Even one successful surgery per day is an important achievement

by Katja Völkl/RBU, 2012/03/15

Medical emergency missions of humedica teams are always about offering necessary and often life-saving treatment to a large number of injured persons as soon as possible. Patients like Yvette, whom our media coordinator Katja Völkl reports about from Makelekele in Brazzaville, are representative for the many people who receive help by humedica.

“Our minibus passes through a gate that is guarded by soldiers. Some of them regard us with sceptical looks. However, when the medical staff at the reception come to realise that we are a team of doctors and want to offer our services, we are welcomed friendly and gratefully.

With Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres and Dr. Philipp Fischer among others, our team in the Congo consists of experienced relief doctors. Photo: humedica/Katja Völkl

A Congolese doctor in green surgery clothes leads us through the narrow passages. We are confronted with a nauseating smell. It smells of dried blood, sweat and faeces. And then there is the heat and the high air humidity which cause the impression of standing in a washhouse.

The hospital rooms are shared by six to eight patients, with women and men of different ages being mixed. There are mattress toppers with large flower patterns. Some of the beds are even occupied by two persons. A few cooling fans have been set up in order to bring some relief from the heat.

We are met by tired, sad and often desperate faces. However, when we pass from bed to bed and shake the patients’ hands, they smile at us. An old and worn Bible is lying on a man’s bed next to the bandaged stump of his amputated leg.

The Congolese doctor takes us to the bed of a woman. Both her legs are wrapped in bandages. Her name is Yvette. She was in a garage, when the explosion went off. She has suffered third-degree burns to both her legs.

This is a case for Prof. Dr. Dr. Domres from Tübingen. He is specialised in burns and has brought special material. We ask her if she agrees to be operated by us. After some initial hesitation, she finally comes to trust us and agrees.

The surgery takes place on the following day. This time the smell is different. I can smell cleaning agents and disinfectants besides the indefinable smell. Everywhere, both outdoors on the parking lot and inside the hospital building, there are persons cleaning, sweeping and mopping the floors.

Third-degree burns are so severe that damage and destruction even affect the patient’s nerves. Photo: humedica/Katja Völkl

As they already know us, today we are given a warm welcome by the African doctor team. The patient Yvette is getting prepared for the surgery. However, this takes a long time and there is nothing else for us to do, than to wait. For more than one hour. In a room with defective air conditioning. Two pairs of shoes are standing next to the desk: polished black army boots and a pair of slippers that had once been white, but are now spattered with blood. Behind the door there is a stepped on cockroach.

When we finally put on the sterile surgery clothes, I immediately feel like I would suffocate in the heat. We enter a fairly large surgery room. Apart from the old surgery lamp, nothing in this sparsely furnished room would suggest that people are operated in here. Furthermore, the lamp does not work. Well, then we must work without it.

Yvette is already lying on the operating table. Dr. Fischer, who has been active in disaster regions with humedica several times, walks over to his patient and gently encourages her. Again we have to wait for some time, until we get hair nets, face masks and surgical instruments. Eventually, also the African team of doctors joins us. The anaesthetist applies local anaesthesia to Yvette.

After the anaesthesia has taken effect, we remove the bandages from her right leg. A terrible burn is revealed.

Professor Domres and Dr. Fischer start to remove the burnt skin. For me, as someone who doesn’t come from the medical field, this is a highly uncomfortable and disturbing sight. The African doctors watch curiously, pass surgical instruments and pads and it is obvious that they are highly interested in the proceedings of the German doctors.

After some time, the wound has been cleaned of dead tissue. It is disinfected and then the wound is covered with the new, artificial skin little by little. The artificial skin looks somewhat like a very thin handkerchief. After the wound has been covered completely, Dr. Fischer wraps it carefully in new bandages. The surgery has been successfully completed.

Yvette is representative for the numerous persons who have already been treated by humedica, and for those who are still waiting for our help. Photo: humedica/Katja Völkl

On the next morning, we look in on Yvette. Considering the circumstances, she is feeling well. The doctors are satisfied. It was a successful operation. And hence a successful and important day.”

Yvette is one of an estimated number of 2,000 persons who sustained severe injuries during the series of explosions in Brazzaville. Thanks to the humedica team, her burns could be treated adequately. Thanks to your help, dear friends and sponsors, our medical experts can offer their services to Yvette and other patients.

Please continue to support our relief measures in the Republic of Congo by means of a targeted donation. Thank you very much.

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Disaster Congo
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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