Late one afternoon, as the clinic was closing down for the day, a boy walked up with his hand wrapped in a bloody towel. He and his parents had traveled from a far village by car. Normally, it would have taken a day to walk the distance, but this time, they drove. They explained his hand was all cut up after a ‘bullet explosion’. (Huh?)
Unwrapping his hand, we all cringed to see the mutilated fingers hanging limp and dead. The story fell together piece by piece as we prepared to suture. As a goat herder, he stumbled upon a bullet while wandering the fields and picked it up. Curious as any nine year old boy would be, he decided to see what would happen if he beat it with a stick. I am not sure how long he hit it, but eventually it exploded, taking several fingers with it. There was even charred residue glued to his skin. It was bad. Fortunately, by the time he reached us most of the bleeding had stopped.
Once his hand was properly numb, Dennis (our clinical officer) removed a finger which barely hung by sinew and muscle. He left the main bone sticking out, saying it would die and eventually fall off. The other fingers were then stitched and wrapped tightly in gauze.
As he sutured, the boy’s mother, kept peeking at the carnage and mourning her son’s pain. She was a wreck. In fact, the boy kept comforting her: “Don’t worry mom, it doesn’t hurt at all. I promise.” It was really quite sweet.
I asked him if he was ever going to play with bullets again, and he shook his head emphatically. This lesson was costly but effective. I told him to tell his friends to stay away from bullets too, and reminded him that he was fortunate he only lost a few fingers. The realization of this truth stopped us all up short, and together we thanked God it was not worse.
Today, he came in for wound dressings. I’m happy to report that it is healing nicely. Pray for a full recovery. Perhaps one day, he’ll warn his son the dangers of playing with bullets... I hope so.
For those who are squeamish, I am putting the pictures after the story. I don’t want to spoil anyones breakfast (Achem... I mean yours Robin! ha ha!).