God showed up in miraculous ways again at Bongolo Hospital. During a prior trip, one of the visiting physicians coined the phrase, “physiology is suspended at Bongolo Hospital.” In other words, the normal physiologic processes and outcomes that we see every day in the United States do not occur on some of the patients at Bongolo. Those that would normally have poor outcomes and even death are spared miraculously.
One such occurrence was a trauma that occurred on Wednesday. In the local town (Lebamba), two teenagers on a motorcycle were struck by a taxi and showed up in the ER. One had a broken femur and fractured bones around the right eye. The other had a broken femur and tibia and a presumed head injury. His level of consciousness was in and out, at times making sense, but most of the time was confused. He was initially scheduled to undergo emergent repair of his leg fractures, but in the interim took a turn for the worse, approaching a comatose state. We assumed he was bleeding inside his skull and rushed him to the operating room. We did not have any imaging of his head (unavailable) and presumed the bleeding in his skull was on the same side of a head laceration (it could have been on the other side just as well). After getting him off to sleep, the surgeon drilled a hole in his skull to evacuate the bleeding and release the pressure on the brain. I never thought I would be doing neurosurgery at Bongolo--simply incredible what was done in the jungle with limited resources.
The correct side was chosen as blood was coming out of the hole, but the source of bleeding could not be identified. Upon removing more of his skull, the presumed source of bleeding was identified and stopped. But, there was bleeding elsewhere, deeper in the brain. Not a good sign. We did not have the capability to go after this and closed him up. Given this finding, we felt he may not wake up from the surgery. While he was still asleep, the orthopedic surgeons temporarily fixed his leg fractures and it was time to wake him up. And that he did. While he was a bit sluggish, he was following commands appropriately, talking, and asking to eat shortly after surgery. For the next few days he continued to improve and did not show any further signs of bleeding inside his skull. The other bleeding we saw in surgery must have stopped. The other patient had his injuries fixed and is doing well also.
God intervened in many places during these traumas. In Africa, almost all of these types of trauma result in death as the patients either never make it to the hospital, and if they do, they do not go to the OR as the resources to fix these injuries are minimal. Even though these 2 patients made it to the OR, it still amazes me that the first one woke up and will likely survive.
These two teens, who would have likely not survived anywhere else in the country, now have a chance to lead normal lives. They now have a chance to hear about God and serve Him and glorify Him.