The old man is still singing Congolese gospel hymns, even as the young doctor removes his leg. The operating theatre is humid, dark and is a far cry from the sterile, brightly lit theatres of the young doctors home.
It’s already been a long day with an unending stream of cases coming through the door, some walking but most being carried on stretchers. The seventy year old man’s leg amputation has been delayed five hours whilst the red eyed medical team salvages and sterilises equipment which, in a UK hospital, would have been thrown away a long time ago.
The young doctor, Colin, finishes the operation, the hope being that the infection in the bone hasn’t spread. The old man wheezes as he breaks into another song, his lungs week meaning that he could not undergo a full anaesthetic, rather his lower body has been numbed. As the team begins cauterising the stump a tiny amount of tension leaves the stuffy room, unfortunately they are only a few hours in to their twenty four hour shift. Colin sighs, leans back over the patient and continues with his seemingly never ending work.
This may sound like the set-up for some intense medical drama, but it isn’t. It is life in a Zambian emergency department, under pressure, under equipped and over run with patients… And this is just one hospital in one country of Africa… And it happens everywhere.
But it isn’t just the lack of facilities, equipment and staff, it is also the underlying lack of health and safety in these countries.
In a subsequent interview Colin elaborated:
“Road traffic accidents accounted for many of the traumatic amputations I witnessed where limbs had already been severed, and indeed I sadly witnessed many children with limbs traumatically amputated from an over turned mini-bus that crashed as they were on their way to school. One little 5 year old girl had lost her left arm completely from the shoulder. Likewise, and in the case of the Congolese man, there were many pedestrians struck by cars whom sustained significant orthopaedic trauma. Industrial accidents were also very common and many of situations and the mechanisms of injury that people suffered are now rarely seen in the UK owing to safer working practices.”
This is only a fragment of the problems in countries who are lacking resources and so, upon hearing that Colin had chosen Zambia for his six week placement in his long and gruelling pursuit of becoming a specialist surgeon, Legs4Africa contacted him in the hope he would take a leg over. In between the time he spent saving lives and limbs, Colin was able to present the solution which Legs4Africa offers which recently culminated in 500 prosthetic limbs being shipped out to Zambia.
Thanks to the work of people like Colin, Legs4Africa are gaining ground and are able to get prosthetic legs to the people who really need them.
“It is not always possible for people to travel to foreign countries’, Colin said, ‘and get involved on the ground, and I was very fortunate to do so as part of my medical studies, but there are many steps involved in making things happen.”
Colin is one of Legs4Africa’s volunteers, as is his fiancé Kimberly Nichol, pictured here on their recent trip to Brazil. These are people which make Legs4Africa work. They give their time which , in Colin’s case, led to 500 legs being delivered to a Zambian hospital to be distributed to African amputees. We need volunteers like this, we need a volunteer like you. sign up to our monthly volunteer only newsletter and find out what you can do to be part of this amazing journey.
If you think you’ve got something you could offer our cause whether it was your skills, resources or innovative thinking, there’s probably a place for you. We are always on the search for creative individuals looking to make a difference in the world and if you think this is you then please get in touch. You can contact us directly here.