Sunday, February 12, 2012


Last Monday night a semi (yes, a semi!) drove up with patients in it. Thirteen to be exact.

Thirteen bleeding, broken, and seriously hurting men.

They said they had been racing down the road at top speeds when a front tire blew, sending them rolling.

And rolling. And rolling.

The worst case was a man with a dislocated jaw; all of his front teeth were gone, and he was having trouble breathing. Once stabilized, we transported him and a few others with worrisome head injuries and broken bones to Wau.

When the dust settled, bruised and bloodied men were strewn about everywhere on make-shift beds. Some snored loudly; others moaned for water.

It was intense.

Afterward, Dennis commented that this was the worst car accident we’d had to deal with to date.

That was true, until today.

Today as church ended, a few government officials asked to use our cars and ambulance. There had been an accident. They needed our help.

The reports said there were lots of injured, so some of the medical staff went to help. But it took over an hour for the first patients to trickle in.

The first batch had two expectant mothers, a three-year-old boy, and a semi-conscious man.

One of the mothers had bitten three-quarters of her tongue off and had a large gash on her forehead, exposing her skull. When she woke up in the clinic, disoriented and scared, she thrashed in confusion.

I asked for her name but she couldn’t speak; her bloody grunts were unintelligible. We tried to guess what she was saying, but gave up, figuring it’d come out in time.

When I asked how many months pregnant she was, her eyes flashed with the unspoken question, “Is my baby alright?” Immediately she started gesticulating wildly, then held up 6 fingers.

“You’re six months pregnant?” I asked to confirm.
She nodded slowly.
“Can you feel your baby moving?” I continued.
She grunted no, adding a slight hand shrug for emphasis.

She was the right size for six months. The baby could be easily palpated; but I couldn’t find the heart-tones.

Each time I asked her anything about the accident, she would shake her head in confusion. Finally it occurred to me that she’d missed it all. Only later, once her tongue was reattached did she explain: “I don’t know if my belly was hit. The first thing I remember was waking up here.”

The other pregnant woman didn’t wake up for over an hour. She was in shock, and needed massive fluids to stabilize her blood pressure. But once she came around, I was happy to inform her her baby was alive. Fortunately, she only sustained a small gash on her thigh.

The young boy had no visible wounds and appeared stable. He had suffered a blow to the head and we were watching him closely. But as the second wave of injured were carried in, we needed his bed and moved him outside for observation.

The next batch had a hip fracture which needed to be braced, two or three semi-conscious men with only minor injuries, and two severe cases.

The first case was a man in obvious shock. He labored for every breath, fluttering in and out of consciousness. Starting an IV on him was next to impossible, since he fought me every inch of the way. I had to stick him 5 times before I got it in. Dr. Mike suspected massive internal bleeding.

The other case had massive head injuries and needed intubation. We don’t have any laryngoscopes, so we made due with half a speculum. Dr. Mike got the tube in without much trouble and together we bagged him until his breathing stabilized.

The third batch of patients came back with our missing medical staff (which was half of us), and we were able to start move IVs, get more medicines, and stabilize a few more patients.

Our guard did a fairly good job at keeping the looky-loos out of the compound. But he didn’t stop them all. I constantly had to chase away random gawkers, even walking some of them out of the compound myself.

I felt like a broken record asking them repeatedly to leave. But if I didn’t they would literally stand between the doctors and the patients, trying to get the best view. What a nightmare!

We started prepping to send the worst cases to Wau once stable. The broken femur and the internal bleeding were high priority. They also insisted the young boy go, even though he looked fine. Dr. Tom kept saying, “I just don’t feel good about keeping him here.”

But as we waited for the patients to be loaded into the ambulance, he died suddenly, surprising us all. He just stopped breathing.

Around the same time, the man Dr. Mike had intubated also died. His injuries were just too severe.

Only then did I have time to ask what happened.

I was told that two SUVs, carrying about a dozen passengers each, had a head-on collision when one SUV inexplicably swerved into the wrong lane. They were both moving at high speeds; the impact was catastrophic.

Fourteen people died on the scene --five of which were trapped inside the wreckage. 

Those that were not brought to us were taken to the hospital in Rumbek. We lost two within an hour. That gives us an estimated total of 16 dead, and another 15-20 wounded.

I don’t know how many were sent to Rumbek. But honestly, I’m surprised there were only two vehicles involved. How did so many people fit in just two SUVs?

I’m proud of how well the staff worked together, but I’m sad at how many we lost. Please pray for these families. Pray as the Lord leads. Thanks.

Post Script: After the ambulance dropped off the first batch in Wau, they came back for two more. The pregnant woman with the missing heart tones went back because that’s where she’s from. And one more of the ‘less injured’ developed signs of possible internal bleeding. So we sent him as well.