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To hell with kerosene!

At a recent free surgery exercise by Turkish doctors, more burn contracture cases were recorded up in Garki Hospital Abuja. How can you prevent the…

At a recent free surgery exercise by Turkish doctors, more burn contracture cases were recorded up in Garki Hospital Abuja. How can you prevent the burns? If the use of kerosene will be reduced, burns will significantly decrease. Prevention is better than cure, because the treatment takes too long and it is expensive. This is the opinion of the leader of the five-person medical team, comprising specialists in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery from Gazi University Hospital, Turkey, which arrived Nigeria two weeks ago to attend to Nigerians with varying medical conditions that required surgery. The team was led by Dr Reha Yavuzer. The mission operated in Garki Hospital Abuja.

Two hundred and fifty cases were screened between 11 and 28 May 2009 and 75 were selected for surgery.

The medical team worked on cleft lip and palate deformities, congenital hand anomalies, facial anomalies, scars from burns and skin tumours. Those who benefited most were those had suffered burns and were not treated well. Many of them suffered significant contractures limiting movement of neck, arms, elbow, wrist, ankle, foot.

One of the patients, nine-year-old Iwanger Teryila had suffered terrible burns in a fire accident. According Barrister Terins Acka, who brought her for the surgery, the girl’s parents had gone to farm while her dress caught fire at home. With no one to help her, the fire burnt her badly. She had bilateral limb contractures. They were opened up.

Halima Usman dipped her hands in hot soup kept a in plastic warmer (commonly called cooler). She was taken to a hospital in Kano, treated there, yet the hands remained contracted.

But the most pathetic was the story of Hadiza Abdulkadir. She was consumed by adulterated kerosene fire. She said she bought the kerosene from a sales outlet in Kano. According to her, she put the kerosene in a stove and when she struck a match stick, the whole area was swallowed up by fire. She lamented that efforts to get the product dealers help her were fruitless.

Yet, the medical team said Abdulkadir could not be operated upon because she had a very complicated case which required step by step treatment with sophisticated equipment which were not available in Nigeria.

Johnson Okeke who had two tumours in both his chin and neck was operated upon. According to him, he had done a couple of surgeries on the disorder but after each, the situation worsened. He was hopeful that this time, he would breath new air.

Six-month-old Nathaniel Emmanuel came with unusual cleft lip condition. He was born with it and since birth, the baby cannot suck. The doctors said he could not be operated upon because of his tender age.

Habibat Olatunji had a left unilateral cleft lip (cleft on the left side of the lip). Jubril Jimoh had right unilateral cleft lip. Both were operated upon and were in stable condition. Their dressings were due for opening. The doctors said as babies, there good tissue regenerating ability would make their healing quickly—between one and six months. The doctors said such cases were commonest in Africa.

The leader of the team said though many were desperate for help, not more could be attended to due to limited time. It was equally difficult to get to the grassroots because of dearth of facilities. The team limited its operations to Garki Hospital.

He said, “Surgery is a big technical issue that you need a hospital back up. You need lab, blood bank, physicians, operating rooms, electricity, machines! That is why this kind of project that needs to cover a lot of people has to be done in a well equipped hospital. If you go to a rural place, you won’t find these [infrastructure and equipment].”

The visiting team leader said the team was inspired to come to Nigeria because of the pictures it got from Women United for Vulnerable Children (WUVC) and calls from the Turkish embassy in Nigeria. WUVC is a non-governmental and charity organisation.

He explained, “We had the 250 cases. They were reviewed by the local doctors here. On arrival, we looked at the 250 cases and selected 75 of them. From that 75, 61 are healthy enough to go for surgery after reviewing them by the lab results, and examining the patients. This is necessary because it was difficult to decide correctly through pictures.

“Our initial plan was to operate on 61 patients. But once we started operating, the patients started to come in—ones that had not been pre-reviewed. So we have seen about 400 patients right now.

“Out of that 400, we have operated on 60 patients. So we have met our initial goal by today [Wednesday] and we have 12 more operations left so there will be roughly 72 operations probably at the end of the mission.” Only 20 patients were in-house. Most of those operated on were discharged”.             

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