All three arrived at Casualty at the same time. A dispute over cows had turned ugly. Guns were fired, two were killed and the rest were brought to our hospital. The most seriously injured were taken to the operating theatre immediately. A few minutes later, Dr. Russ and I took this patient to surgery. He had been shot in the leg just below the knee. The bones were shattered, the foot was cold and numb. He lost a lot of blood at the time of the injury and on the way. A makeshift tourniquet wrapped tightly around the injury and soaked in blood had probably saved his life.
In the operating room, the bleeding was controlled and the injuries quickly assessed. The main artery and vein behind the knee were torn in two. Only a few fibers held the main nerve together. Any chance of saving this man’s leg would require immediately restoring blood flow to the leg. We quickly removed a vein from his other leg and proceeded to replace his torn artery with this harvested vein. The operation is difficult because of the location of the injury, deep behind the knee. Nevertheless, within a little over an hour, the blood was again pulsating to his leg. Once the flow was restored though, the leg began to ooze blood from where all the bullet fragments had torn through the tissue. The patient became unstable, his blood pressure dropped, he was cold and his blood was as thin as Kool-Aid. All of us at the OR table knew that the combination of a cold patient in shock with continued bleeding is often a spiral that cannot be reversed, quickly leading to death.
We called for blood, but the technicians in the lab reported that it wouldn’t be available for another 25 minutes, and they said, when it was available, it would be cold, straight from refrigeration. The situation was desperate. The patient continued to bleed, the blood pressure continued to plummet. Dr. Russ dropped out of the case; he said he wanted to go to the lab to see if he could help retrieve the blood while we continued the resuscitation. Fifteen minutes later, he returned with a big bag of warm blood. It was quickly transfused, the patient began to stabilize, and we were able to proceed with an operation that controlled his bleeding. Everyone in the operating theatre knew that the blood that saved this man’s life was Dr. Russ’s.
A few hours later, I talked to the young man about the operation, and I explained to him that if it had not been for Dr. Russ donating his blood, he would have died on the OR table. The realization that a man who was a total stranger gave his blood to save his life began to sink in. He had no words to convey his gratitude.
Later, I was there when Dr. Russ asked him if he knew Jesus as his Savior. He did not. And then Dr. Russ explained that it was one thing for him (Dr. Russ) to give his blood to save this young man’s physical life. But two thousand years ago, Jesus gave His blood to save us and give us eternal life. Even though this young man didn’t commit his life to Jesus that night, I believe a seed was planted in his heart that he will never forget. That night in a remote mission hospital in Africa, I was reminded that we have no words to convey our gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.
From Africa with love,