Written by Oluwatosin Fatade
About 2 years ago, I was the intern in the orthopedic and trauma unit of a teaching hospital in Nigeria. We saw a wide range of cases affecting patients but the most common reason we had patients was road traffic accidents.
Motor vehicular road traffic accidents were notorious for strange mind blowing fractures in all the awkward ways possible for those who survive, while the motor bike accidents seemed to love inflicting the head with powerful blows that usually makes death and life in a 50-50 balance.
I must say that while accidents may not be preventable or predictable sometimes, most of the injuries sustained are largely preventable. I’ll tell you how before I wrap this up.
As I was saying about my intern year earlier, I remember one of the patients – hard to forget really. A 7 year old girl who fell from a motorcycle and broke her ankle few weeks before we saw her; she came with a non-healing fracture close to the ankle. It looked really bad, the bones were in the outside, had a lot of black debris around it and had a bandage and ruler which was removed at presentation.
She had been taken to traditional bone setters by her parents probably due to financial reasons and myths about these bone setters being more skilled than trained health care professionals. What we the managing team found most displeasing was the fact that the father of this young girl was educated, a teacher.
Because of the girl’s age and so many other factors, we decided to try to save the leg, even though it looked unlikely for it to survive. The leg was cleaned with as much dead tissue removed as possible. The leg seemed to fare well for a maximum of 24hrs when the remaining tissue already dying showed vivid signs of death. At that point, our initial option from the start was now justified – amputation. It was the most disturbing procedure we did throughout my stay there. More displeasing to my ears was the fact that she might need occasional trimming as it was still a growing bone.
The myth I need to clear here is this; that bone setters are the pros. They are not, they get lucky. They do not investigate, they do trial and error. Even when a bone is visible on the outside and broken, no doctor is allowed to make that diagnosis on paper without an X ray. Feel free to argue, I do not even pray that I am proved right with a bad experience, but I wish above all things you would just believe. Safe to say that the father of that young girl would never patronise them, no matter how ‘good’ they may be. He eventually paid more for the whole hospital stay and procedures than he would have had he come much earlier.
You’re better safe than sorry. If you must take a motorbike, use a helmet (important for both rider and passenger!). Always use the seatbelt in a car even if you’re sitting at the back. Use the passenger walkways or bridges properly. In all stay safe please. If after all of these precautions you ever sustain an injury, please go to the hospital, not to the bone setters.