Monday, September 16, 2013

putting it into perspective

Overnight I woke up at 3:00, at 4:00, and at 5:00. For some reason, sleep eluded me. Maybe it was the realization that today is our last day at our tent-clinic in Loborsoit. This afternoon we will pack up everything and say goodbye. Tomorrow we move on to an even more remote village, Emboreet--a new adventure for us.

Fittingly, the day started with an emergency. No, not a snake bite. Not a broken arm or leg. Not a stroke or heart attack. It was a two year old with a bean up his nose! It's a universal reality: toddlers stick things up their noses...beans, raisins, legos...whatever. We know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to extracting foreign objects like this one. The trouble was, none of them worked. After forty-five minutes of picking, poking and prodding, suctioning and blowing, the three of us managed to dislodge just a tiny bit of it before we were forced to give up. I mean...torture is torture in any language. We sent the child home on antibiotics in hopes he will generate an explosive sneeze and solve the problem himself. However...we'll never know what really happened.

Next up...a 70 year-old man with high blood pressure, worsening chest pain, and trouble breathing...a heart attack waiting to happen. He sees a specialist in Arusha every month but didn't know the names of his medications. I popped a nitroglycerin tablet under his tongue and watched as his blood pressure come down and his pain subsided. I cautioned him about exertion and ordered him back to his heart doctor. Intead, he left for the long walk home! of the three babies I saw with severe malnutrition, a ten-month old weighing 10 pounds. Her young mother just needed instruction in proper feeding techniques so I spent a good deal of time emphasizing the need for slow, frequent feedings. I provided rehydrating solution to augment breast feeding and scheduled a weight check in a week. Again...I'll never know if it did any good.

One of the mothers we taught to rehydrate her baby.
Then there was the fellow who came in with a ruptured anterior patellar tendon. That causes the knee cap to ride up above the knee.

Painful?? He did it two months ago in a fall! He'd tied a rag around his leg to try to keep the kneecap in place. I ordered him off to orthopedics, pronto.

And so it went...with 170 patients in one day.

Just when you feel as if you deserve a pat on the back for your courage and hard work, you meet someone who puts it all into perspective. Two missionaries from the remote Gidamalanda district stopped by today. Dolfi Maunda has been ministering to the Datoga people there since 2001.

She shared some of her journey with us--the hostile greeting she received, her gradual acceptance by the villagers, her eventual marriage to a native villager...and the fact that the area they inhabit is infested with just about every deadly poisonous snake imaginable--the black mambo, the puff adder, the boa constrictor and the cobra.
It seems that snakes have a sneaky habit of showing up in peoples' dwellings or surprising them along the path. Deadly attacks are not uncommon. She entertained us with actual photos of the snakes she'd taken in the village. Needless to say...I dreamt about snakes all night long. I don't think I could deal with it. Her determination, courage, and faith put mine to shame!

As the day came to a close, we packed everything up and closed our clinic in Loborsoit. It was hard waving goodbye to the villagers and children who stayed behind to watch us pack up. It was hard leaving so much work undone, so much need untended. Hopefully, we'll be back next year. In the meantime, Dr. Boniface will continue to serve the area by himself until his assignment is finished here. Many of the people will choose to seek out the traditional healer in the village, as well. And many will simply suffer.
"Wherever you, go with all your heart."
Tomorrow we're off to Emboreet where we will set up shop for just one day. One day! This is a testing ground for new initiatives, an opportunity to weigh the needs of another underserved village. We'll see what it brings.

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