“You need to see this,” the nurse said to me as she abruptly entered my office.
A quiet young man entered with a towel wrapped around his arm and began recounting his story.
“I was in an accident, and I broke my right arm,” he said. “It was so bad that the bone stuck out through my skin.”
“When did this happen?” I asked.
“Two years ago,” he said.
“Two years?” I asked. “You have been living with this open fracture for two years?”
In those two years, life was a challenge. At the start of each day, he wrapped his arm with a towel and set off for work.
He lived far from the hospital and had no easy way to get to it. Finally, as his elbow began to freeze up and the infection got worse, he knew he had no other choice. He reached us after a day’s journey down the Ouibangi River on a dugout canoe.
When he arrived, it was apparent that his elbow joint was fused. Due to the injury and infection, it hadn’t moved in months and would never work normally again. Despite his injury, he had remarkably normal function of his hand and wrist. I was even more surprised when we did an X-ray and found that his body had started replacing the lost bone, rebuilding a new bone from the bottom and top in the same place as the other. Because it was his right hand and because he still had some movement in it, we decided to do everything we could to save the arm instead of amputate it.
Dead bone must be treated like cancer and removed aggressively. It’s sometimes hard to find, but as long as some is left in the body, the infection will continue to fester and grow. After removing many pieces of infected bone and cleaning out everything as well as possible during surgery, we left the wound open to drain.
With clean dressings for the next few weeks, his wound slowly healed. He was discharged recently with two hands intact.
During his last day in the hospital, it made me smile when I saw him visibly excited for the first time. He was excited to use his right hand to shake mine before leaving. I believe he was even more excited to be free from this terrible infection that he had to live with for far too long.
We praise God for the chance to treat this young man and for the healing that He brought in his life.