Dr. James Appel serves as a medical missionary in Africa. He is a doctor in Chad, a country in north central Africa. Life there is often difficult because of the weather and harsh living conditions, but it can also be interesting. Here is Dr. Appel’s story about one of his favorite patients, a boy named Gwame.
I finished work early at the hospital and took Bob, my horse, out to the river. We rode across the African plain at a slow gallop. After arriving at the river I carefully looked up and down to make sure there were no hippos and then took a long swim. The day was hot and the water felt cool. I got out and got back on Bob. Bob had just eaten the only green grass anywhere to be found in the dry season here in Chad, so he had a lot of energy. He took off at a fast pace.
What do medical missionaries do?
- They serve as dentists, doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians, lab workers, physical therapists, and anesthesiologists.
- They work in hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries.
- They teach classes on health, first aid, and hygiene.
- They train medical students.
- Sometimes they take their supplies and travel by boat, truck, or small plane to provide medical assistance in remote areas.
We finally slowed down as we entered the village of Béré, where Gwame’s house is. As I rode up I saw Gwame running out to meet me. The first time I met Gwame he could barely walk, much less run.
A year ago I had gone to Gwame’s house to visit his family with my friend Troy. Gwame was carried in by his older sister. bug bites. He was skinny and his eyes were dull and hollow. Both his legs were angled toward the left at the knees as if something had hit them from the right side. It left him unable to walk.
Troy wanted to help, so he found some friends back home in the United States who gave money to help Gwame. We took him to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and got him a passport. Then we sent him to Kenya to the CURE hospital to be treated. The CURE hospital does surgeries on kids who have bone problems or who cannot walk.
The doctors there operated on Gwame to fix his legs. They put his legs in heavy plaster casts for two months. Gwame came home after one month. He had eaten a lot of food in Kenya and was now a chubby little dude!
Six weeks after he came back, we took off his casts. He was scared and cried a lot. He wobbled a few steps and then had to be carried home by his mom. We were worried the surgery didn’t work.
But then a few months later, as I rode up to Gwame’s house on Bob, Gwame came running out to meet me with a huge smile on his face. He didn’t limp and his eyes were bright.
“Gwame, ma gei ere lemga ga?” I asked if he wanted to ride on Bob. He nodded seriously. So I leaned over and hauled his 5-yearold healed body onto the saddle. He sat in front of me and squealed in delight as we trotted off toward the hospital.