Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Medical Clinics

I am going to try my best to paint you all a picture of the medical clinics. No matter how hard I try though, it will not be the picture I want you to see, there is no way. I'll try. First, let me start by saying, I had no idea this trip was going to be as medical as it was. I thought, "Oh, set up some meds and distribute and talk to kids." Silly me. Dr. Steve Raley and Mary Ann Vanek, RN, were with our group. We also met up with an organization called "Arise Africa", and they had two gentlemen who saw and treated people. So 1 actual Dr. and 3 people with medical backgrounds seeing and treating people. We arrived at our first clinic on Monday and it was complete shock. Within minutes, hundreds of people were wrapped around the building we were in. All of them, could look at you thru the windows and doors. Everything went fast and furiously. They would come in, sit down, get checked out and get a prescription. The shocking was this: Everyone of those hundreds of people were sick. Malaria. Everyone had it. If they did not have it, they were going to get it or were just getting over it. AIDS, parasites, diarrhea, chronic headaches, and all of their eyes would hurt. EVERYONE had something. Bless Mary Ann's heart. She was seeing familes with 4 children all of which were sick and crying. She would diagnose them and prescribe for them...not something she did even as an ICU nurse over here. And then there was this really funny thing-I became a full fledged pharmacist. Scary, indeed. My "job" was to look at a prescription, fill it and hand it over to the people. Antibiotics, painkillers, worm meds, and lots and lots of malaria meds. I cannot even explain the conditions of these clinics. Some "nice" ones would have concrete floors. Most of the time we set up in the churches with the dirt floor with dirty tables to put the meds on. All of us in the same room. Hundreds and hundreds of people. Moms with sick babies. Some had never in their life seen a Dr. and some this would be the only time they ever saw one. Tylenol was like chemo to them. At 4:30 p.m. we would announce we were seeing no one else and the you could hear the crowd getting restless. Not angry or mad, but panicked. Can you imagine knowing this may be the only chance your child has at receiving malaria treatment or they may die? It was an urgency. We would look up and see hundreds more walking down the road, and the ones already outside were at the windows looking at you with those huge, innocent eyes. How do you explain that to them? We could not see everyone. You wanted to tell them that, but to them, we are invincible, and we have everything. The first day we left clinic, our team got in our van, people gathered around it staring at us through the windows. Children waving, waiting for you to just smile, so they could smile back. We tried to look forward, I have to admit, I felt ashamed to be me. I don't know if that was an unreasonable way for me to feel, but it is how I felt. I was sitting there with my clothes and a backpack with at least $400 inside and a bottled water. Riches. And by us driving off it felt like we were saying, "That's it. That's all the help you are worthy of. Let me go back to my posh life, OK?" We were all silent in the van for about 5 minutes and several of us broke into tears. How could we do this everyday we are here? Mary Ann and I cried that night and we prayed daily to have the strength to go back. It did get easier to cope. God gave us that strength. Looking back at those days, I know and realize that if we sat out there for 24/7/365, we would not even put a dent in the vastness of the illness residing there. However, you want so desparately to. You want to make them well. The sick people in Africa is something I will never be able to comprehend in my little mind. All I know for sure that gives me peace about it is that those people LOVE the Lord. They sang His praises in the lines waiting and they gave Him glory as we drove off not seeing everyone. That is all I can describe without my soul feeling empty.

This man had not been able to walk in 1 year. His foot had some sort of parasite growing within. He strapped himself to that rug and put flip-flops on his hands to scoot himself around. That was how he went places. This picture is burned in my memory.
Dr. Raley, lining kids up, 6 in a row.
A sick family.
This is the most adorable picture I have ever seen!
Yes, that is the pharmacy!
The first clinic minutes after we opened.
Labor and Delivery (how about that, Mimi?!)
Before the crowd.


Zaira said...
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Windy said...

That is so sad, but in a way i wish i could have gone to help. Even though i would be so broken hearted the whole time i was there.

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Anonymous said...

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