Today is the second Tuesday of the month which means it’s the day we take some of our kids from Lutfotja Primary that are HIV+ and on ARV’s to Baylor Clinic at the RFM hospital in Manzini. On one hand, this is a day that always wears me out mainly because for me it involves a lot of sitting, waiting, hearing about the problems any of the kids are having and then knowing that they are looking to me for help and suggestions to make things better. Many days it frustrates me and leaves me emotionally drained. On the other hand, I love seeing the sweet faces of these children especially those that I have come to know a little bit more than others. This usually happens because they have had a situation at home or they have had a period of ill health and so we saw the child more often, trying to do what we can to help them get healthier.
I love seeing their shy smiles bursting into pure joy when I say hi to them and call them by their name, shake their hand, rub their back or give them a little hug. I ask them how they are doing and when they are clearly feeling better and I tell them how happy I am. If they aren’t feeling well I tell them we will do what we can to help them get to feeling better. I don’t know how much of my English they understand especially the younger ones and and I know that most of the gogos and mkhulus (grandmothers & grandfathers) don’t understand most of what I say, but I know we all share the language of love, compassion and gratitude. This morning as I was preparing to go and thinking of the smiles of some of these precious children I thought of how much the Lord loves me and how happy he must feel when I come to him with a smile in my heart, thanking him, wanting to feel his presence and just be close to him. I’m sure He feels the same way when I, His precious child, turn to him as I do when I see the smiles these precious children have for me. I know that my God rejoices when I am feeling better just as I rejoice when these kids feel better. And I think that just as these children are so shy, happy and probably amazed that they are being singled out and shown love and mercy, I am so amazed and overwhelmed with joy when I think about the fact that the Lord wants to single me out for His love and grace and mercy by blessing me in so many ways. These thoughts made the hard, frustrating moments of the day easier to endure.
Today we also brought two kids from Lomngeletjane to Baylor at RFM. One is a little girl in grade one who is receiving treatment at a local red cross clinic. We brought her to RFM two weeks ago because she had a very bad eye and ear infection. She and her gogo are my newest best friends. The other child is the little girl I wrote about two weeks ago that needs to start taking ARV’s, but there isn’t anyone at home that will monitor her medication so therefore they may not put her on ARV’s. The good news is that in the last two weeks after much family discussion, the grandfather said he is always home so he will monitor her medication. However, he (and his wife) have a very big fear and mistrust of the hospital because they have taken 4 sick adult children to the hospital and they said nothing was done for them and they all died in the hospital. Therefore, he will not come to Baylor clinic which leaves us pretty much in the same position we have been in. The girl, Coliswa, still has a bit of an ear infection and it is clear that she didn’t take the antibiotics as she should have. I went into the examining room with Coliswa and her Auntie. The doctor was amazed to see me but was so happy I was there. A few minutes later, Thembi, one of our volunteers from Lomngeletjane knocked on the door and came in. The Doctor was even more excited. So the good news is the Doctors know that we care about these kids and that we are going to keep trying to do what we can to see that these children get healthy and stay that way. Thembi also knows that I am not going to give up on this child and her home situation. I am going to continue to fight for this child (as nicely as I can which isn’t easy for me because when I am upset, everyone knows it even if I am quiet.)
While we were waiting to see the Doctor, I suggested to Thembi that perhaps if we talked to the grandfather and helped him understand that the clinic is different from the hospital and that if we take Coliswa to the clinic she may not have to go for the hospital for a very, very long time if ever, that perhaps he would change his mind and come to the clinic at least one time. It is the experience of the Doctors that if the person who is responsible for giving the medication comes with the patient at least once so they can hear first hand how the medication should be taken, the chances of the medication being taken properly dramatically increases. The Doctor made the same suggestion to Thembi and the auntie that I made earlier regarding trying to get the grandfather to understand and change his mind about coming to the clinic. Great minds!
So, we are not giving up on the possibility of this child taking ARV’s. The Doctor gave Coliswa more antibiotics and I said that I wanted the grandfather to bring Coliswa’s medication to the head teacher’s office at Lomngeletjane next Tuesday so we can see if she has been taking the medication correctly. If the medication is not being taken correctly, then we will talk to him and ask the head teacher to be involved in the conversation. We will go to their homestead if the grandfather doesn’t come. With prayer and a lot of talk, I am going to stay hopeful that we can get this child on ARV’s, and have them administered correctly so that his child can live a normal healthy life. So please keep praying and stay tuned.
There was one other thing that really stood out to me today. The aunties, mothers and gogos, even our volunteers, don’t have the simplest common knowledge about illnesses that we have. For instance, they don’t know that if a child has an ear infection the neck is often sore as well. I wonder how a gogo could not know that, but then realize that a) in this country they don’t go to the Doctor very often when someone is ill. And b) they don’t have the nerve to ask the Doctor to explain something or to ask him questions. It is just one more way that our cultures are so different.