By Guest Blogger Dr Carol Spears
When the staff at Hope for Sudan had first discovered Night, her foot wound was so badly infected it was thought that amputation would be likely. The pictures that they sent to me were after a couple of weeks of daily wound care and dressing changes by Peter and Anthony, the dedicated and compassionate fulltime nurses at Hope for Sudan. The wounds had made significant progress, but I was very concerned that Night’s foot might not be able to be saved. I sent her pictures to a missionary colleague who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery to ask his advice on trying to save her foot. He immediately emailed back detailed suggestions for flaps that could take soft tissue from other parts of the body to transfer to the foot to attempt to save Night’s leg.
His encouragement to save this little girl’s foot was all I needed to try and “go for it”. But I knew that trying anything very major in a limited clinic setting would add to an already risky operation. So, I began an email dialog with Make Way Partners that turned into a face to face dialog as we left for our trip to S. Sudan on February 1st about the feasibility of bringing Night to Tenwek to get the surgery I thought she needed. Immediately their response regarding the possibility of some type of medical evacuation was fully supportive and positive!
After seeing Night in person, my heart went out to this girl who would sometimes crawl the more than quarter mile distance to the clinic to get her dressing change if no one was around to take her in the wheel barrow. My heart was further touched as I watched her Sudanese caregivers at Hope for Sudan, patiently and compassionately (and slowly – not something we surgeons are good at!) remove her wound dressings, clean the wound, and redress it each day.
They would first of all get a large box to put behind her on the bed in the clinic so that she could sit up straight and be more comfortable. The pain of the dressing change would bring tears to her eyes which soon spilled over to run down her cheeks. Peter or Anthony or Amos would comfort her and encourage her and then help her try and walk using a plastic chair for a “walker” since no crutches or walkers were available. It was clear that their dedication to Night gave her hope that perhaps her foot could be saved.
To fast forward a bit, Make Way Partners brought Night to Tenwek. Last week, we operated on her foot to do a cross leg flap to put a cushion of tissue on the sole of her foot. The rest of the wounds were covered with split thickness skin graft. After the first few days of almost non-stop crying in a new environment, fearful of upcoming surgery, wondering what in the world was going to happen to her, I am happy to say that Night is now doing much better. She is still somewhat solemn at times and we find her to be quite sparing with doling out smiles – but oh, that makes it all the more special when she blesses you with one as she did for me tonight!
I stopped by on my way home to check on Night and on the other S. Sudanese patients Make Way Partners flew in with Night (Dominic and his baby sister). Night greeted me warmly and wanted me to see the pages she has been coloring in her Bible Story coloring book. I called Peter on the cell phone (Peter, the nurse from Hope for Sudan graciously agreed to come and be the translator and to assist with the care for these patients while they are at Tenwek). Peter explained to Night that I want to take her to the operating room tomorrow for a dressing change and to debride a portion of her skin graft that had become infected. Even with this news, she did not lose her cheerful demeanor and even interacted with me somewhat playfully and blessed me with a big smile and warm handshake as I left.
After traveling to the area of Night’s home, seeing the suffering of the people in her area, knowing how many of her friends and neighbors struggle to have enough food to eat and even one set of clothing to wear, I returned to Kenya thanking the Lord for the abundance of blessings in my own life. I have been thanking Him for the way that He has blessed Tenwek hospital to be able to care for patients in Africa. I am asking Him to help me to remember to be thankful always – to remember those who have literally nothing, those who are suffering and who are not able to get the medical care they need, to pray for people like Romano who lovingly heads up the ministry at Hope for Sudan and dreams bigger dreams of what is to come.
I pray that God will help me to remember to pray for Peter and Night and Dominic and the orphans at Hope for Sudan and selfless workers and teachers and helpers who serve the Lord where it is hard – really hard – and they do it with love. I am so honored to have been a part of it all for just a couple of weeks and for the chance now to help the ones that I can help.
- Please pray that Night’s surgery will be successful and that the infection we are fighting will be able to be controlled.
- Please pray for another S. Sudanese patient Dominic who is receiving treatment for malnutrition and for his Mom and baby sister who are here with him.
- Please pray for the staff at Tenwek that we will know how to reach out in love across cultural and language barriers to these patients.
Humbled by the Gift of Serving,
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