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A Malawian child meets an English surgeon

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 23 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5628
  1. Richard Brueton, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Royal Free Hospital, London,

    I came across him by chance in a village in Malawi. His father had spent the three years of his son’s life trying to find a surgeon to operate on his club foot. He had been to Lilongwe, the capital, and to his local town, but to no avail. With only one Malawian orthopaedic surgeon and four expatriate orthopods, of whom I was one, serving the country’s population of 12 million, his chances were low.

    That morning we had driven four hours from Blantyre on a good road to do an orthopaedic outpatient clinic in the hospital in his town, only to find that all the patients were waiting in a nearby village. In my naivety I decided to go on to this village, which apparently was only a one hour journey off road. It was at the end of the rainy season, and as we slipped off the muddy track into a ditch for a second time it dawned on me that they had not made it to the town because they could not travel. The sound of a four wheel drive in distress was music to the ears of the local children, who appeared from nowhere, …

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