For years, John Ende and his wife Winnii Kewa of Nigeria searched for a specialist to look at Winnii’s injured right hand. She had been shot in the hand at close range during a robbery at her home ten years earlier.
Since then she’d had two surgeries in Nigeria. Neither procedure, however, restored the range of motion she needed. And after a decade living with the injury, her knuckles bulged as if she had rheumatoid arthritis.
Moreover, she couldn’t move her thumb, which meant she couldn’t pinch or grasp with her right hand.
Meanwhile, the middle class couple had been saving to afford a trip to New York City to attend a conference related to Winnii’s job at a healthcare NGO in Nigeria. Following the conference they planned to travel to Philadelphia to visit family.
In anticipation, John, a businessman, did online research and found the Philadelphia Hand Center at Jefferson.
He exchanged emails with orthopedic hand surgeons A. Lee Osterman, MD, director of the Hand Center and his colleague Randall Culp, MD. Both physicians felt the Hand Center could help Winnii.
Two days after their arrival in Philadelphia in mid-August, John and Winnii had their initial appointment with Dr. Culp. After that visit, Dr. Culp was confident he could restore more range of motion and give Winnii the ability to use of her right hand.
But it would be a delicate operation.
“The bones in her wrist were shattered and tendons and nerves twisted and painful,” the surgeon noted.
The day after that initial appointment Winnii got the necessary pre-surgical lab work performed. She underwent surgery the following day.
“Once we opened her up, we found that her wrist joint was nonexistent, so we first needed to replace it with bone graft and then use plates to connect the forearm to her fingers to begin to rebuild her hand,” said Dr. Culp. “We also had to transfer some of her tendons and perform a nerve release.”
The surgeon who regularly goes on international medical missions to help people in medically under-served parts of the world added, “This was one of the worst I’ve seen.”
Still, he said, “Her prognosis is for a full recovery, and complete use of her hand in a few months with therapy.”
She’ll continue to see Dr. Culp for follow up care until she returns to Nigeria in September.
John and Winnii are grateful for the opportunity to have the lingering injury repaired. While routine medical care is available in Nigeria, complex surgical care often requires travel out of the country something often out of the reach of all but the wealthiest Nigerians.
The Hand Center and Jefferson cared for Winnii and performed the surgery free of charge.