November 22, 2013
The past week has seen the arrival of a group of Dutch orthopedic surgeons. They come for two weeks every year to perform as many operations as they can, mostly to fix the crooked legs of children with rickets. The hospital is noticeably busier, with families coming from all over Cameroon to wait for their child to receive the surgery. On Tuesday I was given the chance to shadow in the O.R. as the Dutch docs and Dr. Lazar split up into two teams to perform 12 operations. I showed up at 7:30, changed into sterile scrubs and watched as the Cameroonian O.R. staff prepared for the marathon of surgeries. Around 8 o’clock the Dutch team showed up along with Doctors Lazar and Fuko (the Cameroonian surgeons). It was clear the Dutch docs had been here before, as they quickly began hobnobbing with the Cameroonian scrub nurses and anesthetists.
After dawning their final layer of sterile gloves and surgical smocks, a quick prayer was said. As the CD player was turned on, the first round of surgeries began. Most of the operations involved removing a chuck of bone, pivoting the leg into a straight position, stapling the legs together in the straight formation, and then sealing it all up. I was allowed to help make the casts. The surgeons took small breaks in between operations, but worked six hours straight. The whole process ran as smoothly as could be; two unconscious, straight legged, children out, two panicked looking, pre-sedation, rickets-legged children in. Considering the magnitude of impact the surgeries will have on the kids’ lives, it’s a truly remarkable service they’re able to provide in such a small amount of time. The group will perform about 12 surgeries every day during their stay, and I hope to spend another day observing before they leave.
I spent the rest of the week shadowing in the pre-natal clinic and in the lab learning how to draw blood and run some basic tests.
About the author: Drew Fink is a graduate of University of Wisconsin where he was a pre-med student. He travelled to Cameroon to do a 3 month internship at the St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Njinikom.
The hospital is managed by MFH in-country partner Sr. Xaveria Ntenmusi and the Tertisary Sisters of St. Francis – Cameroon. These are entries from Drew’s journal about his experiences in Cameroon.