The young man had been running from a group of older kids when he fell into a ditch and suffered a gaping compound tib/fib fracture. In acute pain, he was nonetheless stoic. So were the subdued and anxious parents who stood quietly by their son.
But TIA: This is Africa. Time is not often of the essence here. That is a disconcerting but reasonable reality in a country where death has become sadly commonplace. The few remaining staff members on duty at 5 PM were shaking their heads at the wazungu racing around to find the requisite supplies from four different buildings on the hospital campus. One of them said, "All this commotion for 'just' a broken bone?"
What Jordan and I were thinking, however, was, "We have to save his foot. No, traction is not appropriate in this case. We have to save his foot. PLEASE don't move anything. We have to save his foot. He can't sever any more vessels. We have to save his foot. He needs surgery. We have to save his foot. He is just 15, dear God..."
He could be my grandson, my own heart added, when I finally had time to look into his frightened eyes. We had to save his foot.
We requested the hospital ambulance and were told that it had just left the grounds -- without a patient and for an errand. "Get it back," Jordan and I simultaneously urged. At that point, the dickering began. "The family has no money. We can't take the boy to Kisumu tonight. Just admit him and talk to Administration tomorrow to see about adjusting the fees."
In fact, the boy's parents could not even afford the 500 KES ($6.25) for the emergency services just performed, much less the 2000 KES ($25) for the ambulance. They had no time to beg for money from relatives, and we had no time to be polite. The boy's right foot and entire future were at stake. "Please bring the ambulance NOW. We need to get this kid to Kisumu."
"They must pay first," we were again told by people who understandably had no choice.
And for that we would have further risked the loss of a young man's foot and future? OK. You know what we did. It was undoubtedly culturally inappropriate and fostered dependency, besides. But what would you have done? And, yes, I should have worn latex gloves, but the Outpatient door was locked when I arrived at the scene, and I got lucky. Again, what would you have done? (See miniscule video clip: click on Picasa link at left.)
We don't even know the boy's name. But we do know "his name is Legion..."