Africa mission #1, December 2013

December 30, 2013

On November 29th 2013, a team composed of Mario Cala, Timothy Graham and Romain Onteniente, departed from Miami to the destination of Togo, Africa.

Images From Mission 1

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Podiatry Overseas Mission 1 Slide 3
Podiatry Overseas Mission 1 Slide 4This trip meant much more than any regular mission trip. It was a reconnaissance trip with the purpose of scouting the area, meeting the entities in charge and exploring the potential of creating a sustainable agreement with the medical community in one if the poorest areas in the world.

As we arrived, we quickly realized how poor, underserved and how difficult the living conditions were. Despite their conditions, the Togolese population were amongst the nicest, most welcoming and grateful individuals any of us had ever met.

Our focus was in KPalimé, a city of roughly 100,000 citizens, located a couple of hours to the northern inland from the capital, Lomé. The hospital of KPalimé was going to be our “pied-á-terre” for the duration of our stay. We desired to experience first-hand what the African healthcare system had to offer.

To say the least we were baffled. The hospital itself was a 60 bed facility, with various ‘departments’ and ‘services’ sanctioned off by rope and hand-written signs in the hallways. Patient rooms were overfilled, lacked proper ventilation, had no temperature adjustments other than opening a window, and the roaming insects were a ghastly indication that we were far away from the American standards we are accustomed to.

Within a few minutes of introductory handshakes and formalities… reality hit, and we experienced our first medical emergency encounters. Nothing new for Dr. Ayouba as we went through his routine, seeing patients for a variety of reasons: second degrees burn injury including 36% coverage from face to torso, ruptured appendix, wisdom tooth abscess, open lower extremity fractures, needless to say… this doctor does it all, from head to toe. As he guided us through the many rooms where patients await treatment, we realized how desperately needed our podiatric care was. Ankle fractures (open and closed), wounds (acute and chronic), puncture injuries, lacerations, burns etc… There was someone in need around every corner of the hospital.

For 10-16 hours a day we changed dressings, close reduced, assisted in surgeries, grafted wounds, educated staff members on current US methods of treatment, and even covered the hospital fees for patients who flat out could not afford care. In Togo, if you cannot afford care, you simply do not receive it.

PODOA donated the materials for a patient in desperate need of external fixation on 2 week old tib/fib fractures with significant displacement. Our team was able to surgically stabilize his fractures and put his limb into position for proper healing. It was far from an easy case, but with Dr. Cala’s extensive experience, the case went perfectly as planned.

PODOA is also proud to have covered all medical costs for a 6 year old boy whose family couldn’t afford the anesthesia costs for the close reduction of his open ankle fracture. In the United States his open fracture is deemed a medical emergency, because it can lead to serious complications and in some cases even lead to death. We intercepted the case as the family had packed up their belongings and were carrying their son home, already off the hospital premises. The members that make up PODOA and our supporters, together, significantly altered the fate of that young boy’s life.

Our trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support and guidance we received from Dr. Ayouba, who must be one of the world’s hardest working and most dedicated individuals to health care. The utmost respect and appreciation goes out to Francis Awala-Viza, the director of the Hospital of KPalimé, who gave us unrestricted access to every corridor of his hospital. The hospital’s amazing staff of nurses and techs made us feel at home, they were also eager to lend their assistance and learn what we had to teach.

As the sunset on our last day in Togo, there was a general sense that Podiatry Overseas was headed in the right direction. This could be the start to something grand, something that has the potential to affect the lives of thousands. And to our Togolese family and friends, we miss you and look forward to seeing you soon!!