A young life is saved

When 7-year-old Kodjo showed up at the hospital in Koro, Mali, some 20 km from his rural home, his entire body was swollen.

His face and neck were puffy to the point that his eyes were almost closed, and he had a significantly distended abdomen. Deep impressions would be left on his skin when pressed.

Canadian medical student volunteers Louise-Hélène Gagnon and Rasa Izadnegahdar were at the hospital when Kodjo arrived with his father. Working with other visiting physicians, they diagnosed nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder. They then turned to the Physician Travel Pack they had brought with them on their mission.

Gagnon and Izadnegahdar, both senior year medical students at McGill University, were in Mali for a one month elective. Their work was centred at the hospital in Koro, a referral centre for the clinics in the 21 surrounding districts.

The community of Koro, like the rest of the country, receives most of its medical care at the hand of traditional therapists who work with herb and root teas, incantations, and other practices. People normally only go to a hospital or clinic for trauma care, as the price of medicine is too high for most of the population and a consultation fee is required in order to be seen. The main hospital has three physicians, but is lacking in medicine and supplies. There are very few patients.

Gagnon says, “At the time of our arrival, there were three in-patients. At the time of our departure there were about 20, which was near capacity. Most of these patients had come having heard that free medications were available.” Kodjo was among them.

Gagnon found the necessary medication in the PTP to begin Kodjo’s treatment. They worked with the local pharmacy, hospital staff and Kodjo’s family to ensure appropriate medicine and adequate follow-through for the duration of the treatment. When the Canadians left Mali, Kodjo had a new chance at life. Gagnon says, “This child would easily, if untreated, have developed clots, renal failure, pulmonary edema and death.”

“The impact of these medications is overwhelming. These medications save lives.”