A day of contrasts

head and hand surgery
Simultaneous work on the hand and head 
I’ve done many different types of trauma cases over the years but today was a first! Not in terms of the actual operative work, but the circumstances.  In local villages they have instituted the concept of community police. Our young patient was one volunteer who helped form the police force. It seems that he arrested a man last week, who took his revenge against the volunteer today – with a machete! He presented to Tenwek with massive bleeding from the head and a nearly amputated right thumb. It appeared that he tried to deflect at least one blow with his hand. My role was to guide an African intern through a debridement of his skull fractures and repair of his head lacerations. It appears the attacker struck with full force to the back of the head with at least four blows.  The widest wound had a three inch segment of skull where the machete had severed off the outer layer of bone, coming dangerously close to getting into the brain.  
teaching surgery to medical students
Intern and medical students
What strikes me as so ironic is that vicious attacks like this occur frequently, but my experience of Africans are that they are warm, kind and extremely courteous people. The patients here go out of their way to say thank you, even if they don’t speak English. One terminally ill lady today, was insistent that I understood what she was trying to say after we had finished a painful procedure. She said the same Kipsigi word over and over – an OR tech finally translated it as “thank you very much.” The families here will understand very little of what I say, but they nod in affirmation that I’m trying.  Most times, I think I could be describing Disney World and they would nod just the same.  But they continue to thank me over and over, because they know that I am not one of them, yet I came to help them in their need. I came to do what they cannot do for themselves and that they could never repay me. What they probably don’t know, is that I do this because Christ came to help me in my need.  He did for me what I could never do for myself – he offered me life eternal knowing that I could never repay him for his mercy.  I am here to offer these people compassion and love, because God loved me first!