Almost everyday at the clinic or in our outreach programs I see something that makes me say “Wow!” The other day at the clinic we had a young child come in with her mother and not only was I saying wow but also one of our clinical officers, Dr. Oliver, was saying wow as well. The young child, not even 2 years old, had a compound fracture of the right upper arm that was severely infected. The arm was dangling uselessly next to the child’s body and smelled rotten. The child’s arm had clearly been like it was for a number of days and of course getting worse and more infected each day. By the time Dr. Oliver and I saw the child, it was clear that the child would lose her arm but also that the child might die from the infection. As it turned out, the child also had malaria!
The story of how this had happened to the child was also very unclear. It was difficult to get a straight story from the mother. Of course our concern was treating the child since this was definitely a time sensitive situation. We did find out that the child was initially seen at a government hospital but the parents were unhappy with the care there so they took the child to a witch doctor, which is very common in Uganda. Depending on where people live and their means, many people do consult witch doctors for health problems as well as a whole variety of other problems such as putting a curse on someone or getting rid of a curse that someone has put on them, etc.
In this case, the child had clearly gotten a lot worse since the treatment from the witch doctor, which included wrapping the arm with a poultice of some kind. Luckily, when the child was getting worse instead of better, the mother had decided to come to us. In cases like these, where the problem is complex and involves a surgical intervention, we refer the patients to different hospitals in Kampala. In this particular case, we were able to refer the patient very quickly to Kampala and the child was operated on in time and started on IV antibiotics. The arm was amputated, but the child survived. Since our initial visit, the child has made a very good recovery, which is totally miraculous! So I am always thankful for the small miracles like this one.