A Clinic Day….

We’re here; they’re there. We’re asleep and their day is underway. What happens in tandem with our busy lives, what happens on the other side of the world? What goes into the Thursday clinic at 1000 Hills, what goes on, who is helped, and who is loved?

Wendy and Stina arrive at the clinic at 7 AM this morning ready to serve. Dawn, founder of 1000 Hills Clinic, has been there since 5. Even before she arrives, patients begin lining up outside the gate. Karin, Dawn’s daughter, opens the gate and allows people into the waiting room. 0-19Before the other doctors and nurses arrive, Karin begins to triage the patients, running tests and determining who needs a doctor and who could benefit from a nurse’s touch. 0-41One of the first patients is this 12 boy. He lost his mother in March and is now cared for by his gogo (grandmother). Yesterday, he burned his leg while trying to cook an egg. He is taken to the treatment room to be bandaged.0-42

8:30ish: One of the health workers starts singing a hymn. Almost all of the waiting patients join in. Then, they begin praying their individual prayers out loud. 0-46While waiting for the healing of this world, it makes sense to pray to the Great Physician. We are thrilled that His love and salvation are shared with every bandage, pill, and check-up!

Nurse Joyce and pharmacists Jimmy (82 years old) and Peter arrive to man the pharmacy.0-47

9 AM: There are no seats left inside the clinic. Patients arriving now must wait outside in the muggy weather. 0-35Dr. Kirstie (chief doctor) and 2 volunteer doctors from the UK are now here too. 0-33Over at the kitchen, it is time for morning porridge and for the bread line. 0-31Many of the patients line up outside the kitchen to receive two loaves of day old bread which would otherwise have been thrown away. 0-32Also, local school students are asked to bring an extra sandwich to give to the less fortunate. These are also distributed through the bread line.

Time is awash now. So many people need treatment and the day is creeping, scampering, fleeting. Next patient… 14 month baby Thando. Thando was badly burned on Saturday when she was scalded by boiling water at her aunt’s house. There are many burns in the clinic because most of the cooking is done on the ground. Thando was taken to hospital but, like so many people who can’t pay, was released way too early, before the wounds can begin to heal. Her mom needs the bandages changed. Infection is a fear. Wendy explains, “The mom and health worker were trying to get the bandages off with warm water. It was a long process and we all cried with little Thando.”0-43 0-44 0-45

Stina treats a woman with an ear infection.1234546_10151600495771791_842250301_n

Patients continue to pour in. Scabies-like rashes, coughs, lung infections, stomach ulcers are common complaints. People needing TB treatments also arrive. 8 year old Spellilli has an abscess on his tummy that needs drained. His courage during the process earns him some stickers Wendy brought with her. 0-37The pharmacy hums with busyness.0-39

Wendy takes a break and heads to the nursery to check on Zowakha, a one month old who was brought to Dawn. “You’re lucky I didn’t chuck him in the toilet. Here’s one for you,” said his mother.  1045059_10151597323681791_89119693_nHe has gone to hospital for a thorough exam. When he returns, a new infant is in the nursery. Okuhle, an girl, has been brought by her mother this morning. “I can’t take care of her any longer.” A third infant wails nearby. Asiphile, Zowakha, and Okuhle will spend their days in the nursery and their nights with caregivers… for now.0-34

Back in the clinic, another line forms. Each person is given two pieces of fruit. In another line, patients can pick out items of used clothing. Dawn hands out condoms.

110 patients today. 0-36110 stories of strife, deprivation, injury, hardship. 110 opportunities to heal, help, share. While we slept on the other side of the world. Simultaneously.

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Making Progress

“I’m thirsty all day long. And I have to sit on a bench all day so my back hurts and my neck hurts. It’s hard to sit on a bench with no back to it. And the bun in my hair is giving me a headache. I hate wearing buns; they always give me headaches….” The tirade went on for several minutes in this vein. I can’t say I blame my daughter for her rant. I completely get where she is coming from. I would have the exact same woes were I to have a tight bun in my hair, to sit on a backless bench all day, and not have a water bottle handy. But I think it is a great lesson for her.

Last week was Apple Valley School week for Clara’s class. On Monday, the fourth graders all arrived in period costume and were greeted by a somber and proper Mr. O’Brien – the multi-tasking teacher of kindergartners through high schoolers in the one-room schoolhouse circa 1854 which had once been a 21st century fourth grade classroom outfitted with projection screens and computers and other modern amenities like over-head lighting. As the class went through the re-enactment of life in an 1854 schoolroom, they had a lot of fun.

Clara circa 1854

Clara circa 1854

Dunce caps, fate cards (like Clara drawing a card that said she couldn’t catch the cow and therefore couldn’t get the milking done making her tardy for school for which she lost 5 points), funny names like Matthew who was for the week Carl Jr. (Get it? The fast food joint?), and a classroom that had a cardboard and paper stove, ye old blackboards instead of wipe boards, and a noticeable lack of technology all added to the enchantment of the re-enactment. They had age-appropriate lessons in math and writing and reading (in that each student was given a new age to show the broad spectrum of ages and abilities an 1854 schoolhouse would have housed). There was even an old-fashioned spelling bee.

The first time the ruler hit the desks to get everyone’s attention, there was a visible jump among the students. Old-fashioned manners were in play… bowing and curtseying, ladies first, addressing the teacher in a manner more formal than with the familiarity that has fallen over everyone in the last weeks of school. For misbehavior, students stood on a brick or wore a dunce cap. Clara nearly came unglued on Tuesday morning when she discovered that she had marker on her hands and she would lose points for coming to school with dirty hands. Hats and bonnets were put on when stepping outside and were taken off immediately upon entering the schoolroom.

And lunch was interesting. No Ziploc baggies, no plastic containers, no pre-packaged foods, no cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, juice boxes, Lunchables, water bottles, you get the idea. I packed real foods in a cloth handkerchief all week. But I was not able to let go of the refrigeration element. The ice pack must go in.

It was fun and educational, but as Clara’s tirade after school indicates, it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. Sometimes, in our high-speed lives, we get to romanticizing the past, thinking that the simple life of yester-year was truly better and if we could just recreate that simplicity we would find our own personal nirvana. Go ahead, chase that rainbow, but any pot of gold you “discover” will be fleeting at best, elusive at worst.

So, why am I bringing this up? Well, first of all, it is fun to see how far we’ve gotten since 1854 when public schooling first began. A group of moms was chatting after school, waiting for our cherubs to emerge from 1854, and we were particularly discussing the challenges of packing lunches circa 1854. As I said then and will say again, “Progress is a good thing.” While there have been aspects of last week, namely the increased manners at school, that I’ve liked, I wouldn’t change 2013 for 1854. No thank you. I rather like plastic and refrigeration and over-head lighting and computers and a closet full of clothes.

Do I need to tell you that there are places in the world where the progress of 2013 looks more like 1854? Because we deal with medical care through CompassioNow, this is the area where I see this the most. Take Zambia, for instance. Through Mission Medic Air, doctors and nurses fly into the bush for monthly health clinics. Otherwise, people in the bush are left to fend for themselves medically. There is no local CVS to head to for over-the-counter antibiotic creams, pain relievers, or bandages. The closest doctor does not hold a Ph.D. but rather has completed extensive training in magic and voodoo. Healthcare in the bush is rudimentary at best.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article (click here to read the full article May 29, 2013 edition) discussing the fact that counterfeit malaria medicines are flooding Africa right now. These medicines, being sold in open air markets and in shoddy “pharmacies” across the continent contain no active ingredients and are threatening years of progress in the quelling of a disease that proves fatal for people who do not have access to adequate, up-to-date healthcare.  According to the article, “Massive Western aid programs have financed the purchase of millions of doses of Coartem and other antimalaria efforts such as insecticidal nets and spraying. Combined, they have helped bring about a sharp reduction in malaria fatalities, health experts say. Over the past decade, annual deaths from malaria in Africa fell by a third, to about 600,000, according to the World Health Organization.” A seizure of counterfeit malaria drugs in Angola last June recovered 1.4 million packets of the medicine, enough to treat over half of the annual cases of malaria in Angola in a year. One report estimates that 1/3 of all malaria drugs sold in Uganda and Tanzania are counterfeit. The article states that, “A study published last year by the Lancet medical journal and conducted by a unit of the National Institutes of Health found that 35% of 2,300 malaria drug samples tested in sub-Saharan Africa were of ‘poor quality’—either fake, expired or badly made. Such pills ‘are very likely to jeopardize the unprecedented progress and investments in control and elimination of malaria,’ the paper’s authors concluded.”

Concurrently, reports of new drug-resistant TB strains are spreading from the third world to the first world. TB, according to the World Health Organization, is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest worldwide killer. Between the years of 1990 and 2011 the TB death rate dropped 41%.  Yet, due to drug shortages worldwide, including in the United States, the drug-resistant strains are threatening this progress. The clinics we support see malaria and TB as two of the top complaints they address along with HIV/AIDS. However, they have a hard time keeping typical medicines stocked. Government funding is slim, availability is scarce, and knowledge of sanitary practices among the broader public is lacking.

That doesn’t stop us from trying! Because any progress is good in the realm of healthcare, we continue to look for new ways to send supplies, funding, and aid to the clinics we support. Above all, we make sure that the medicines we supply are up-to-date, not set to expire, and are legitimate. And we continue to add new clinics when we can to spread quality healthcare to people who need it. Several of our Compassion Tea team just attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas where they met tea suppliers from all over, including Uganda. We are very excited about the prospects of selling tea grown and processed in Uganda where we just recently added a clinic to support. Stay tuned!

Progress is good. Progress is rapid here… too rapid sometimes. But in Africa, progress is slow and is constantly in jeopardy.  That is worthy of a tirade, too.