a left turn out of the clinic. We decided to send our night guard after the family to ask them to return sooner. He set off down a narrow dirt path between two cornfields as dusk settled in. Unable to do anything more, we began to pray- to pray that he would find them, to pray that they would know how important it was to come back, to pray that God would somehow intervene in this little girl’s life, to pray that He would heal her, to pray that she would make it through the night.
Several hours later, as we joined the children at City of Hope for their evening music and dancing, we saw Dr. Ben come and get Ty. Though I was tired, I waited up, hoping to hear news of the little girl. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that they had found her, that the family was willing to spend the night at the hospital, that the burn looked better than Ty had initially anticipated. God had answered the first of our prayers.

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