I met Abebe Worku and his mom Mulugetie and dad Worku Takele at the hospital shortly after he had had his surgery. He is 10 years old and they live in Gombat near Bahir Dar. They first came to the Gamby Teaching and General Hospital in September but were told that the hospital doesn’t treat the damage done by burns but, to come back in November as there will be a team then that might be able to help.
I asked how he happened to have burnt his hand and was told that he was playing in the house with his brothers and sisters and fell into some boiling water when he was 7 years old.
Moges Keleb is 14 years old and is in grade 6. He is here with his father Keleb Shibabaw and some family friends. They are from the town of Estie about 122 kms from Bahir Dar and is a farming community. His brother lives in Bahir Dar with their Aunt. His mom is at home looking after the home front as they are farmers.
Their home cooking fire is in the center of the house as it is easier to cook from that location and it keeps the fire away from the walls which are mud and straw and could catch on fire. This is very common and the way it has always been done. When Moges was about 2 years old and not too sturdy on his legs, his older brother who was 5 at the time tried to pick him up when they were playing in their house. Unfortunately, as these things sometimes happen, Moges fell into the stew that was being prepared on the fire and got badly burned and scalded by the stew.
I asked the father how they had heard about our medical mission here. In Bahir Dar there is a van that goes through the town with loudspeakers announcing different things, much like a town crier from the times. It was announced that there will be surgical team in town soon from Canada to treat burn victims. By the way, we had no shortage of patients to triage for surgeries.
Moges surgery is slated for this Wednesday.
Our ward’s 5 year old football player, Zekariyas Tadele Beryehun with his dad and one of our interpreters, Trsit. She is a niece to Mulugeta Alem our interpreter, facilitator, man about town who makes our work here flow very well. He has been with us on 5 missions and has been a valuable asset to the team.
Emebet Tazebew 9 years old was admitted into surgery on Saturday morning. She is in Grade 2 and is a part time shepherd for her family. She is here with her father and they live about 50 kms from Bahir Dar in Kimbaba.
I asked how she had received the burn to her hand. Her father said that when she was 1 years old she was crawling towards the cooking fire, reached forward with her hand into the fire. As she was burned, she fell forward onto the left side of her face and received some burn discolouration but, no contractures to her face.
Usman Mohammed lives in Berber which is about 250 kms from Bahir Dar. He is 10 years old. He was registered for Grade 1 when he was 7 but, had to drop out because he was being teased a lot due to his burns. When he was 2 years old and running in their home he tripped over the wood of the fire in the center of the house fell into the stew and was burned. His mother says that thanks to RESTOR, he will be able to reregister for school again. This definitely falls within the parameters of a life changing operation for him.
One cannot but notice an ongoing theme here. The children are getting burned from contact with exposed cooking fires and placement of hot pots of food and water. It seems so preventable.
When I was travelling with Gayanne our fire fighter from Kelowna earlier last week, the feedback from questions she asked showed a lack of basic knowledge of burn treatment. I did see interest and good questions asked by her audiences though but, it would be a big change from their current practices. For example, Dr. Adil Ladak our Chief Medical Surgeon said that it is common practice in developing countries to cover burns with manure, dirt, oil, injera paste, fish skins, banana leaves and so on. Unfortunately, only skin grafts are the only way to treat serious burns.
It is our desire is to see safer cooking fires that don’t burn people.