So long and so far away. Well, not really. 80 kilometers and 2 hours and a half to get to where we were going. Dirt roads, with ruts and holes, made the progress slow. And so the question is posed: how far do we go to help those in need? The answer: as far as we need to.
This being the first day of clinic for our team, the start was a little slow. The electronic medical record system failed due to a router issue so we went back to paper. A little spiritual warfare ongoing. Not willing to accept defeat, we said fine, and got out our pens and went back to old school record keeping. So there Satan.
The children were for the most part moderately healthy, with evidence of malnutrition the main finding. Skin rashes, scabies, worms and some upper respiratory infections noted. So all in all, a relatively good day. Except…wait for it… the child with only one shoe and the child with fainting spells or as we found out, seizures. I’ll tell you about the child with “fainting spells”. Eight years ago, for no apparent reason, he started having seizures, each lasting 30 minutes or more with a postictal period (unconscious period of recovery after a seizure) of up to three hours. He was been seen by a neurologist and started on an anticonvulsant. He has not attended school for last 3 years. So what now? He is clearly mentally challenged, shy, withdrawn and afraid. He sat in front of me as I examined him, his eyes never looking up. Speaking in gentle tones, I reassured his mother and him that with some minimal changes, he would one again be able to attend school. All that is needed is an adjustment of his medication, some one-on-one care with a special needs teacher and an opportunity for him to belong to the community. But truth be told, it isn’t going to happen. We’ll adjust his medications, but there is no special needs program or a special needs teacher in the project that we are in. Remote is what remote is. Bush country is what bush country is. So you say then, what did we accomplish? Well, the answer may not be what you want to hear. His seizures will eventually be under control, but he may not go back to school. Stigma is a big part of this culture. If you aren’t normal, you’re not welcomed. What we did accomplish was that after a long while of just sitting and being present when present, he looked at me and smiled. And so did his weeping mother. She told us that this was the first time in a very long time that he smiled and thank us. She thanked us for not pushing him away because he was “broken”. It’s not what we bring, but what we leave behind, isn’t it?
In all things give thanks,