Fieldset
Treating burns in Burundi: "How do we explain this to children?"

Burns are common at L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre in Burundi. But how do you explain the often painful treatment to children? Anaesthetist Kariantti grapples with this question as he cares for two young patients.

A child is treated for second degree burns at the L’Arche de Kigobe trauma centre

As I mentioned in Part 2, we also treat burns in the hospital, many of them unfortunately children.  

There are many considerations that need to be taken into account when treating these little patients, especially as they often lose a lot of fluids from their secreting wounds.  

As you can imagine, being in the tropics, the wounds easily become infected and the patients also often suffer from systemic secondary infections.  

As our options for antibiotics are limited, this poses another great challenge for us to treat them.  

The boys with burns

We had two children with burns being treated in the hospital.  

The older one, a five-year-old boy, had burned both of his legs many weeks before my arrival.  

But, his wounds had become infected and were still smelling bad, so the skin graft had to be postponed for several weeks.  

If you make the mistake of looking into their great big eyes filled with tears and confusion, you’ll be lost forever

He also still needed to be taken into the operating theatre regularly to clean the wounds under sedation.  

I can only imagine the stress this caused for the young mind and body.  

A day at a time 

The younger child was only a little over one year old and he had just arrived at the hospital.  

He had burned his shoulders and head with hot water, and, while the wounds seemed clean, he seemed to be suffering from a systemic infection, possibly pneumonia.  

So, we were on guard with him as well.  

This also a greater risk for anesthesia with him, as the dressings needed to be changed and wounds cleaned regularly while he was under sedation in theatre. 

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The operating theatre in L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre
The operating theatre in L'Arche de Kigobe trauma centre

One of the most terrible things is that there is no way to explain to children fully why they need to be subjected to painful procedures, time and again.  

If you make the mistake of looking into their great big eyes filled with tears and confusion, you’ll be lost forever. I know I was.  

But I’m here now. So, you take it one day at a time and don’t worry about tomorrow too much yet.  

There’s little more you can do.  

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