Thursday, 30 June 2011

A little fighter

Osman, aged 9, came to the Africa Mercy in May 2011.  He presented with a right knee burn contracture with a wound after hurting his knee from falling out of a tree.  The family sort medical advice from a witch doctor who poured boiling water on the wound to heal it.  Unfortunately, it caused 3rd degree burns to most of his right leg and didn’t heal the wound.  His first two surgeries were to clean and debride the wound before a skin graft and contracture release would be possible.
Osman was a bright boy, understanding English and responding to the nurses politely and clearly, unlike any African patient I’d ever looked after.  One morning at 5am, while I was still quietly going about my night shift duties, he called me over, telling me in plain English, “I need to change my sheets.  They have not been changed in three days!”  My response was to think, What!?  Osman, since when do we change sheets here every three days if they are still clean?  Where did you even get the idea that they need to be changed so often?  Instead I replied, “Osman, it is 5 o’clock in the morning!  Let’s wait until people are awake!”
Osman was very particular about the tablets or liquid medications he would take, often telling you to wash his cup out and refill it with fresh, cool water before he would take his medication.  Still, he would always say thank you and try to remember your name.
The third surgery he was able to have the skin graft and contracture release of that leg.  I looked after him in the following days, keeping up the pain relief and keeping an eye on the leg, noticing that his foot was very swollen and he was unable to wiggle his toes and he had no sensation present.  His foot was also like this pre-operatively, but we were hoping for an improvement.  He was a trouper, not often complaining of pain and cheerfully sitting in bed keen to interact and participate in whatever was going on in the ward.
On day three post-op, his leg began to bleed profusely and he was rushed off for an emergency surgery for a popliteal arterial graft (behind his knee).  The surgery was completed but we were still unable to find a pulse in his foot.  Over the following days, even with antibiotics, and a lot of prayer, his temperature rose and we hoped he wasn’t turning septic!  His foot turned black and looked awful.  I didn’t see him much of those days as he was moved to ICU where a paediatric nurse could watch over him.  He seemed relatively cheerful, despite the circumstances.
As things weren’t getting better, we heard the devastating news, “Osman is going to the OR today.  He is having an above knee amputation.”   We all thought, Oh Osman, above the knee!  I’m so disappointed for you!
But like the trouper he is, immediately after the operation he asked for a balloon!  He coped with the change remarkably well, asking the day after surgery when could he get out of bed on crutches.
Osman with a fellow nurse.
He is still on the ward now, more than one month after his admission, while we wait for his stump to heal well enough for him to go home.  He hops about on his crutches like a little champ.  He’ll play balloon soccer in the hallway, standing on his one leg and waving his crutches in the air to hit the balloon.  He is also quick to wack someone with a crutch if they are out of line.  He is hungry for affection and love too, quick to hug you, sit on your lap or even give kisses (I had to tell him to only kiss on the cheek when he went for the lips!).  He is such a beautiful child, also adding to the nursing prayer time by praying himself.  Any fears that us nurses may have had for his future without his right leg, have been washed away by his determination for life.


  1. Wow, what an example in someone so young. May he prosper and inspire others!

  2. It just goes to show that our world is still a big place even with all our current technology. The fact that a witch doctor was consulted seems to prove that theory not to mention the treatment applied that no doubt resulted in the limb from being amputated due to infection.

    I'm glad that the young patient survived and will be able to have some of his mobility back. I guess at some point having a prosthetic limb will possibly explored at a later date.



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