Replacement of artificial skin necessary due to infections

by Stefanie Huisgen, 2012/06/21

About 2,000 persons were injured when an ammunition dump exploded in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville on March 4 of this year. Among the victims suffering from severe burns are also Bernard, 52, and Yvette, 48. Both of them sustained partly life-threatening third-degree burns.

“Despite the difficult circumstances, the people bear their fate with dignity“, says Klaus Ruhrmann deeply impressed about the explosion victims in the Republic of the Congo. Photo: humedica

The first humedica mission team that had been sent immediately after the disaster and was headed by the experienced relief doctor Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres from Tübingen, covered the burnt parts of the bodies of the two severely injured patients with artificial skin and by doing so probably saved their lives. Due to the hot temperatures and the insufficient hygienic conditions at the Brazzaville Hospital, the German doctors had even then feared that the injuries would become infected. This threat could not be banned even after a successful first treatment.

As a consequence, in order to enable an optimal recovery process, it was essential to change the dressings and clean the wounds on a daily basis. Despite careful follow-up treatment, however, an infection of some of the affected body parts could not be prevented neither for Bernard, nor for Yvette. Therefore, another surgery was necessary after the infections had healed, in order to remove the affected parts of skin and replace them with artificial skin.

This time, the surgery was done by Klaus Ruhrmann, who spent four weeks in the Republic of the Congo in order to ensure follow-up treatment for the patients after the departure of the two humedica teams. Thanks to his professional surgical training in the fields of traumatology, orthopaedics, anaesthetics and intensive-care medicine, the retired orderly was able to do the necessary surgery.

The infected skin particles were removed and replaced piece by piece with artificial skin. Klaus Ruhrmann followed the example of his predecessors’ method: “I think that for skin transplantations or the application of artificial skin the “shingle method” is best. When applying this method, the skin is not placed in one piece, but in several small pieces. In the case of an infection it is then possible to renew only the affected places and it is not necessary to once more remove the entire piece of skin.

For Bernard, who had sustained severe burns to his face, his upper body and his right arm during the explosion at the beginning of March, the surgery lasted four hours. “Due to the infection we now had to apply new artificial skin to a palm-sized skin surface of his thorax (upper body), as well as to his right upper and lower arm down to his hand”, told Klaus Ruhrmann after his return. He worked together with a local nurse who assisted him with treating the wounds and by doing so expanded her own skills.

The treatment took somewhat less time for Yvette, who had sustained burns to both legs. Within three hours Klaus Ruhrmann applied new pieces of artificial skin to her right leg, on the “proximal side of her lower leg down to the calf area”. When he departed once more, the honorary humedica assistant was optimistic that the wound healing process would now progress without any further complications thanks to the treatment with Suprathel, as the special artificial skin is called by experts in the medical field. The artificial skin for the patients was provided by the Polymedics company.

„After the departure of Prof. Domres, Klaus Ruhrmann had taken particular care of Yvette and Bernard and had taken all measures possible in order to improve the state of health of the two severely injured patients”, reported Dr. Goma-Foutou during his visit at the humedica headquarters in Germany. Photo: humedica

However, the news we have recently received from the Republic of the Congo, is not entirely positive. In the framework of a stay in Germany, Dr. Emmanuel Célestin Goma-Foutou, who had assisted the humedica team during their mission, paid us a short visit in Kaufbeuren. Shortly before his departure to Germany, the former Minister of the Interior had visited the two patients at hospital.

Yvette’s state is as good as can be expected under the circumstances, she is taken care of every day and in the meantime she is able to get up and walk once more without assistance”, Dr. Goma-Foutou tells us pleased about this development. Unfortunately, the Head of the Prayer Breakfast Group of the Parliament of the Republic of the Congo cannot give us such a positive account regarding Bernard's state of health: "Bernard's state has deteriorated substantially, since his wounds got infected once more. When I visited him, he was deeply upset and he was crying."

We will do anything in our power to continue our help for Bernard", humedica CEO Wolfgang Groß promised Dr. Goma-Foutou.

Dear friends and sponsors, again and again the humedica team members encounter persons like Bernard during their missions, whose fate touches the relief assistants particularly deeply and who depend on your special support. Please make a donation for the field of Individual Case Aid in order to help humedica offer targeted aid to these persons. Thank you very much.

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Individual Case Aid
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
      SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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