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Evacuating a child with a broken femur
September 18, 2014
By Sandy Hart (President) and Sandra McGirr (Vice President) of DESEA Peru

This story is the last in a three part series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains. 

On a recent day in Kelloccocha, DESEA nurses, Mary Luz and Sandra, and qhali, Jeronima, encountered an eight-year-old girl, who had fallen 2.5 meters onto a rock, four days earlier. She was lying on her home’s dirt floor with a broken femur. The mother, with her husband out of community, was simply hoping the problem would go away, and did not have the resources or understanding of how to manage such an emergency. She was just doing what she could, keeping her daughter warm, fed, and as comfortable as possible with ibuprofen.    

Mary Luz, Sandra, and Jeronima, quickly developed an evacuation plan for the young child. Using some light eucalyptus branches they stitched together a stretcher with one of the family blankets. Next, they had to package the child for transport. Using an old foamie, a piece of cardboard, and thick woven Andean belts, they were able to stabilize the child’s leg for transport, ensuring no further movement would occur during the long bumpy ride to the hospital.  

With the child stabilized they switched their focus to her mother, helping to secure her property, animals and potatoes for her absence from the community, and finding someone to watch over her meager belongings. They told the mother to take what money she had as she would need this in the city. Her total savings amounted to 40 soles ($14).

Mary Luz, Sandra and Jeronima carried the child down one hill, over the creek and up another for more than 30 minutes, until they reached the truck. Transporting her in the back of the open pick-up, we reached the hospital five hours after we first encountered this young patient.  

Our fingers are crossed that everything will be okay for this young girl with her whole life ahead of her, but a fractured femur, left untreated for four days, will likely not be easily treated and may result in long-term problems. Had the qhali been notified earlier, when the accident first occurred, the treatment would have been much more routine; however, the mother had been managing alone in her adobe home and was overwhelmed by the situation and simply shut down.  

One positive outcome of this incident is that DESEA will be able to use it as an example of the need for community plans to deal with emergencies. As well, the community will see how a qhali can be used to provide immediate care and to summon outside assistance when needed. 

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