Hope and Healing

Aisha, 22-years-old drags her right leg as she runs.

March 30, 2012From the Field

Brian Hatchell, cbm Canada
Guest Blogger

We flew from Manzini, Swaziland to Lilongwe, Malawi today and met up with Stefan Dofel, cbm’s Country Coordinator for Malawi.

We hopped in a couple vehicles and drove east from Lilongwe – the capital of Malawi – to the town of Salima on the coast of Lake Malawi.

We arrived at the Salima District Community Hospital and were met by Dr. Leonard Banza – an Orthopaedic doctor. As he leads us through the hospital towards the orthopedic referral clinic taking place this week, it’s hard not to notice the disrepair of the hospital. It is desperately in need of some infrastructure upgrades, but Dr. Banza tells us the hospital – built in the 70’s – is one of the best in the country.

Dr. Bonza works for Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) a cbm funded partner in Malawi.

Today, Dr. Banza is hosting an orthopaedic clinic for the residents of Salima District. MACOHA hosts around 18 to 20 clinics like this yearly for the 350,000 residents of Salima District.

As we walk with Dr. Banza to his assessment room we pass thru a jam-packed hallway. People sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall, others standing looking out the window or staring at the approaching strangers. The people have been waiting patiently for more than three hours already just for a chance to see Dr. Banza.

As we approach the assessment room it’s hard not to notice a little girl waddling up-and-down the hallway-she can’t bend her right knee and drags her right leg as she runs.

In the assessment room Dr. Banza learns from the mother – 22 year old Aisha – that one-and-a-half year old Alima woke up one day in December and was unable to walk or put weight on her right leg, and sometimes cried out in pain.

Dr. Banza rules out Polio as the typical symptoms are not present. Alima doesn’t have a fever and there is no muscle deterioration. He finds out Alima took part in an anti-Malaria campaign and was given a Quinine shot in the back-side.

Dr. Banza says the Quinine injection was probably administered incorrectly and has caused an infection in Alima’s Sciatica, which has caused drop-foot.

He explains to the mother that he will make up a foot split for Alima and that she will have to wear it for a month or two. If that doesn’t improve the situation, he may perform minor surgery to repair a tendon in the foot. But Aisha is reassured that Alima will go on to live a fun-filled life and that she need not worry that her daughter has Polio.

Dr. Banza is only one of two cbm-trained Orthopaedic Surgeons in all of Central and Northern Malawi, a region of more than eight million people.

Not only is Dr. Banza good at his job, he is well known all over Salima District. The people know his work, and like Aisha, will travel more than 15 kms, walk over two hours one way, just for the chance to see him.