Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Boy with the Bone through His Arm: UPDATE

Below is an update written by Jake on one of the situations we encountered on our recent March trip to Ghana. You can read the original post about this young man here.

Each day as I awake I long to be with the people of Asikuma. Each day my thoughts are consumed with the lives of the people 6,000 miles away from where I call home. There is so much need in this place and every time I set foot in Ghana it seems like God uses me in some incredible ways.

Each time that I pick up my Bible and read the letters Paul wrote to the churches and people of the places God had called him to, he expresses a longing to be with them and desire to see just what God is doing in the places he has been. Since God brought me to Asikuma it has made the words of Paul come alive in my life and since my last trip that longing to be in Africa seems so much greater. It is greater because of the lives that God has thrown into my path.

My two daughters are still waiting on their court date which seems like it will never come. There are two other girls that God has wrapped my heart around - I so much desire to see Adjoa run from me with a giggle and squeal and Yaa melt in my arms. There is the baby in the bush that is now being cared for by Kofi Oppong and CompAfriCare. I know this little boy is doing well but my mind swirls around his mother who is in so much need that she was willing to let her son die in the bush because she simply has no means to care for him. I wonder each day how she is doing. I wonder if God’s Word is entering her heart or does she just need someone to bring the Word to her on this day or that day. Last, but not least there is a little boy not more than 12 years old who came to us on our last visit with a broken arm that was so severe I had never seen anything like it.

This little boy had a compound fracture of his forearm with the bone sticking out about six inches and it appeared as sharp as knife. When I asked the little boy how long his arm had been like that he said a little over a year. As I looked more closely at his arm you could see the infection and gangrene setting in. Everyone around him seemed like this was really not that big of deal. When I looked into his eyes I could see his pain and I could see him crying out for someone to help. On that day I decided to make it my mission to help this little boy but I soon learned the realities of hospital care in Africa.

I asked Ken (the individual assisting us in the community) what it would take to get him to the hospital for the doctors to see him and why he had not been there already. Please note that we do have a medical clinic in Asikuma that God called us to build, but they turned him away because they do not specialize in bone care and do not have the appropriate doctors to care for an injury like this. He was told he would have to go to a hospital nearly 70 miles away in a town called Koforidua as they have a specialist from India that can perform the surgery and care for the boy.

Obviously I had an urgency to get him to the hospital and immediately whipped out 100 cedi (equivalent to about $75.00) for the taxi fare to get him to the hospital and for a doctor to see him. In my simple American way of thinking I assumed the doctors would see him and rush him into surgery as this infection could take his life. Actually I got to see the reality of the world we live in.

The boy returned to Asikuma with X-rays of the break and some antibiotics and that was because the only surgeon who can care for an injury like this was not at the hospital. He travels throughout the country from hospital to hospital as there are not enough surgeons who can operate on bone related injuries. My other assumption knowing how Africa works is that the individuals with the most money get seen first which is less than 10% of the country. The villagers who live on less than $2.00/day in most cases never really have a realistic opportunity for medical care and certainly no opportunity for a complicated surgery like this one. As I was leaving Asikuma in March I was told that the hospital would call him back to schedule a surgery. I thought this seemed a little odd but I just kind of went with it.

Well over the last two months there has been no progress in getting this boys’ arm fixed. I have been checking in about every 2 or 3 days to see if we have any news. Finally last week I was to the point of absolute frustration and was going to reach out to anyone I knew.

During my December/January trip I met a missionary who was returning from 15 years on the missions field and was actually a doctor that had helped established a hospital in Ghana . We had a great conversation on the plane and he gave me his email and I saved it on my notepad via my I-phone. I have not ever put anything into my notepad and to this date it is still the only thing in my notepad. This individual is now practicing medicine in South Bend, Indiana. I decided what the heck and I would just send him an email explaining the situation and the need we had to care for this boy. In my mind I doubted that this individual would even remember me, but I guess that God put us on the plane together for a reason.


I know you may not remember me, but my name is Jake Sullivan and I met you and your family on a plane trip home from Ghana in early January. I wanted to reach out to you as we need your help. In the community that we are doing our work in called Asikuma we met a young boy that has a compound fracture of his forearm. We came to find out that this has been the case for the past year and obviously infection is setting in and the boy is suffering. The individual that has been working for us in Asikuma apparently cannot find a doctor who can fix this boy’s arm. I thought I would reach out to you to see if you knew of a place we can take this boy to have the appropriate surgery to fix his arm. If you could direct me to the right people I would truly be grateful.

Jake Sullivan

P.S. I pray that God is blessing your ministry and your impact in South Bend, Indiana.

To my delight, less than 24 hours later I received an email back…..

Hi Jake,

I remember our conversation on the plane last January. Hope you are doing well. It sounds like the boy has an osteomyelitis after the fracture. He will need significant care, likely a surgery to clean out infection, weeks of antibiotics, etc. There is a reputable orthopedic center in Koforidua at St. Joseph’s hospital. That would be my recommendation. There may be other options at either Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra or Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi. Hope you are able to help him.

Cameron Gongwer

After receiving this email from Cameron I thought I would take the information and Google St. Joseph’s Hospital, hoping and praying that the hospital would have a website. Let’s just say it is not the greatest website, but it had just enough information and even provided me an email to contact them. Again I did not think I would ever hear a response back but to my delight I was wrong again. The head surgeon as well as the director of the hospital emailed me back immediately.

To St. Josephs Hospital:

Hi guys! My name is Jake Sullivan and I am from the United States of America. I have been to Ghana 13 times over the past three and half years and love the country. To make a long story short we are doing a lot of work in a community called Asikuma. We have had the opportunity to open up a small medical clinic for the community, construct a computer center at the school and some other awesome things that God has chosen to do through our organization. During my recent work in Asikuma in March I met a young boy roughly 12 years who has a compound fracture of his forearm. He needs immediate treatment and up to this point we have not been able to find anyone to help. The other day I met a missionary doctor that has been working in Ghana and he suggested I contact you guys to help. Please contact me as soon as possible and we can get the boy down to the hospital whenever you can set up an appointment.

Jake Sullivan

Dear Jake,

Kindly make available patient's contact number. I will make contact with one of the main orthopaedic trauma surgeons. Dr Abdul Rahman would certainly like to establish the level of injury at least by telephone and a local doctor near Anomabu has to write an official referral if possible if National Health policies in Ghana is to be applied. We know that the policy does not cover implant surgery and the hospital charges will apply.

Thank you.
P. Ofori-Atta President. Motec Life – UK

Later I received another email sent from St. Josephs to schedule appointment and surgery:

See 9am on 30th May. I will leave Koforidua at 12mid day. Eventually will be back to Koforidia for surgeries 11th to 14th June.


So, to my delight we got an appointment scheduled at 9:00am on the 30th of May with the head surgeons and then they will schedule a surgery for mid-June between the 11th-14th. Now it is in God’s hands to see that the appointment goes as planned and that we will have enough resources to care for this boy as hospital fees will apply for his surgery.

Each day when I wake up I wonder how many of these stories exist in Africa. I wonder how many of these stories are in Asikuma alone. I just pray that God continues to use me as his hands and feet here on this earth and I will continue to long to be with the people in a land 6,000 miles away from where God has me now!

Now that I have seen, I am responsible
Faith without deeds is dead
Now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are...

I am on a plane across a distant sea
But I carry you in me
and the dust on, the dust on, the dust on my feet
Ghana (replaced Rwanda).

-Lyrics from 'Albertine' by Brooke Fraser-

1 comment:

Jean said...

If you did not see PBS News Hour last night please go to it online to see the segment "How to Better Treat Trauma Injuries in the Developing World". Dr. Rick Coughlin, Orthopedic Surgeon at San Francisco General, has a heart for the people of the developing countries suffering from increasing injuries and not having doctors, supplies etc. for treatment.