Every year Dr. Fuller Robinson of Roanoke, Virginia comes to BMC to do mobile dental clinics in the region. He’s 88 years old and refuses to let that stop him. This year he came out to do his 41st trip since 1981!
Trey had a dental visit in the US last December but we thought it wise to swing him by Dr. Robinson’s office at BMC while he was in town. The dentist poked around a few minutes and declared Trey’s teeth to be perfect. He also invited me to come along with him on one of his village trips.
The next day I followed him to a remote village near the Ghana/Togo border. There over 140 Bimoba men, women and kids were waiting for him and his team. They all had teeth that they wanted pulled. All morning long, Dr. Robinson, Tommy Harrison, three BMC staff and two doctors volunteering from Boston looked into mouths and removed teeth.
After about 4 hours and the crowd of patients seeming to grow, Dr. Robinson finally told me to put my camera down, don some gloves and get to work! He patiently showed me how to patient pull a tooth (you don’t actually pull, but gently and steadily wiggle it back and forth until it loosens and rolls out) and then gave me my first patient. The triage would send me the easy, simple cases and refer the more complex ones to the pros.
A couple hours later, with the sun low in the sky, I looked up and saw the queue was finally gone. Never in my life did I think I’d go out to shoot photos and end up pulling 27 teeth in the process!
Heidi does her fair share of amputations at BMC in Nalerigu, Ghana. Sometimes they are due to traumas but sadly, many of the amputations are due to poor wound management. A snake bite treated unsuccessfully with traditional medicines. A wound not cleaned properly that festers and becomes gangrene.
A few months ago, she had a series of amputations to do in a short period of time and became aware that the theatre only had one manual bone saw and it couldn’t be sterilized fast enough to do the all the amputations necessary. She ended up doing all the cases but had to spread them out across several days so that the tool would be available.
A medical volunteer who was coming out heard about that issue and generously provided a high-powered, battery-operated bone saw kit for Heidi’s work. We’re so grateful that God brings people along at just the right time who bless us with their generosity.
Recently, a young mom from Nalerigu brought her 18 month-old son for me to evaluate for surgery to fix his inguinal hernia. The child had been admitted several times with problems related to the hernia, so the mother was anxious for it to be fixed. I scheduled the child for surgery. As I talked with the mother, she seemed very familiar to me. I finally realized that she is the wife of one our friends in town, the painter “Boyz2Men.” Her father-in-law is a town elder and also one of our friends. I had even taken a photo with her and her (then) newborn baby boy in November 2014 after we had first arrived in Nalerigu.
I performed the hernia repair on the boy, but had a small complication which required him to remain hospitalized for an extra week. While he was hospitalized, William went to the hospital to read Bible stories to my patient’s mom and the mothers of patients nearby on the ward. She is a Christian and was helping William to clarify the stories in Mampruli for the other ladies listening in.
About a week after I discharged the child home, William and I went to their family house to greet them and check on the child. I praise God for the child’s full recovery. I also am thankful for another connection to people and families in Nalerigu.
A young woman was admitted to BMC, Nalerigu, Ghana with a very large, necrotic tumor (consistent with a cancer) just above her right knee. It was painful. It was crawling with maggots. She had already undergone several surgeries, but the tumor returned each time. A large lymph node was present in the groin (signifying metastasis). After considering alternatives, she requested an amputation as palliation to take away her pain. We successfully completed the amputation and her pain was much improved. I kept her in the hospital until about post-op day 10 to ensure that the stump closure was healing well. We found crutches for her and she was a pro in no time. The day before she was discharged, she had “walked” into town on her own.
She is a Mamprusi woman who amazingly understood when I spoke in Mampruli. During her time in the hospital I had several opportunities to talk with her about Jesus and to encourage her. Also, she has a daughter with the same Mampruli name as KJ – “God’s gift” or “grace.” To God be the glory for his amazing gift and the hope that we have because of his grace.