Week 2 in Namibia: 14 Surgeries Complete

Drs. Lehnert and Ip confer with a local surgeon.
Our focus in our second week at Katatura Intermediate Hospital was surgeries and post-surgical follow-up with patients. Because of publicity in the first week, a few additional patients also came in for screening. Thankfully, we were able to add several of them to the surgical schedule, especially since most had traveled significant distances to see our team.

Week 2: 14 patients: 8 children, 6 adults

Due to communications mishaps in contacting patients over the weekend, we had only three patients ready for surgery on Tuesday. We re-arranged the schedule and lined up 12 for Wednesday, our last day at the hospital. We didn't want to leave without treating as many patients as possible.

With all the patients and staff aligned, Wednesday started with a bit of a speed bump when one of the anesthesia setups decided not to work. The hospital quickly brought in a technician who identified and fixed the issue in record time. The day's first two cases, challenging bilateral procedures on kids with clubfoot deformities, required all five surgeons to be scrubbed in and operating. The team completed 11 surgeries during the day, the most of any of our surgical days. Unfortunately one of the scheduled patients opted out.

In all, the doctors performed surgery on 9 patients with clubfoot deformities over the two weeks. The patients ranged in age from a few months to 15 years old.
Clubfoot describes a range of foot abnormalities usually present at birth (congenital) in which your baby's foot is twisted out of shape or position. In clubfoot, the tissues connecting the muscles to the bone (tendons) are shorter than usual. Clubfoot is a fairly common birth defect and is usually an isolated problem for an otherwise healthy newborn. -- Mayo Clinic

One of our patients, a four-year-old girl, had significant clubfoot deformity in both feet. After surgery, she'll continue treatment with serial casting in a clinic run by one of the local medical officers who worked with us during the week. Because it affects the patients' ability to wear shoes and walk normally, this one issue can prevent them from going to school, severely limiting their opportunities in life.

4 year-old-girl, bilateral clubfoot deformity 

Until I started traveling with IEP, I hadn't seen many clubfoot patients because it's typically treated in infancy in the United States. In fact, when looking up clubfoot online, most results come back with a focus on treatment in infancy. That expertise just doesn't exist at the same level in many parts of the world, including Namibia, hence the need for missions like ours.