**WARNING! This story is medical in nature and as such is written to those in the medical profession. Should others choose to read it, continue at your own risk!**
A call came in from one of our bush areas…a missionary had cut off his thumb! This man and his family were in the process of building their house in the village in which they are working. The doctor here at the clinic told him that he wouldn’t be able to do much, that the man needed to go to the hausik (hospital) there and have the surgeon look at it. We got a call the next day that the man had just boarded an NTMA (NTM’s Aviation group) flight and was on his way to our clinic. We thought, “There’s nothing we can do except tell him he needs to go to Australia to see a hand surgeon. We already told him we can’t do anything. Why is he still coming?”
When he arrived, I realized it was the same missionary we’d seen 2-3 weeks ago for broken ribs and a bruised hip after the ladder he was standing on fell and he landed on top of it! Just not his month this month! As he walked in, his thumb—his apparently whole thumb—was bandaged up but he was in a lot of pain. As the doctor began to slowly remove the bandage so as not to pain him further, he began telling us that he’d been making furniture for their house. Despite safety measures and being an experienced carpenter, the joiner saw suddenly grabbed his right thumb and took a big bite out of it. The man grabbed some rags and clamped it over the thumb then ran out of the woodshop, screaming for help. Others quickly surrounded him and began getting him the medical help he needed. His wife called our clinic and talked to one of the doctors. One of the other men recovered the tip of the thumb but said that it was too mangled to try to reattach. Upon hearing the clinic doctor’s recommendations, one of the others drove the man into town to the hausik. The surgeon there, without giving any pain medication and without much finesse, began scrubbing the wound clean with betadine before packing it tight—very tight!—with gauze and betadine and finally wrapping it in gauze wrap. To say the pain was intense would be a gross understatement! But I won’t disturb you further by telling you about it!
Listening to all of this, our doctor took it slow and easy removing that bandage, soaking off the parts that stuck. When the wrap was finally free, we could see that he had cut off the tip from the base of the nail and up leaving the flesh to the left of the nail and about a third of the very tip intact. With the base of the thumb now visible, we were able to then give a local anesthetic to numb the entire thing, marveling at all he had endured so far! Once it was numb the packing could be removed without discomfort. And there was a lot of it! Packed so tight and with the remaining flap of flesh in its original position, which would have let it heal in a very awkward position! After this we irrigated it well and that’s when we realized that the doctor could lay the flap across the wound and suture it down, leaving a padding for the bone (which was not visible, by the way!) once the wound healed. So this he did.
Each dressing change it has just continued to look better and better! Within a few days of the accident he had almost full mobility back in the middle joint of the thumb! But the most miraculous is the change from yesterday to today! The upper side of the wound went from being open and filling in yesterday to almost healed over today with the nail bed intact (so he may still be able to grow a finger nail on that thumb!), while the lower side went from being open but filling in yesterday to filling in even more and starting to cover over today with very little pain! As long as this continues, he and his family will be back out to their location next week! Praise God for His continuous mercy and faithfulness! Once again we were reminded that it’s not about what our knowledge is or what we can do but about God’s sovereign faithfulness and mercy!