Thursday- June 24th, 2010
So today I went to the bone setter. I must say that it was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, but at the same time, it was the coolest thing I have seen. Megan and I arrived at the bone setter a little past 8AM. We saw the sign that said "Domsec Herbal, Acupuncture Clinic, and Research Centre," and walked down a narrow alley to the office to meet Michael- the owner of the place and also the bone setter. We talked with him for quite a while about ourselves and he gave us information on what he does and how he performs his bone settings, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.
I asked him the process of getting patients to his clinic, and he said that when the hospital has a patient with a broken bone, they send them to him to get it fixed, so he said he technically works for the hospital since they pay him for seeing patients. I also asked him what type of schooling he went thru to become a bone setter. He said that he finished high school in Hohoe, but never went to any university. Instead, he gained all his knowledge from his father who was also a bone setter. This was quite interesting to me that he never went to any school for this, yet when he talked with us he knew so much about the human body and diseases. He kept talking to us about acupuncture and how it cures all sorts of diseases and helps with pain. Even though I had no interest in acupuncture, it was interesting to see how it works and the different nerve points that correspond to organs and regions of the body. Who knows if it actually works, but he said he swears by it.
After a long talk with Michael in his office, he said that it was time to start the bone setting. He walked us to an alleyway which was their "examination/operation room." There were two wooden chairs and a wooden board on the floor for the bone setter to do his work. Michael introduced us to his son who he is teaching how to be a bone setter, just like his father and grandfather.
The first patient walked out of another alleyway which was the waiting room. The older man limped over to the chair with his cane and sat down. Michael unwrapped his knee and there was a green knee over his kneecap- about 4 inches down from where it should be. I could see the femur protruding the skin, along with the kneecap and the rest of his leg which was down a few inches from where it should be. Clearly, it was severely dislocated, but all the bone setter did, was keep it wrapped so that it can pop back into place. He rubbed some herbal medicine onto his knee area- he said that it was some type of tree bark and leaf extract that supposedly helps with pain.
The second patient was one that I will never forget. She was a middle aged woman whose lower leg was wrapped and had a wooden splint around her foot. She sat on the wooden board on the floor and Michael and his son both came over to examine her splint and bandages. They proceeded to take the bandages and splint off of the woman's leg. Once they unwrapped the bandages, there was a huge green leaf that was wrapped around a portion of her lower leg. I was in total shock once they removed the leaf (which is supposed to help keep the wound clean and moist.). I will try not to get into too much details because of how disturbing this was (I will post some pictures onto photo bucket- but they are very disgusting so beware), but there was about a three inch wide wound that stretched almost all the way around her lower leg. The wound was completely open. I could see the tibia split into two pieces- one piece protruded across out of the wound, and the other straight up perpendicular to the fibula how it should be. There was exposed tissue, fat, bone, and some green substance around a portion of the tissue- possibly an infection. Actually, I would expect there to be an infection because of how much was exposed. Michael used a clothed drenched with hydrogen peroxide and iodine to clean the wound and bone, then wrapped a fresh new leaf around the wound and bandaged it back up to put into the splint. This had to be one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen in my life- mainly because of how much was exposed and that I could see the bone and everything inside her leg. I don't think that I could ever get that image out of my mind.
Following the woman, there were several other patients. There was a few that had dislocations, and others that had fractures. You really need to see the pictures of this- it pretty much describes itself.
The last patient that we saw was a young man that had what looked like elephantiasis. Even though his leg looked like he had elephantiasis, it seemed as though it was just extremely swollen. He was very skinny to start off with, and one leg had to of been 4 times the size of the other leg. He seemed to have broken either his tibia of fibula and it has not been fixed, just severely swollen to the point where he cannot walk on that leg. Michael proceeded to rub a brown gooey mixture of tree bark and plant extract on his leg which was supposed to reduce the swelling and help with pain. That patient really needs to go to a real hospital and see an orthopedic for some help- or else he will have to amputate his leg.
As with all the other patients I saw today, it is very sad because in our western medicine this can be treated fairly easy. But here, they do not believe in western medicine. They believe in their herbal practices and the natural way of healing. Maybe it works some of the time, but it is not scientifically safe to be doing this to patients where their lives can be at stake with infections.
I am really looking forward to returning to the bone setter next week. Michael was explaining to me and also showed me pictures of the process of shaving bone and also amputating. The pictures looked like something out of a horror movie- on a wooden board strapped down and using a hand saw on the patient. It does sound disturbing, but I would like to see this- he said probably next week he will have a patient's bone to shave or limb to amputate so he will show me.
After my placement today, two other volunteers and I went to visit the school for the deaf. This was a very rewarding experience for me. I was a little skeptical at first because I do not know any sign language at all, but once we got there, the kids taught us everything in sign language. There must have been over 100 kids at the school ranging from 6 years old to 20 years old. We played some soccer and Frisbee with them for about an hour, and then we hung around the campus and they all taught us sign language by first teaching us how to sign each letter of the alphabet and then how to finger spell. Also, they would try to communicate by pointing to things and signing it, or trying to write it on my arm. Not only did I learn the alphabet, but I also learned how to sign: hello, my name, how are you doing, I am fine, thank you, sorry, good night, United States, Ghana, and several animals. This was an extremely rewarding experience of hanging out with them for a few hours- I will definitely go back to play outside with them and learn more sign language.