The Leg that Wouldn’t Heal

What would you do if your leg were covered with sores? As one sore heals, another takes its place. Image that, on top of the sores, your entire leg is full of pain because of a massive infection. What would you do if you suffered from the sores and pain for six long years? 

A twenty-year-old woman, Pierrette, has been coming to visit us and get treatment for her leg. She is a member of the SDA church here in Natitingou. The problem with her leg started when she was a little baby. From time to time, her leg would swell up. When she was about 14 years old, her leg started to swell more frequently and sores started breaking out. Then, her leg became infected, swelled even more, and started to hurt. The sores would eventually heal, but if not, she would go to the hospital to get an antibiotic treatment and the swelling would go down a bit and the sores would disappear.

This past year has been different. The sores returned and Pierrette’s leg has been infected all the time. At first, we tried charcoal poultices to draw out the infection. We showed her how to apply the poultices and explained how they worked. She was skeptical but agreed to try it. For a while the treatment worked and we did quite a number of them as different places became infected. But as the infection spread, the charcoal stopped working, antibiotics stopped working, and antibiotic cream stopped working. 

Finally, in June, a local doctor sent Pierrette to an Italian doctor in another town about an hour north of here. The Italian doctor visits the area infrequently, but he was there at that time, so she went up and underwent a 10-day treatment to fight the infection. She received 12 to 14 shots a day. The infection responded and left. 

After she came home, a new sore started and got bigger and bigger but it was not infected. We applied a special antibiotic cream. The sore, however, continued to get bigger and bigger. Because the doctor’s prescription wasn’t working, we took Pierrette back to visit him when he was scheduled to be in the area again. 

We left at about 8 o’clock and arrived about an hour and a half later. When we were almost there, it started to rain hard. I turned on the windshield wipers and nothing happened. (I discovered later that the fuse had blown.) “Oh well, no biggie,” I thought. We couldn’t go very fast because of the rain and the holes, but I knew the road.

It was still raining when we got to the hospital. We made a mad dash for the overhang, where about 75 people or so were already waiting to see the doctors. We sat down on concrete benches with the wind blowing on us and waited. I was cold and wet and I couldn’t breath out of my nose because of a cold. We waited and waited. About noon we figured out that the doctors were seeing new cases first. This meant we would have to wait even longer, so we went to the market to get something to eat. We found some rice and beans to eat and then went back and sat down again to wait. Read and wait. 

Finally, at about 7 p.m., a nurse read through the list of people they would see that day. Pierrette’s name wasn’t on the list. She quickly went and found the other doctor. He looked for her card and discovered that it had been moved. Her name was put back on the list for that day. 

We waited until about 8:45 p.m. and they finally called her. The doctor was very tired. He had been seeing people since early that morning without taking any break. After seeing that his other treatment wasn’t working, the doctor decided that Pierrette needed an operation. 

By the time we were through, it was 9 p.m. and we still had an hour drive ahead of us. I don’t mind driving at night on those roads, but recently there have been bandits on that road and so it isn’t safe to drive at night. We couldn’t stay where we were, so we had a quick prayer for safety and took off. 

I knew Uli would be worried because we weren’t home yet, but what could I do? We don’t have a telephone. About half way home, after we had bounced through a couple of hundred potholes, a motorcycle came beeping up behind us and passed us. It was Sidoine. About 30 seconds later, Uli came up on another motorcycle. Uli thought the hospital stopped seeing people at 6 p.m. and was worried. They thought that maybe our truck had broken down so they came looking for us. We explained a bit and we continued home together. We all got to bed about 12:30 a.m. 

Pierrette went up two days later to have the operation. We visited her five days later and they had just done the operation about three hours before we got there. We took her brother and her father’s second wife to take care of her. She was in a lot of pain but was waiting for the pain killer to work. 

Pierrette came home 10 days later. Her leg is healing and she is walking again—just in time for school to start.


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