Christine, a ten-year-old girl had fallen from a tree the previous day. Tragically, she’d sustained a compound fracture to her left arm, leaving the bone sticking out of her skin.
The young girl was in agonizing pain and at serious risk of losing her hand if she didn’t have surgery soon.
Time is of the essence with this kind of injury. Ideally, compound fractures need surgery within a couple of hours to ensure full use of the limb and no further complications or infection.
Unfortunately, the health center had no understanding of how to treat a compound fracture and they only had the very basic
pain relief, Paracetamol (Tylenol), which would barely impact the pain in a trauma of this severity. Unable to provide further care, the health center professionals wrapped gauze on her arm. Then they would have to wait for the once a week passenger boat which could take Christine to the main city of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea for treatment.
Christine had now been in agony for twenty- four hours. The passenger boat wasn’t due for another day and a half and even then, it was a twenty-four hour to reach Rabaul. The team tried to medevac her out by helicopter but as the break wasn’t considered a life-threatening injury, local officials said the expenses couldn’t be justified.
If a helicopter was sent, then funds spent on that one trip would create cut-backs for other health centers. The decision to employ the helicopter must be thoroughly considered as allowing it to be used for non-emergency situations might mean life or death for another patient.
After our team spoke with surgeons in Rabaul, as well as local doctors serving on the outreach, a course of action was determined. The local doctors would stabilize Christine’s arm, clean the bone well, provide stronger pain relief, and start a course of strong antibiotics. Prayers were said that her hand would remain warm and functional. A couple of days later, Christine was on a boat to the hospital.
The team would have to wait to hear about her recovery until they returned to Rabaul a week later. Upon their return, they were informed Christine had been rushed into surgery and was recovering well with the full use of her hand.
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