While we are here in town, we are running temporary medical clinics through the Ministry of Health. Basically, we go where they tell us there is a need.
Today we held a clinic at a school. I was covered in a garbusar (head covering), sweating, trying to look through the crowd and find the sickest children to see while my translator tried to prevent riots from happening when some mothers felt their children were sicker. J and I triaged patients and assessed them first. D and T saw the patients next and prescribed their medications. O, the health official from the Ministry, worked alongside E to distribute the pills. Band J ran around helping where they could, organizing people, and making sure the sickest got seen.
Suddenly R, the woman who runs the school, rushed up to me and grabbed my arm. “Come quick, there is a woman giving birth in the school office!” I left what I was doing and ran to the office, headscarf trailing. Inside the office, I tried to assess the situation. Her water had not yet broken, and her contractions were quite far apart. Nobody had any gloves. I looked at her piece of paper, a discharge summary from the local hospital. She had been seen a week previously, for dizziness. Her hemoglobin was 6. The severe anemia meant that if she gave birth with us or in the bush, she was at a very high risk of death by bleeding. “You must go to hospital immediately.” She smiled at me shyly, and still sat there, refusing to move. Unsure if R was translating properly, I emphasized to her the urgency of the situation. “She is afraid to go because she has so many children at home that she must take care of.”
After a good half-hour of convincing, the woman agreed to go to hospital. R and KB (who organizes and cares for us) took her home first so she could check on her kids. They found out that she had not eaten for 5 days, and neither had any of her children. She still had some time left before the baby came, so they went and bought her some food with the money you guys gave. They filled her house with food for the children, paid a neighbour to take care of them, and then drove her to the hospital and paid for her care.
It was a reminder to me that community and care that I take for granted in Bowness at Awaken is hard to find in the villages here. There are chiefs and imams to watch over the people, but when everybody is starving, help must come from outside.
The clinic was chaos, and kind of a disaster. We were mobbed, a blood pressure cuff was stolen, and J's watch was stolen. We learned a lot about how to enforce boundaries, and although we tried our best, we still couldn’t see everybody. We did see all the sickest people though, and we helped as many as we could. It was worth it in the end. I think that with every effort, we will do better. God is teaching us, and although there are such huge needs, at least we can be a drop in the bucket.
Tomorrow we will go to church, and in the afternoon we will sort medicines and pack them for our trip to the bush. On Monday we will meet the MOH for the region, and perhaps run another clinic here in town. After that we will receive our vaccines and head into the bush sometime next week.
If you are the praying type, please pray for our team – that we could find ways to love one another despite the increased irritability that heat and fatigue brings. Pray that grace would abound between us, and that we would display the love of God. Pray also for our safety. As B said, “Town is full of these types and all you need is one crazy person to change your world.” We drove past an imam preaching about the jerks who killed Gaddafi last night. We’ve already experienced a couple of people “mouthing off” as B calls it, about mzungus. Daily we see 5-10 military planes/helicopters in the skies above us. We are in the middle of a war, and it is not easy to forget. Pray that we would continue to choose not to live in fear and not to become political, but instead to always be on the side of the victims.
And dear Awaken: we are reading your prayers twice daily as a team. You have encouraged us in ways you cannot even imagine. Please keep praying.