HOW YOU TREAT A BROKEN ARM IN AFRICA (MALI)

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When I was living in Bamako I played in a band called "Bama Saba" as a guitarist. I earned enough money to feed myself and my family, back then in 1998. One day, I spent the day at a friend's house not too far away. We had a good time, and around midnight I went on my way home. I had been in his house quite a few times, so I knew the way, although there were no street lamps in our area.

 

So, knowing my way home, I put on my mp3 player and walked - and suddenly I fell. Boom. I found myself standing 7 feet deep in a hole. During the day, they had dug holes for lamp posts in the ground, didn't cover them at night, and I didn't see that when walking (mind you, I had bad eyesight even back then), So I tried to get out of the hole....phew....feet ok, but.....my left hand was strangely twisted, kind of loose, cut from the body. So I yelled for help. Soon people showed up, lifted me out of that hole and walked me home.

 

Back there my neighbor got his old Peugeot out and drove me to the biggest hospital in Bamako, called Gabriel Touré. Problem was - we arrived - nobody there. A guard told us that there's a power break and we should try tomorrow. A big hospital like that and no power ?!? Well, I didn't occupy myself with such questions since I was in pain, and after about 20 minutes in front of the hospital (what do we do now?) a sort of doctor came out and called me in. He said, sorry, we can't do anything, but here I have a carton I can attach to your arm as fixation. A cigarette carton and some strings.

 

Ok, what the hell. I went back home and slept, arm upright - less blood in the hand, less pain (actually that went on for 2 months). Next day my wife told me to see a traditional healer in a village close by since power didn't come back yet. I went there, the guy looked at my twisted hand and started to pull and push my hand to almost unconsciousness, then cut some bamboo and fixed that to my arm, using some Beurre Carité (a sort of oily substance you get from the Baobab tree).

 

My hand kept being twisted and swollen in a funny ankle (still is twisted today), but after some months the pain went - it just kind of grew together in some crooked angle, but no pain, no problem.

 

Of course I had to quit my job as musician, and therefore simply relied on my small income as German / English teacher, which I did at home on a blackboard.

 

But the point is: Never go to a hospital in Africa when you a) have cash to fly back home and when you b) are in one of those countries where people go to die anyway, because their hospitals are dirty and filthy. You go in sick, you get out dead. Stay out and wait until it heals by itself - depending on what it is....

 

When I had heavy malaria, my wife put a nail into the wall of the bedroom and an external nurse put the glucose infusion there. Hospital ? Never again in Africa - and even in Switzerland I'd panic ! We got stuff here we call "hospital virus" (HAI) - I can do without it :-)

 

I asked myself more than once where "development aid" goes. It doesn't even arrive at hospitals. It goes back to the World Bank as interest on credits which are paid to accounts of tyrannic rulers which are accepted by the West for geopolitical and economic reasons.

 

Sad world indeed.

 

Comments

Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 8, 2017 - 11:45am
Dannl
 
Not quite a horror story....it happens daily hundreds of times. But most people wouldn't even have the forehand cash to pay for treatment abroad or a neighborng country like Senegal or Ivory Coast where hospitals are better...I didn't have that kind of money as well at the time. And to ask our consulate for help would have been the last thing to do. One doesn't leave a country because he doesn't like to live there and begs for help at their embassy afterwards....
 
You're right about the boxes ;-)
opher goodwin Added Sep 8, 2017 - 6:05pm
SEF - that sounds terrible. But I can well believe. The hospital I saw in Zambia was frightening and we have a number of bugs in hospitals here - MRSA being one. Hospitals are places to avoid if you possible can.
BTW - there were similar holes in the pavement in Lima. Scary.
Phil Greenough Added Sep 8, 2017 - 6:14pm
That's quite a story. My sympathies, it must really suck knowing none of that would have happened if they had simply put a board over the holes. As for development aid, the reason most of it is squandered has much more to do with the poor governance than your theory of how it disappears. After all, it's these leaders that had workers dig 7 foot holes where people might be walking.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Sep 8, 2017 - 6:22pm
I think foreign aid is a tool to keep some nations dependent on the west. There is competion now with China who follow their saying 'give a man a fish...'. They invest in profitable businesses while we bribe dictators.
 
This girl gives some extra information and her view on foreign aid in a nice video.
John G Added Sep 8, 2017 - 6:56pm
The capitalist west's aid model is corrupt and designed to benefit the host nations' corporate sector. And most of the NGOs have been corrupted to fit the model.
There won't be any better outcomes while the IMF-World Bank-USAID troika exists. 
And no, the EU structure is no better.
Nasty Added Sep 8, 2017 - 7:13pm
What a wonderful world! I guess a person just has to take care of themselves, because others are in it for themselves!
What happened to the Christian Missions we used to see in the movies?
John G Added Sep 8, 2017 - 9:47pm
Those christian missionaries were imperial agents.
I'm not against aid. I'm against what our (western) countries do in the name of aid.
The Chinese development model, though far from altruistic (nor claimed to be), is far better for the people in the countries involved.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:20am
Opher
 
Really. I would go to hospital only when absolutely necessary.....
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:21am
Phil
 
If that would happen in Europe, you could at least sue the company for not respecting security and protection. But not in Africa LOL
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:22am
Benjamin
 
I think foreign aid is a tool to keep some nations dependent on the west.
 
That's exactly it.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:24am
John
 
And most of the NGOs have been corrupted to fit the model.
 
Fully agree. That's why small and private like ours always had and have to struggle for funding. Also a reason why we set up a profitable business where we can cut benefit in order to support our NGO...
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:26am
Nasty
 
What happened to the Christian Missions we used to see in the movies?
 
See John's comment. Although the Chinese are also benefiting from African resources and don't create much work for the locals (mostly they import their own staff), they at least build infrastructure instead of flattening places ;-)
Katharine Otto Added Sep 9, 2017 - 1:27pm
Stone-Eater,
I could write a book on public safety hazards on public land, even here in the US.  I could also write a book on the kind of "health care" I received when I broke my left wrist chasing the fox that was chasing my rooster.  
 
It was around 7 p.m. on a Friday night.  I went to an orthopedic clinic, but they were about to close, no doctors on the premises.  I was seen by a PA who did a splint and scheduled me for an appointment the next week.  I refused the $30,000 surgery and opted for a cast, that turned out to be too tight and caused some nerve damage.  The "care" I received, over multiple visits, resulted in more costs than help. 
 
My wrist is still bent, too, and that arm is weak, but I have no pain and can do most things reasonably well. I just turned 65 and refused Medicare.  My "health care" advice to anyone who "cares" is to avoid hospitals and doctors at all "costs."
 
And the rooster lived, required no "health care," and still wakes me up every morning.
 
opher goodwin Added Sep 9, 2017 - 2:05pm
SEF - too true. Hospitals are full of sick people - you can catch things!
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 2:09pm
Katharine
 
Wow. So the US is also kind of 3rd world in terms of health care......I actually got my wrist repaired in Switzerland for free when I came back after 4 years for a while. But they fixed it with a metal stab and 4 screws and told me that my "movements would be kind of restricted from now on, but only a bit." That was true. I couldn't play guitar anymore because it's my left hand. I twisted and twisted on the guitar until the metal stab broke in my arm - and finally my hand was crooked again and no more straight.
 
But I could play guitar again. Although that broken metal and the screws are still in my wrist and arm, I have no pain. Doctors told me to take it out because "when you're 50, the pain will start, and arthrose will begin." I'm 59 now and have no problems LOL
Shane Laing Added Sep 9, 2017 - 3:17pm
Sounds bad Stone.  With regard to my invite to come over anytime, errr maybe not lol.  Its only my opinion but I think overseas aid is just a way of bribing officials so big multi-nationals can get their hands on countries mineral wealth either now or in the future. 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 3:41pm
Hey Shane don't be scared. Senegal is not Mali....
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 3:42pm
BTW: Basically you're right. But with an broken arm you don't care about multinationals LOL
opher goodwin Added Sep 9, 2017 - 5:59pm
You're bionic SEF.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 6:49pm
What means "bionic"?
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 11:30pm
Interesting place, WRT to Health Care.
 
Some of the clinics do a great job, government run or NGO run.  Per some docs I worked with when  I was there (limited to East Africa), very sound primary care, usually with nurses as providers.  To an extent, that is where the aid money goes.
 
Hospitals are a very mixed bag.  Usually, circa 1960s tech. Somewhere between the 19th Century idea of "Hospital as where the poor go to die" and the 1960s American idea of  "Hospital as doctors' workshop."
 
Some hospitals in international hubs, like the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, did world class medicine and had a very effective outreach to the poor, especially to the Somali refugees in Eastleigh.
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 11:36pm
"I think foreign aid is a tool to keep some nations dependent on the west. There is competion now with China who follow their saying 'give a man a fish...'. They invest in profitable businesses while we bribe dictators."
 
I think the PRC has a fairly effective (if slightly Mercantilist) approach to investment in Africa.  They were doing a lot everywhere in East Africa back in '04.
 
This is one reason why I think One Belt/One Road might actually work.   Africa is the Asia of the 21st Century and the PRC knew enough to get there first.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 5:36am
John
 
Exactly ! Fully agree on your comments, thanks.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:55am
MJ
 
Sorry.......for me Africa starts south of the Sahara and ends in Zimbabwe LOL
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:57am
BTW: I know, Barnaard. But frankly, SA is an exception. It has by far the largest white population, that's probably why I often see it as "un-African". Although I know it's not correct....
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:59am
yyy ? ;-)
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 7:08am
Here it's  16° and cloudy. Autumn on the way :-(
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 7:17am
GRRRRR. But I can do with rain and cold since I know that there's only 4 months left until I get to a better climate ;-)
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 1:43pm
MJ
 
The same thing in Senegal. Private hospitals are much better equipped and expensive than state holes. But almost all doctors are French-educated - and Cheikh Anta Diop is about the best university in West Africa.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:11pm
Stone-Eater,
So there's more to your story, and a twisted wrist is better for your guitar, then.  I'm glad I didn't have surgery.  My arm has straightened out some, judging by old pictures, so there is hope for more natural healing. I'm considering alternative treatments, like acupuncture.
 
It's hard to generalize about health care, but yes, I do believe US health care is over-rated, as well as over-priced.  Also, they don't seem to be training doctors as well as I was trained.  We were taught to do good physical exams, and in psychiatry, a good neuro exam was crucial.  In my latest encounter with the local internal medicine clinic, the intern didn't even know how to use a stethoscope.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 11, 2017 - 6:17am
Katharine
 
It's surprising how good doctors in Africa are. They simply lack good equipment. To fix a hole in a tooth and get a filling costs you around 20-40$, unlike in Switzerland where the same amounts to 400-800$.....

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