Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ethiopia July 2008: Eyes and hearts open

He came to the clinic because his friend told him that there was a medical team from the US at the place that he goes as a sponsored child of MoM. Elyas is 14 years old and more mature than many his age. He presented with a severe body rash, scalp sores and general malaise. He shared that his parents had died of HIV 2 years ago and the he was being cared for by his grandmother. He told us that he was taking a lot of medicines for he thought was TB and bad pneumonia. His story is one that may stay with you for awhile.

He had gone to a local health clinic a year ago because of some sores on his leg that would not heal and when he told the doctor that his parents had died of AIDS they sent him for some "tests" and soon after started him on "a lot of medicines". His grandmother told him he had a bad form of TB and pneumonia and that he would have to take medicines for a long time and if anyone asked that is what he had. He was walking down the street one day when he saw some beggars holding vials of medicines in their hands and slips of paper that said what they had and that they were dying and need money. Elyas recognized the vials as the same ones he had, and went to one beggar and read his paper: "I have AIDS and am dying." Elyas finally knew what he had. He found out from a beggar. He told his grandmother who told him again that he still had to tell people that he had a bad form of TB and pneumonia or people wouldn't want to be near him and that he would wind up a beggar like the others.

He wouldn't tell us in the beginning, but after we spent some time with him, he told us his story. You have to wonder how a 14 year old boy deals with this every minute and every day of his life. He has few friends, he is physically ill, and his skin is almost difficult to look at if your not open to things not normal. He found trust in us and we are taking care of him. I put him in our advanced care follow up program and he will be cared for everyday by our MoM staff here in Addis.

We have our eyes open here, looking, seeing and remembering. Elyas opened our hearts and made us realize what type of world is just outside our own comfortable and familiar neighborhoods. He doesn't have to worry anymore about being shunned or dehumanized because of his disease. We'll help him undestand this. He learned from a beggar that he has AIDS. He learned from us that he is loved no matter what.

In all things give thanks,