Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Saving Lives

With a restless sleep last night, I awoke this morning to meet my Pre-unit students at Mt. Meru Hospital. I didn't sleep well last night as I was very anxious about determining my students' health status. I tossed and turned all night, dreaming horrible dreams about the kids I've fallen in love with. Luckily, today was nothing like the nightmares I had.

Magnus and I were the first to arrive at the hospital today. Our job was to meet the dalla-dallas from the Village and welcome the children and their parents to the hospital. After sitting around chatting for 30 minutes, the dalla-dallas arrived. Watching 22 kids and various guardians unload from 2 dalla-dallas (the size of a mini-van) was quite amusing. My pre-unit students were estatic to see me and ran with open arms towards me shouting, "Teacher Michelle! Mambo!" A few parents, older siblings, and grandparents shook my hand as well. Magnus and I followed the orphanage director's husband into the hospital with at least 5 or 6 kids on our arms.

The first test the children were receiving was for HIV. Magnus had crowd control in the hallway and I sat in the examining room. In the Village, HIV/AIDS doesn't "exist." There is a huge stigma related to the disorder and parents all signed a waiver stating they didn't want to be present for the HIV testing and didn't want to know the diagnosis. My role in the examining room was to be the stand-in parent. The orphanage director's husband, J., brought the children into the room in pairs. I sat on a chair and left my arms and lap open for comfort. Each kid was different in the amount of comfort they wanted. Some strolled in with big grins on their face. Other wanted my arms wrapped tightly around their little bodies. Some wanted only to hold a few of my fingers. The most scared children came in crying and wrapped their entire bodies around mine while sobbing. Luckily we only had 4 children like that. The HIV test itself was very simple-- a pin prick on the finger to draw blood and it was finished. We hit the jackpot today as NO ONE TESTED POSITIVE! :)

After the HIV test, we hearded the kids and their guardians to the bathroom and adjacent waiting area. Guardians were then required to assist in obtaining stool and urine samples from their children. This was a VERY lengthy process as there were only 2 bathroom stalls available. I also think this was complicated by the fact that the children eat and drink very little and most likely produce very little urine or stool. After the samples were all collected, they were sent to the lab for examination.

The third test completed today was drawing blood to test for malaria and other various blood related disorders. Another volunteer, who's a lab tech in Europe, sat with the children during this test. This was the lengthiest test as the children were already weary of the doctors and many of them were very scared. The kids went in pairs again, unaccompanied by their guardians. It was neat to see the children supporting one another. Often times the pairs of children went in together holding hands and came out with their arms around one another. Those who had finished the test spoke in Kiswahili to the others. I assume they were informing them of the procedure as they were pointing at their forearms and were saying, "kidgo pain" (little pain).

Before our final test of the day, vision, Megan made it to the hospital with bananas and cups. Magnus and I went and purchased 5 bottles of maji (water) and proceeded to give each kid a cup of water and a banana. They were estatic to receive these snacks and ate with gusto. I love feeding these kids as they're often times very hungry, but they also have incredible manners. They're always saying "Thank you, Teacher." and are very conscious about sharing. A few times I caught kids giving their friends a sip of their water or a bite of their banana.

The final test was for vision and wasn't worth our time. It was poorly run and every child came back with normal vision, despite being told by J. that a handful of children were having difficulty reading the chalkboard at school. We've decided to disregard the results of this test as the screening wasn't done properly.

Lunch went well, with each of the kids receiving a plate of pilau (rice with stew) and a cup of water. Once again they ate with incredible manners, patience, and kindness. These kids may not have all of the comforts of Western children and may miss out on some of the great aspects of childhood, but they are the most gracious, kind-hearted, and friendly children I've ever met. Watching them eat their meals and chat with their friends has quickly become my favorite activity.

The day ended with 3 children and their guardians getting the chance to see the general physician and have a physical and counseling session with his team. Only 3 children were able to see the physicians team as the lab was backed up and couldn't produce all of the kids' test results. The remaining children will be seen by the physician's team tomorrow. Brining these children to the hospital today was the best thing we've done since arriving in Tanzania. One of our students, who had appeared lethargic and feverish all day, was diagnosed with urgent malaria and a very high fever. He was immediately put on an anti-malarial medication. The physician informed us that his case of malaria was life-threatening. Knowing that if left untreated malaria is fatal, we realize that we may have saved this little boy's life today. The physician administered the first dose of the perscription at the hospital and informed the mother and us how often he needed to take it and the amount of rest he needed to receive. We were also informed that one of our students had worms and we were able to purchase the appropriate perscription for her as well.

I'm excited to come back to the hospital tomorrow to watch my students interact with their parents and one another. I'm very hopeful that our students will receive the medical treatment they deserve and believe that we'll be able to assist them in obtaining the medication they need.


LifeTrek Coaching said...

This was a wonderful story! Thanks for making me smile and for doing such wonderful work. Love you.