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Medical staff at Nyankunde Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fight to save lives, aided by medical equipment provided by Samaritan’s Purse.

Breathing New Life

A gift of medical equipment from Samaritan’s Purse helps save a child’s life in Africa.

As a general surgeon for the past 10 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Warren Cooper has performed operations of every description and complexity. That includes everything from repairing broken bones to craniotomies. However, one of the more difficult procedures he has undertaken at Nyankunde Hospital involves the removal of foreign objects that are swallowed and become trapped in a person’s airway.

Nyankunde Hospital serves a critical need for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nyankunde Hospital serves a critical need for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The problem is especially common among young children, who naturally like to place objects in their mouths. The wrong size object can pass through the vocal cords and lodge in the trachea.

“It is a scary situation, and if not handled appropriately, the child can die,” said Dr. Cooper. “It is always a stressful nightmare. Many times I am forced to make a cut on the trachea and blindly try to fish out the object.”

The challenge is magnified at under-resourced mission hospitals, where instruments that would be considered standard equipment in the Western world are not available. Samaritan’s Purse maintains a medical supplies warehouse from which we ship procured or donated supplies to dozens of our partner mission hospitals around the world.

The Difference of the Right Tool

This year during a visit to Samaritan’s Purse, Cooper discussed some of the equipment needs of Nyankunde Hospital. A rigid pediatric bronchoscope was one of those tools.

Within two weeks of his return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the physician faced a critical situation in which the bronchoscope was needed. A 4-year-old boy had been admitted into the hospital. Deeply concerned, his family explained that the child, named Baraka, had been walking home a few days ago when he started to cough and choke. They first brought him to a hospital near their community. Unable to diagnose what was wrong, the facility transferred him to Nyankunde.

By the time Baraka arrived, doctors discovered his left lung was completely blocked. He was struggling to breathe and had a high fever.

The youngster was brought into the operating room and prepared for emergency surgery. Cooper inserted the new bronchoscope down the child’s throat and into his lungs. The camera image revealed a plastic object was lodged tightly in the left bronchus.

Cooper attempted to grab hold of the object with forceps. Each time he touched it, a stream of pus escaped the infected lung.

“Now the only thing to do was to pull the whole apparatus out and hope it would come out. I knew that I might not get a second chance,” Cooper said. “At this moment you pray. It really is a life-and-death situation.”

When he pulled the bronchoscope out, at the end of the grasper was a small plastic plug that looked like a pen cap.

“With the appropriate tool, something impossible was made possible.”

“Everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief,” recalled Cooper. “With my previous techniques, I know I wouldn’t have gotten it out. Most likely that child would have died. With the appropriate tool, something impossible was made possible.”

God used Dr. Warren Cooper to spare young Baraka’s life.

God used Dr. Warren Cooper to spare young Baraka’s life.

Baraka’s father expressed immense relief too when Cooper showed him the object that had brought his beloved child close to death. They praised God together and thanked Him for the miracle of saving his life.

“I can only say thank you to Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Mission for the ways they have supported this hospital through equipment and supplies. These gifts help save lives and they make it possible for us to preach the Good News,” Cooper said.

“This bronchoscope will continue to be a testimony of the glory of God.”