Typically, children and their parents arrive for registration day in hopes to be seen for surgery. Usually there are several hundreds of patients waiting to be seen. We attempt to triage as many as possible prioritizing by severity and the distance that have traveled. By day 2 we have an operating room schedule for the next week. Sometimes children are denied surgery due to an illness, which would make them a surgical risk. New patients continue to come after registration day and even though they are told that we are full, they continue to wait, sometimes for several days in the hopes that they might be seen by one of our doctors.
The most heart-wrenching thing for us is to walk though the waiting room passing all those that have been denied surgery or those who have come too late. Often the children are covered with a blanket because their burns are so disfiguring. The parents will tug your arm and ask you to look at their child.
This is how we met Ayenechew. He had arrived several days after registration, probably day 7. Ayenchew’s father asked us to please look at his child. Ayenachew is 18 years old and was burned in the kitchen fire at age two –he did not receive emergency care and developed the contractures you see in the attached before surgery photo. He has spent most of his life in hiding, at home with a scarf hiding his face. His father removed the scarf for us and right away we knew that we had to have our plastic surgeon, Dr. Valnicek see him.
After examination, we realized that we didn’t have the equipment with us to perform such a complex surgery, the operating room schedule was full and we also knew that his post operative care would be weeks long and the Gamby staff had only completed their Level 1 post op surgery burn care training.
Luckily we had just met with Dr. Einar Eriksen, the leading plastic surgeon for burn reconstruction in Ethiopia and probably the continent of Africa – a Norwegian who has been living and working in Ethiopia for many years. We had already entered into discussions to establish a satellite burn unit at the Gamby hospital. We knew he could operate on this child –so we put a plan in motion for RESTOR International to pay for his surgery at The Korean Hospital in Addis Ababa.
I am happy to say that Ayenachew traveled with his family to Addis and the surgery was performed February 3, 2015 at the Korean Hospital by Dr. Eriksen.
The results after 3 weeks were unbelievable and by 6 weeks the skin grafts were healed and he was ready to go home.
His life has been truly transformed – and his biggest pleasure now? “I can close my mouth and I can now go to school.”
So at the age of 18 he will be starting grade one in September –a life transformed, thanks to donations made to RESTOR International.