The first time I met Joseph, was in 2013. He layed in a dark 2’3 sqm room. I met a 7 year old boy, so burned on his head and arms he couldn’t move and inch. He was crippled in pain with his arms and feet locked in contractures. He was gnashing his teeth because of the burns he had ten days before, which hadn’t been treated by anyone.
He was together with his two siblings when it happened, and they were playing while their mother was on the marked selling palm oil to subsist their family. Their father had died a year ago.
A candle light at an aggregate had caused the explosion that led to Josephs thirds degree burns on his head and arms. The family had no money to get medical care. They were finally offered to join a car from Mahagi to Bunia, ten hours drive to see if there could be any help to find there. Our organisation Great Actions for Development, heard about the accident at a morning reunion at the United Nation office. Joseph had been declined at Bunias District Hospital due lack of money. This is unfortunately not a seldom story, but the case for a lot of people in DRC, having no welfare scheme. No money, no treatment.
I had a strong encounter with this little boy. He couldn’t hear or talk after the accident. The only word I heard him say, was “fire!”. It was a pleasure hear him switch from gnashing teeth to humming “mmm…” when we gave him milk and bread. He barely managed to sit up when I sat behind him, and then he started to cradle back and forth while chewing his milk dipped bread.
We gave him antibiotics so that the wounds would heal, and brought him to the doctor and physiotherapist so that they could do a consideration of a surgery. They had faith for a surgery if Josephs general state of health improved. We housed he and his mother somewhere nearby, and made sure he got the food and rehabilitation he needed. I came and visited him almost every day and helped with muscle training after he had layed flat for several days. He finally managed to walk well enough for a surgery.
The organisation Central Medical Evangelization took responsibility for the surgery without any agreement on payment. The missionary Wendy from Canada gave clear signal for him to go into surgery, which went well. Unfortunately we figured out that we needed to provide pain relief from our own pockets after the surgery. It came to be a big expense, but we managed even though it didn’t seem to be enough to ease his pain. Joseph was throwing his head and body back and forth gnashing his teeth in partly narcosis. His poor mother tried to hold his head still on her lap and I tried to quiet his arms which he was throwing around in attemt to ease the aching.
They had now transplanted skin from his thigh to his wrist which had been straightened out after painful contractures. Joseph got diarrhea and fever. There was no sheets at the hospital, so I had brought all the blankets I found at home and given it to him. He needed help with everything, even when he needed to relief himself he had to have two nurses, which also took care of eighteen other patients in the little infirmary that only had fourty centimeters between each bed. When a woman one day died, immidiately after being brought in – Joseph was there, half a meter away from her. He saw the nurses run back and forth trying to prevent death. No single rooms, no curtains that seperated the patients. The patiens got to see more than what they should be able to handle in their already fragile state, but there is no help.
Joseph was floating between life and death in a terrible fever, until his state one day suddenly turned around and he gradually became better and could after a few weeks take his first small steps with help from others. That led to bleeding from his skin transplantation, and fluid came out. So when I finally got the call from G.A.D on my way back home from DRC, telling me that Joseph now took steps on his own, I burst out in joy and relief.
Half a year later I once more got a touching encounter with Joseph. He sat together with his neighbours and when he saw me he stood up and came towards me. First I didn’t understand that it was him. His hair that used to be burned, was now shaved off and he walked normally on his feet. Joseph would have stayed crippled if he didn’t get help he got. In DRC you see people, including kids, walking around on their albows and knees because they didn’t get anyone to treat them after car accidents and other incidents such as Josephs accident, because of lack of money for treatment.
Central Medical Evangelization, which collaborates with Great Actions for Development in different situations such as this, used to have a group of elders in Holland that used to support people in this region that didn’t have money for treatment. Now this group has withdrawn their engagement, and the organisation CME and therefore also GAD greatly needs someone to meet this need, so that we can help people like Joseph, have a healthy future even if their pockets are empty when horrifying things like this happen. Will you help continue this engagement? Some even die because they can’t get money for normal medicine such as Pencilin. It will save lifes. The next time we carry a witness like this, you might know that you participated in this persons hope for the future.