CHSC general surgeon and pediatrician Drs. Warren and Lindsey Cooper serve at Nyankunde Hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The recent gift of a pediatric bronchoscope provided by World Medical Mission helped Warren save a young child named Baraka, just weeks after the surgeon returned to the D.R.C.
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One of the more difficult challenges that I face at Nyankunde Hospital is that of foreign bodies of the airway. Little kids are prone to put objects in their mouth. The wrong size object can pass through the vocal cords and lodge in the trachea. It is a scary situation and if not handled appropriately the child can die. Over the years I have dealt with many different objects in the airway. It is always a stressful nightmare. Many times I am forced to make a cut on the trachea and blindly try to fish out the object.
During a recent trip to World Medical Mission, I was discussing this challenge. A rigid pediatric bronchoscope was purchased for the hospital. I had no practical experience using this system, but after watching a few videos on YouTube, I had a pretty good idea how to use it.
Within two weeks of arriving in Congo, I had my first patient. It was a 4 year old child, living in a camp for displaced people. His family had fled from violence and tribal persecution, and were living in a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of Bunia. The child had been walking home when he started to choke and cough. He was eventually seen at a hospital in Bunia and then transferred to Nyankunde. By the time he got here, his left lung was totally blocked and he was struggling to breathe and he had a high fever.
We took him into the operating room and I opened up my shiny new bronchoscope. Upon inserting it and connecting the camera, I was able to see a plastic object lodged tightly in the left bronchus. I carefully inserted the grasper and grabbed it. Every time I touched it, there was a flood of pus which escaped the infected lung. Now the only thing to was to pull the whole apparatus out and hope it comes out.
I knew that I might not get a second chance. At this moment you pray. It really is life or death. When I got the bronchoscope out, there at the end of my forceps was a small plastic plug, probably something from the end of a pen. Everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief. With my previous techniques, I know I wouldn’t have gotten it out. Most likely that the child would have died. With the appropriate tool, something impossible was made possible.
When I showed the object to the father, his face melted in relief. He had watched his beloved child struggle to breath for four days and he understood how close to death he had been. Together we praised God and thanked him for the miracle of this child’s life.
I can only say thank you to Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Mission for the ways they have supported this hospital through equipment and supplies. These gifts save lives and they make it possible for us to preach the Good News that God loves us. Through them a family displaced by war, suffering poverty and hardship, was blessed. This bronchoscope, a little hollow metal tube with graspers, is and will be a testimony of the Glory of God. This child’s name is Baraka, which means “blessing.”