Mead Minutes: Challenges and Triumphs

Greetings from the Philippines! The week was a very busy one for the Tebow CURE Hospital. Not only did we have a good group of patients arrive for surgery, but the surgeries were challenges as well. We had very crooked arms to straighten, a patient with a 90 degree scoliosis curve to adjust and fuse, a young girl with malformations of her spine that were unstable so a fusion was needed to stop progressive deformity, and many other challenges.

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Vingie

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Vingie’s leg before surgery

One young orphan boy really touched my heart. This 15-year-old boy has been surviving by living with different family members and friends since his parents died. I cannot even imagine life like this! Vingie had suffered a gunshot wound in the past which injured a nerve in his leg. On top of this injury, the leg also grew very bowed; this is called an “advanced Blount’s tibia vara.” When he walked, the knee wobbled and he had a drop foot that dragged. We saw him at the remote clinic and explained to him what was possible. He raised money by working different jobs to pay for transportation costs so that a guardian could come along. He really wanted to get better! We did a “two-fer” operation where we straightened the tibia and also transferred a tendon to assist with the drop foot. Vingie really liked his straight leg! Now, we need God to heal it all.

Burn contractures also challenged us this week. As I shared with Jana, I cut someone’s neck while they were still awake! This patient had severe burns contracting his arm and shoulder. There was a dense band connecting the armpit to the chest. In addition, his neck was scarred, pulling his chin down toward the chest. I thought he could open his mouth wide enough to get a breathing tube in for anesthesia, but he couldn’t. So, using a technique I learned in Kenya, I put some local anesthesia in and cut the scarred neck. The chin was able to be raised up and anesthesia established.

The work began after we prepared him for surgery. A flap was needed from the back into the armpit to open it up. The shoulder joint needed to be stretched and rotated to regain motion. Excising dense scar tissue on the chest and arms left regions in need of skin grafting beyond the flap. Finally, the remaining scar tissue binding the neck was removed and healthy tissue grafted in place. We placed many yards of sutures in to secure all the tissue. So far, all looks to be doing OK. The flap is viable. The skin grafts look to be adhering to the transplanted sites. Time will tell how well the skin will cover the wounds.

unnamedThe next day we had a young boy with a clubbed foot due to neglected burns. He had lost his left leg from burns and had contracted scar tissue in the groin which limited hip motion. A long scar band from thigh to knee to leg was causing issues as well. We decided it would be a good idea to save the foot and get it to be flat. A prosthesis will be needed for the left side. A four flap release and then further Z-plasty releases excised scarring, opened up the groin, and allowed the hips to move apart.

The foot was the major challenge. An incision through the dense scar tissue and a firm pulling improved the position. Releasing joints brought the foot around. Three pins held our desired position. A large skin graft from the thigh covered the foot and ankle. He will need a brace most likely since several tendons were destroyed by the burns. So far he is doing well. Again, we ask for grace as God heals.

We tend to locate children with advanced deformities who have never been seen or treated by medical personnel when we travel out into the more distant areas from Davao. I think we will find burn injuries from open fires more common in these areas. Gathering the children for review, transporting them to Tebow CURE Hospital, and arranging follow-up checks is a major task. We need partners to assist us. We seek others with the heart for these children and the skills to help us make our care happen.

Looking ahead to the month of November, it will be busy. Two additional mobile clinics are scheduled. The operating room lists have children signed up for surgery living with a wide array of deformities. The neighborhood and stores are decorated, announcing the coming of Christmas. Holiday celebrations are being announced. Soon we will need to force ourselves to slow down and take a deep breath. Otherwise, the busyness of the hectic schedule will overwhelm what is truly important. We must remember the reason for the season. We celebrate in His grip.

Read more posts by Dr. Mead


Photo of the Tim Mead

About the Author:

Dr. Mead served as the Medical Director of CURE Kenya from 1999 until 2011. After that, he headed up orthopedics at the CURE Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, UAE, followed by a time as the Medical Director at the Tebow CURE Hospital in the Philippines. Dr. Mead then served as CURE’s Senior Orthopedic Consultant, traveling to various CURE hospitals, supporting and mentoring physicians across the network. He retired from CURE in 2018. Dr. Mead is a U.S. board certified orthopedic surgeon from Muskegon, Michigan, with specialized training in pediatrics. Prior to joining CURE, he ran an orthopedic practice in western Michigan providing a broad range of surgical reconstructive services, including joint replacement and arthroscopic surgery.

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