Many of you may remember Etienne. When we first met him, he was being held at the hospital because his family was not able to pay the bill. He is the little boy in Cameroon who suffered sever burns to his feet leading to the amputation of his right leg below the knee and the most of his left foot. The burns happened under "mysterious circumstances". Where most of us would have been angry and bitter, He is a happy, loving and outgoing child with an infectious smile. With some help, he was able to be discharged from the hospital and is practicing getting around with crutches. It is a real challenge on the bumpy dirt paths. He is currently looking at the possibility of more surgery and a long process of rehabilitation. The goal would be for for him to be able to get fitted for a prosthesis. Mbingo hospital, not too far from him, has an extensive physical therapy department where they also do prosthetics.
During the first week, I only knew 8 year old Etienne from a distance. He would greet me, “Hey Doc, Hey Doc” from the pediatric ward window next to his bed. He has a million dollar smile and a positive attitude that I later learned was in contrast to his circumstances (a lesson for all of us).
During the second week I walked over to his ward to see and get to know this kid with the infectious personality. It turns out that he was healing from burns that resulted in the loss of the right leg below the knee and most of his left foot. I later learned that this occurred under suspicious circumstances and likely an uncle had punished him by holding him in the fire (We have two other boys from the same village with burnt feet delivered as a punishment but fortunately they will respond to skin grafts and will not lose their limbs). The mission has a new child protection team that is getting involved.
Etienne's mother stays at the hospital caring for him and trying to reduce her overwhelming hospital bill for the multiple surgeries and lengthy rehab. She has paid off 80,000 CFA but 240,000 CFA ($400 US) remains that she cannot imagine covering. To make matters worse Etienne will need 6 months of rehab and a prosthetic right leg and prosthetic right foot. Fortunately, the sister mission hospital, Mbingo, a former Leprosy center, does this type of work but housing expenses, hospital expenses and prosthetics will be an additional $1200 US. These are remarkably low mission hospital prices that barely support the function of the hospital as they try to help as many sick people as possible.
Etienne is one of these special people we meet every trip who we believe, if given the chance, will have a special impact on the world around him. He is everyone's favorite patient and has a heart of forgiveness and joy despite his physical problems and the events that resulted in his injury. We have learned to be more forgiving and grateful because of Etienne's example.
Tedi is finally located! Larry Pepper, the doctor that we worked with in Kigoma, had been frantically trying to locate her since she left the hospital there. Her father had taken her home because the Kigoma hospital was not able to provide the care that she needed. We were so afraid that she would die before she could be found.
Once she was located, she and her father were sent by bus to Arusha. There they were welcomed to the "Plaster House". The "Plaster House" is a place where children requiring long term medical care can stay with their family and receive care.
She has now had her surgery and is on antibiotics to try to heal the infection in her bones.
After a long course of treatment, Tedi's arm was saved and she is finally being released from the hospital.