Fieldset
"Luckily, our care is free": Inside L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre

MSF often hits the headlines when an emergency breaks in the news, such as a natural disaster or war, but we also provide day-to-day healthcare in places such as Bujumbura, Burundi. Anaesthetist Kariantti takes us inside L’Arche de Kigobe trauma centre. 

Patients at MSF's L’Arche de Kigobe trauma centre in Bujumbura, Burundi

My anesthesiologist colleague Jerome arrived back at L’Arche and, by the next week, we were definitely back in business. With two new admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU) and a full operating theatre list, we had our hands full.  

The night before, the emergency doctor had admitted a 35-year-old man for surveillance to the ICU with multiple traumas, including a fractured femur and a severe brain trauma.  

Looking at the masses of patients in the wards and emergency and outpatient departments, I kept wondering whether we hadn’t already treated half of the city

During the day, his level of consciousness seemed to improve somewhat, so we continued monitoring him in the ICU.  He was very sleepy but conscious from time to time, though even then very confused.  

The problem was we had a hard time finding and contacting the relatives.  

The little boy with no spleen 

The nine-year-old boy with the ruptured spleen, however, was recovering well from his big operation. 

After two days, we were already able to transfer him to a normal ward for further recovery.  

He would need some vaccinations in the future because now he was without a spleen. But he survived, and that’s something. Actually, that’s a lot.  

Something to remember for the bad days.  

Business as usual 

In the operating theatre, it was business as usual.  

Our days were filled with trauma patients, both minor and major.  

We do a lot of external fixations to different fractures and cleaning wounds on a daily basis. 

kariantti-kallio-1.jpg

Anesthesiologist Kariantti Kallio at work in the L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre
Anesthesiologist Kariantti Kallio at work in the L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre

But when needed, we also do visceral surgery (internal organs). And skin grafts, of course, for the numerous burns victims we receive.  

The team works very hard and take their work very seriously, and it felt easy joining this well-functioning team. 

A new perspective  

During the week, things slowed down again somewhat. But we still had a lot of patients in the hospital.  

And, looking at the masses of patients in the wards and emergency and outpatient departments, I kept wondering whether we hadn’t already treated half of the city.   

But more people kept coming in every day.

On the other hand, it’s been nice to see that MSF projects can be something other than treating gunshot victims, as in some of my previous projects.  

To witness how evolved orthopedics and traumatology already is here, and how the staff really takes the quality of care seriously, working for the best possible outcome, is heartwarming.  

I guess that’s a story you don’t always hear from this part of the world.  

The biggest problem often is that people seldom have the money to get the best possible care.  

Luckily, our care is free. 

--

Read more: From the operating room

Noma in Nigeria: "The resilience of our patients is astounding"

Yemen: A dangerous diagnosis