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I have mentioned a young Rwandan boy named Joseph to some of you. His picture rests in the corner of one my exam rooms at the Frisco VSO office.  He is in a red hospital gown with his left arm in a sling, offering a handshake with his right hand, while holding some tissue paper in his left fingers.

Two years ago, he came to us at Mugonero Hospital after he had fractured his arm a full year earlier at age nine and, unfortunately, obtained no treatment. One half of his radius shaft bone was sticking out of his forearm skin, painful, infected, dead, and a nearly useless hand in a palm up position with the wrist bent back. We were able to clear his infection in 2010 by surgically removing the dead radius, instituting appropriate antibiotics, and placed his arm and hand in a more functional position so that he could hold the tissue seen in the picture. But his hand and wrist were no longer attached to his forearm.

We returned to Rwanda in 2011, and having spoken with many Orthopaedic colleagues about his case, we were able to surgically place his distal radius, wrist, and hand onto his still remaining ulna arm bone, creating a “one bone forearm”. We left Rwanda with his hand swollen, not moving his fingers well, pins that needed to be removed by the local providers, and I was concerned that I had done more harm than good. I’ve worried about him for the year.

Joseph returned today, now 12 years old and in primary school grade 3. His fingers have full range of motion and his sensation is normal. He has some functional wrist motion, not normal perhaps, but he is pain free, the infection has cleared, no open wounds, he has a strong grip, and the bone has healed on XR.

I was unable to speak for a moment, seemed like minutes to me, actually. Then the translator said that he would like to become a doctor and “operate on bones”.

Peter Janes

Dr. Peter Janes is an orthopaedic surgeon with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. This is the third year he has made the trip to Rwanda.

About the Rwanda Medical Missionary trip
Dr. Peter Janes of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and a medical team will be traveling to Rwanda July 22-August 11 on a medical missionary trip. The group will be providing no-cost surgical, medical and community health programs, education, training and relief in an area where health care is often limited or difficult to obtain. Most surgeons fled the African country or were killed during the major genocide in 1994.

The group involves 20 participants, eight from Summit County, working on seven defined projects. Dr. Janes will be performing surgeries and conducting workshops to train local health care providers on how to correct club foot in newborns. This year he will be at three different hospitals; Rilima, Mugonero and CHUK, for a week each. In addition, there is a surgical team at King Faisal hospital in Kigali, working at the orphanage, and a team building a gazebo at Mugonero.

The group is sending home daily blog entries with photos and depictions of their daily experiences. Be sure to check the VSO Blog for updates.