A few times a month my flights take me on overnight trips to places all over Zambia, I thought I’d give you a taste of what one of these types of flights look like! One of the organizations that we fly for works with specialist doctors and organizes for them to fly out to rural hospitals where there is a need for their specific specialization (orthopedics, gynecology, plastic surgeon etc). These trips are usually 3-4 days long and so the pilot usually stays for the duration to keep from having to make two trips. The last trip I did was with an orthopedic surgeon and a orthopedic post graduate student. On the first day we met early and took off out of Lusaka to a city called Mongu. If the roads are good one can drive to Mongu in about 8 hours, if the roads are in need of repair it can take double that, but it only takes 2 1/2 to fly there. So we arrived in Mongu mid-morning, and were picked up at the airport by the Irish Catholic sisters that run a guest house where we stay. After resting with a cup of tea, the doctors went to the hospital and screened the patients to see who was the most urgent and in which order to do the surgeries (they don’t want the most challenging to come last). The second day they began surgery early in the morning. I was allowed to come along and observe! So I got dressed up in some scrubs and hung out in the theatre. Here in Zambia (and the UK) we call an operating room a theatre, and what I saw was as good as a movie. 🙂 Sometimes they do as many as 15-20 surgeries in 1 day! In this particular location they have a large number patients so they stay and do 2 days of surgery, this time they did around 30 surgeries over 2 days. The final day the surgeons made their rounds and checked the patients, and then we headed back to the airplane and made the short trip home! If I’m not observing what the doctors are doing, I often ask around (or get asked) to do odd jobs that need done at the mission stations or places we stay at. Or I sit and write prayer letters, catch up on emails, and do website postings, just like the one you’re reading now. But really lets be honest, for me watching surgery is much more interesting. 🙂
Most of the surgeries that I saw were for a problem called Club Foot. A child with Club Foot is born with the tendons in the foot and ankle too short on the inside of the foot causing it to be pulled inward. In most western countries it is a relatively easy fix with casts and braces used until the child walks to stretch and lengthen the affected tendons and put the foot in a normal position. However, here in Zambia most children with club foot aren’t treated until they are close to or already walking. At that stage it requires surgery to correct. The surgeons basically go in and cut some of the tendons longways in half and then on one side each at the ends of the slit and then sew the two pieces back together, effectively making the tendon longer. It can heal that way and will strengthen itself as it heals. This then allows the foot to extend out and lay flat as it should! Quite interesting to watch the whole thing first hand! Something I’d never be able to do in the states…I’ve included some pictures but they aren’t for the weak stomached so be warned!!!