Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shipment Arrives

It was a year ago when I first started packing up my garage at my Phoenix home, preparaing for this year long stay in Malawi. There, boxes upon boxes on various assorted medical supplies had been donated and filled half of my 18x12 ft garage! Containers literally went to the ceiling. It was a large task and took a team of weekend warrior volunteers to sort through, but in the end 30 large boxes were stuffed with valuable supplies. At that time we had no idea that plans were underway for the hospital to build a burn ward and that these supplies would stock the shelves of a future constructed burn ward. I am looking forward to itemizing and seeing these shelves filled, hopefully this November. It is my hope that many of these items will last the unit for 9-12 months. An estimate to make donors most proud for putting their utmost effort in donating and displacing me in my own garage!
Donated supplies from the US are very important to our program. The quality of these supplies are by far greater than those I can purchase in Malawi. If you are a medical professional or product rep interested in supply donation please contact me at my private email africaburnrelief@gmail for an itemized list and warehouse address where items can be sent.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prevention is the Best Treatment

60% of all patients we treat in Nkhoma are less than age 6. This disturbing figure calls for strategies to help prevent these burn injuries. Africa Burn Relief is working to target these children and their parents to help give them the education tools they need to think twice when kids are nearby when cooking or near heating fires. Fortunately, with the help of child psychologist, Dr. Rimmer and illustrator, Allyson Rimmer we have brought a culture appropriate and Chichewa translated children's prevention book to rural Nkhoma, Malawi. Luka's Safety Adventure is a coloring book that teaches Malawian children how to stay safe around environmental factors which they are most vulnerable to; fires, road accidents, and drownings.
Pictured is 6 yr old Tim with his book. As he is on bedrest after a recent surgery, he will need all the entertainment we can find to keep him in bed!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ABR Seeks Directed Donor for Youngest At-Risk Burn Patient

Baby Victor, featured earlier in my blog, was severely burned at the young at of 4 weeks old. He is progressing in his healing process, which is miraculous to say the least. He has made it through some very difficult weeks. I have confidence that with one more surgery he will make it to proper wound healing.
The obstacle then becomes his function. Now at just 7 weeks old there is no way to tell if he will ever be able to walk correctly after such a devastating injury. It will take a year of intensive therapy, if not longer, to determine what function each of his disfigured feet and ankles he will have. Will his new grafted skin be able to stretch as he rapidly as he grows in infancy?
What he needs is the best chance possible to prevent him from a severe disablity. We are fortunate to have one Physical Therapy assistant at our hospital who can help rehabilitate young Victor over his critical year of recovery.
Although we never ask for a directed donor for a specific patient, baby Victor is the exception. He is the youngest and most severe burn in a infant ever treated in Nkhoma. He is highly at risk of severe handicap. I am seeking an interested donor to consider funding his transport to and from the hospital (30 minute minibus drive) twice a month for PT sessions. As a rule, ABR does not fund transport, but if an interested donor would agree to fund this piece of his critical rehab we would be most grateful. The cost of this transport, plus his PT sessions would cost about $25 per month.
If you have an interest in this story, please email me directly at

Updated: Aug, 24
Many thanks to the Orlowsky-Ferhat family for graciously meeting our request to fund Victor's burn rehabilitation for an entire year!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Dr's de jonge Vink's!

Today marks a sad day for Nkhoma Hospital, as well as for me personally. Dr. Naomi Vink, who has been a friend and colleague for four years here at Nkhoma, will depart Malawi to move on to new opportunities to Portugal with her husband, Erik. Both Naomi and Erik have made incredible strides for Nkhoma Hospital in their respective departments. Naomi has fostered the burn program and looked after the burn patients in my absence. For this I will be forever grateful. She always had a special way of handling the very youngest burn patients, who are the most difficult to treat, seeing the pain they must endure until they progress to healing. It was always a happy moment to see a picture sent to the US when she appeared in the picture with a smiling healed child! Dr. Vink later progressed to settle in the obstetrics and gynecology unit, where her extreme dedication has led to saving the lives of multiple new mothers and infants. Maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world in Malawi, and Dr. Vink passionately tried to overturn these figures during her 4-year stay.
Equally as impactful, Dr. Erik has been instrumental in helping to shape the Public Health Department. Many new programs for safe motherhood and malaria prevention were initiated during his stay. The most visible change for Nkhoma Erik has made is starting an IT department. When I first arrived 4 years ago there was no chance of having the internet in Nkhoma. You had to travel 1.5 hrs on a dirt road, dodging cows and goats, to find access! Moreover, the first ever computerized data base is now functioning on each unit to assist with patient data and patient bills, which will progress to higher advances over the years to come, all because of Erik and his IT team.
Words cannot express the loss we will all feel on their departure. I know they will again return to see their work flourish over the years to come. Goodluck on your new adventures in Portugal, and we hope to visit one day!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nkhoma Burn Ward Construction Quickly Progressing

Nkhoma Hospital will recieve its' first ever burn ward equipped with 8 beds, tub and shower rooms, dressing room and supply closet this November. This is a tremendous step in improving the overall burn care for burn victims. ABR is extremely grateful to Nkhoma Hospital and the Bosrand Malawi Work Team for making such a state-of-the-art unit possible in rural Malawi.
It is our desire and hope to find proper funding in the future to make this unit a center for burn reconstruction for central Malawi. To date no such facility exists. Currently our program does reach the immediate area surrounding the mission hospital to provide the reconstruction surgeries that burn patients need. Most of these patients are young children and without intervention would lead a disabled life. Additionally, a much larger population exists in the capital city and several surrounding district hospitals where patients have no place to turn to for specialized surgery.
In order to extend our services to a larger geographical area we will require partner organizations as collaborators and committed donors to assist with the needed funds to turn this into a reality.
The typical reconstruction surgery in our Malawi facility costs astonishingly only 20$ and total hospitalization cost of $125! Compare this with US pricing at $12,000 and $30-40k total stay.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saving Baby Victor

Baby Victor, at the early age of 4 weeks, was being carried by his 6 year old brother, Tim, when he accidentally dropped his infant brother into a fire they were trying to stay warm by. Trying to save him from the flames, Tim and Victor both endured 3rd degree burns. Pictured is Baby Victor's wrapped legs and blistered feet. He has a long journey to recovery. He will require skin grafts, splinting, therapy, and proper nutrition. He will battle malaria, fevers, and infections during his foreseen 3 month stay. The boys parents will never be able to afford these hospital costs on 1$ per day salary.
These horrific stories are all too common in Malawi and moreover completely preventable. Because parents are often working outside the household or caring for the home, young siblings are often left to care for even younger siblings. It is not uncommon to see a 3 or 4 year old carrying an infant strapped to their backs while making long treks to gather water, firewood or food.
Very luckily, both boys, despite all odds against them, will have a good chance of healing due to ABR donors helping to supply exactly what they need. They will have clean dressings for their wounds, soap to be cleansed with, and trained staff who know how surgically care for their wounds.
It will take only $125 to pay for his hosptial costs and essentially save his life. ABR donor money will pay for his care and ensure he receives every chance for survival. Without this funding assistance, families of burn victims often flee the hospital in the middle of the night, fearing the fact they cannot pay for their child's care, ignorant that their child's life is at stake.