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  • Author: Hans Jakob
  • When : 13. Feb. 2021
  • About : The 1st and 2nd Interplast missions in Goma, July and October 2015.

The 1st and 2nd Interplast missions in Goma, July and October 2015.

"Church in Action" believes not only in the power of prayer, but also in the work of God through it in the world. You just have to use your talents where they are urgently needed. Twenty young Christians from Frankfurt set out for Goma in Congo from July 21 to 31, 2015, to build schools, set up computer labs for them, and train educators. My son Andreas, an architect, invited me to help: finding patients and a hospital would be no problem. Thomas Biesgen from Trier and Michaela Hladik from Salzburg decided to join us at short notice. Unfortunately we did not get a visa from Congo for an anesthesiologist within 3 weeks.
Congo is the richest country in Africa in terms of minerals, but is ranked second to last in the world on the "human development index" (ahead of Niger) due to corruption and civil wars. Goma is the border town with Rwanda, where 500,000 Tutsis fled Hutu massacres in 1994. Rwanda has been swimming in aid money ever since; in Goma, a city of millions, there is a single paved road, no running water and still no land link to the capital, Kinshasa. Since the rebels made peace with the government in 2013, it has been absolutely safe there in the big cities.
We landed in Kigali, Rwanda and drove the 180 km on the Chinese-built super highway by bus to Goma, picturesquely located on Lake Kivu. There, in 2002, the volcano 20 km from the center had erupted and reduced the north of the city to rubble. Probably the dirtiest roads in the world consist of lava and ash, on which only the big SUVs of the many aid organizations and hundreds of thousands of motorcycles from India dare to drive.
The small hospital that invited us belongs to a doctor Dr. Maganga, who spontaneously attracted 450 patients with plastic problems over the radio. After enormous keloids and lymphedema, which we had to send home, there remained, besides large tumors, mainly burn contractures and "frozen hands", which we treated in 5 operation days in 35 patients with large Z-plastics and full skin grafts. All Z-plastics and grafts healed well. Thomas and Michaela operated on 3 cleft lips and a palate until we had to leave them to a later Interplast team due to lack of confidence in the local anesthesiologists (throughout Africa they are anesthesia assistants with 3 years of training).
A surgeon from another NGO hospital had heard about us and brought us in to see two horribly battered young men. Marauding soldiers had entered a village far north of Goma two weeks earlier and, under threat of torture, asked the residents who had found gold there. One then pointed to these two friends, probably under pressure. When the two answered in the negative several times, the soldiers cut off one finger after the other, then both ears, and then, when they found the gold in their hut, the total upper and lower lip as well: "You will never lie like this again!" ... The devil is among us every day.

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We had to mobilize the entire remaining midface up to the missing ears and flip up a visor flap from the neck to at least cover the exposed gingiva. A visor flap from the forehead would have further compromised the damaged face, but a split free flap from the forearm would probably have been a better choice!
On a 2nd mission from October 13-22, 2015 with Arthur Charpentier from Bonn, Germany, we were able to operate on both goldens a second time and pull the younger one's two halves of the face even further toward the center. We also managed to operate on another 50 patients with huge tumors, burn contractures and gunshot wounds in 5 days. All of them reportedly healed well.
We sincerely thank the companies Catgut GmbH, Novidion, Combustin, MPI-saar and Smith & Nephew for the spontaneously donated large amounts of suture material, stackers, antibiotics, lidocaine and dressing material. And the company Erbe for 2 Erbotome! And of course Pro-Interplast in Seligenstadt and Interplast-Germany for the always granted financial support!

Gottfried Lemperle, Frankfurt
Arthur Charpentier, Bonn

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