Sunday, September 15, 2013

bare hands and bleeding hearts

So...where is medical technology when you need it...and what can we accomplish without it?

Allow me to wax clinical for a moment and run through a smattering the 165 patients we saw today, people who have been sick for weeks, some for months, waiting for our arrival. All of these poor souls required referral to the distant hospital for treatment and follow-up. All the rest we managed with our bare hands and our wits. Off went:
  • a woman with heavy bleeding and abdominal pain for three months following a miscarriage
  • a twelve year old girl with a corneal scar and protruding eye possibly from an orbital tumor

  • a child with sinusitis and preorbital cellulitis, posing the threat of meningitis if not treated
  • two ten year-olds who had already been treated for TB, with recurrent coughs
  • a married thirteen year old with painful urination and STD symptoms
  • a seven-year old complaining of dizziness who was actually experiencing seizures as a result of a head injury at age four (That was an interesting history to muddle through!)
  • And the worst one of all: a man who had stepped on a thorn, like one of these, and had been walking on it for five days.

He had a galloping cellulitis of his foot. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, our vial of lidocaine vanished without a trace. Without anesthesia, there wasn't much we could do...although God knows we tried. Our staff stepped up to the plate. They drove him to the hospital in Arusha, 3 1/2 hours away, for Xrays and treatment, and then drove all the way back some time after dark. When we saw him back two days later, he was a happy man.

Again, the medical expenses for all of these patients...and many others like them...can only be covered through the generous donations of the faithful. If you'd like to make a donation, contact CLA at Need is a bottomless pit; aid is as elusive as a desert mirage.

Not to bore you, but some of the other problems we fielded without the support of technology included arthritis (I took 40 ml. of fluid off one gentleman's knee), disfiguring rashes and sores with secondary bacterial infection, worms, colds and cough, and other minor injuries.

I shudder to think what would have happened to some of these people without medical attention. Referrals are difficult to arrange and care is financially out of reach for the majority of the people. So they suffer. We come in for a couple of days once a year and they flock to us, desperate and hopeful. What can we learn from this? How can we process this immense suffering against whatever minimal impact we can make? Perhaps we can relieve one person's pain, or cure one infection, or rehydrate one infant, and because that is all we can do...we do it with bleeding hearts.

OK, I'm done ranting.

Today Julieth stopped by. She is educated and translated for us last year. She leads several women's groups in the village in an attempt to develop a business plan for earned income, and to improve the plight of Maasai women. We have kept in touch all year...yes, via email.

At the end of the day, we were rewarded with genuinely HOT showers, and a supper of "wildebeef stew", veggies, potatoes, and fruit.

Elias joined us around the campfire with his wife, Happiness, his mother, and his youngest child. He shared the story of his mother's unsuccessful attempt to conceive a child for over ten years, during which time she was rejected and humiliated in the village. Finally, she bore Elias and with the pregnancy was welcomed back into the community...until he was born. Elias was born with a birth defect--the absence of his right forearm. In the Maasai culture, the left hand is considered "dirty." It is used to bathe and handle dirty objects,
while the "clean" right hand is used to shake hands and to extend greetings. In fact, it is considered an insult to wave to someone with your left hand. So...that made it difficult for Elias. Nevertheless, he went on to higher education and is a leader in the village with international connections that enable him to coordinate efforts like ours.

Allow me to give you a brief tour of the area that has become so familiar to us. Last year we were here during rainy season when everything was green and lush. This year it is dry season, everything the color of saw dust, of oatmeal, of bone--still seductive with its textures, shapes, and patterns:

The enchanting baobab tree.

Tomorrow--Sunday--is a relative day of rest: breakfast at 8:00, church at 10:00, and a visit to the village in the afternoon. Wait until you see Loborsoit!
"Blessed are they who see beautiful things
in humble places
where other people see nothing."
--Camille Pissarro--
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