Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, Josie and baby Jane

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Eye-Witness to an RTA


While driving back to Tenwek last Friday with Heather and Jeremiah (and two other kids from Tenwek), as I rounded a gentle sloping curve, I saw two odd-shaped objects in the middle of the roadway off in the distance.  Having just returned from a 2-1/2 week, multivariate trip to the U.S. the night before, I was telling Heather all about the events of the journey.  One of the main reasons for the trip was to present data collected at Tenwek related to the huge rise in orthopedic injuries in developing countries secondary to road traffic accidents (RTA).  Ironically, we were about to witness a tragic, first-hand example of this growing problem.

As we drew closer, it became apparent that the two objects lying in the road were a motorcycle and a man, and we were the first ones on the scene.  Pulling off to the left, I assigned Jeremiah, Joel and David to get the motorcycle off the roadway, while I attended to the obviously-injured, middle-aged man who was lying on his side, dazed, with blood pouring from lacerations on his face and scalp.  Normally, in trauma situations such as this, victims are not to be moved until the cervical spine is stabilized with a C-collar.  However, I was worried that as long as we were in the middle of the road, we were both at risk for being struck by a speeding over-loaded passenger van or semi.  So, after running my fingers down his spine without feeling any obvious abnormality, I grabbed the man by his shoulders and dragged him off the road.  As I was pulling, I could feel crepitus (bones moving) in his right shoulder.  

With the motorcycle and victim now off the road, I could examine him more closely, and confirmed the lacerations, and shoulder fracture, and a potential fracture of his right hip (as his leg was externally rotated and he was not able to stand).  Thankfully, it did not appear that he had any immediate, life-threatening injuries.   Trying to use my newly-acquired (but still inadequate) Kiswahili, I asked the man, now a little more lucid, his name, where he was from, and what had happened.  “I was struck while driving my motorcycle and the car just drove away,” he said, the same hit-and-run story I hear so often.    

Without Emergency Medical Services in Kenya, the next concern was getting this man to Tenwek, which was about 50 km away.  A newly arrived onlooker hailed a passing sedan-car taxi, which stopped to see how he could help.  “How much to take this man to Tenwek,” I asked, thinking that perhaps the driver would not take advantage of the situation.  “Yes, please take me to Tenwek,” the victim said.  “My home is only a short distance from there.”   The quoted price, I thought, was bordering on opportunism.   While others helped the victim into the taxi, I reached into my pocket and gave the driver what I had available, and asked him to please help his fellow brother by driving him to Tenwek.  A few minutes later, they were off.

As I got back into our Land Rover, I noticed the blood on my hands, wondered if I would be seeing this man at Tenwek on Monday, and puzzled at the irony, absurdity and seeming senselessness of this event.  A while later, back on the road to Tenwek, Heather said, “I liked seeing you in action…God planned to have you be the first one on the scene.”  Her words took the edge off some of my raw emotions, and reminded me that the events in life, although at times tragic, are not random, or without purpose.  God is in control.  I was also reminded of the reasons we continue to serve at Tenwek...the need is so great. 

Thank you for partnering with us in this work at Tenwek, so that we can continue to provide “compassionate healthcare, spiritual ministry and training for service.”  We appreciate your prayers and support!

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