Friday, February 26, 2010

Lina and the last clinic

Day 27 – Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Thursday, this was our last day of clinics for KenCan 2010. Karen recalls that our hugs are getting wetter and wetter as our clothes are dripping from sweat, and the team is slowly decreasing in size everyday as Kenyans are going back home. After a fantastic day of clinics, where during just the week in Mombasa, we saw 580 people in medical, pulled 324 teeth, and gave 1102 people a vision test, we were ready for it to be over. It has been fantastic helping so many people, but I think God gave us enough strength to make it this far, and not much further. After tearing everything down Thursday evening, the children gave us an amazing recital of dance and poetry. The dance was a different style than the previous tribes we had seen, though it was still fantastic! It also tickled me that there was one boy who could not get the dance for anything. He was offbeat, on the wrong step, and looking all around. Somehow this was quite comforting to know that not every Kenyan had this innate ability! The drummer was a 12 year old boy who never stopped! His beat was incredible and he just kept going and going! The poetry they recited was verses from psalms and proverbs, and they walked up in pairs and shouted in rhythm and with tonal changes beautiful short, inspiring verses, along with actions. Hard to envision, I’m sure, but it was interesting and made it appear that God’s word was alive! We then said goodbye to the amazing volunteers at the clinic, and a few of the local Kenyans that had been with us since the first day of KenCan 2010. Cheri adds that she nearly married the local dentist. He was quite enamored with her. She may just stay here with him.

That evening we were whisked away to a boat, a dauher (spelling!?!!!) that looked like a pirate ship, where we were to spend the evening on the Indian Ocean. Ted and Suzanne did a fantastic job mixing work with pleasure, so I feel like I have a real sense of both sides of Kenya….the real side, and the side the tourists see. Anyway the food was fantastic, we danced the night away to this regae band that played country, 60’s, Kenyan, Jamaican, 80’s, and anything you could throw at them! One of the few couples on board not with our group actually got engaged that night and danced with our wild group! It was so fun! The one down side to this, was that there wasn’t a breeze to be found and the boats were not moving fast. We were dying! Plus since we went straight from the clinic to the boat, we were pretty gross and dirty. When we got back to the hotel, many of us changed into bathing suits and jumped in the pool at 11pm! It was such sweet relief! Somehow being submerged feels better, because you’re supposed to be wet then, not when you’re just sitting above ground!

Now I know you’re wondering about the little girl and her mom, and no I haven’t forgot about them. They have been on my mind for days now. Joyce and her daughter Lina are cases you expect to see everywhere in Africa, but I was elated to find out they are the rare exception. If you are too soft hearted, you may not want to read this paragraph and skip ahead, as I’m tearful just thinking about them. They came to the clinic the next morning, and Joyce was so embarrassed that she wasn’t clean and hadn’t showered, that she didn’t want to get in the vehicle provided to get to the clinic. Her daughter Lina in 6kg, has HIV (like her mom), and Malaria. When I held this girl on Wednesday, she was skin and bones. Her hips protruded, her skin sagged over the bones in her arms as all muscle appeared to have deteriorated, and she had a very swollen stomach. It is very clear her mom loved her and was distraught at her situation. Her husband left her and her older daughter while she was pregnant with Lina. Her older daughter, who’s now four, lives with her brother a few hours away, and Lina and Joyce have been homeless for a year and a half. Joyce is a hairstylist but cannot keep a job because no one can watch Lina, and her family all lives too far away. She knows broken English, Swahili, and her tribal language. The pair of them came to the clinics in the morning, and once they found out the results of their tests, in addition to the severe malnourishment, it was decided that Lina should be admitted to the hospital. This is a huge step for them. Our groups stepped up and paid for her to go to the hospital, and once she gets out, there are programs in place to get Lina healthy and help Joyce maintain a job. Now for my part in the story as those are just facts. After spending the morning in the vision clinic, forcing a smile and cheerfulness, feigning that I wasn’t thinking about sweet Lina constantly, I heard they arrived in the clinic. I realized this because one of the seasoned Canadians walked by me in tears. This was somewhat encouraging to see, that their case was so severe and uncommon that others who were ‘used to it’ felt such distress as well. I went up to see them as they were to be admitted to the hospital, and tagged along because I couldn’t tear myself away from this pair. I can’t explain it, as I wouldn’t help the situation in any way, but I just couldn’t walk away and feign a smile for the rest of the afternoon; I knew it just wasn’t in me. We arrived at the hospital that reminded me of a community pool back home. It was just a giant concrete building, with benches on the outside and a few patient rooms. Behind solid bars at the end of hall was the ward where people were admitted. We saw a long line of folks waiting for TB testing (apparently this is quite contagious though you wouldn’t know it from the way the lines were set up), so we sat at the non-TB end of the giant open hall (that’s some isolation!). We arrived at 1130 and the doctors had all gone to lunch. Around 130 they came back, saw Lina first as she was with a few muzungos (white people). After her case was reviewed (around 2pm), the doctors left for the day, leaving all of the other sick babies stranded, and Lina was admitted. We followed them to this small ward behind the bars that was sparse at best, but clean. There were other children, but it was not overcrowded. Lina was sitting on her mom’s lap, not running around as a two year old should be, because she had no other choice. She was too weak to support herself. The plan was to get her into treatment, but first we had to go get them some supplies. We walked across the street and bought the items the hospital didn’t provide: a wash basin, soap, towel, diapers, clothes for Lina and Joyce, laundry detergent, a cup for water, a thermos to hold the water, a fork, a bowl, but, as the social worked described, not a bottle, as of course that would be provided by the hospital. All of this was 2600 shillings, less than $40. No wonder people don’t go to government hospitals here…if you get seen by a doctor in the short time they’re here, you have to pay a month’s wage just for the supplies. In contrast, it costs only 150 shilling per night for care (about $2) . Joyce would be able to stay with Lina in the ward for the two weeks she was admitted, and there was a shelter lined up for her when they got out. What struck me most about Lina, more than her haunting eyes that just seemed lifeless and hopeless, was her lack of movement. As we were sitting there, I must have cleaned my brow 50 times with a cloth, fidgeted, changed positions, and other common movements. Lina might have moved twice. I decided my role there was to be positive, and even if I couldn’t talk to Joyce, though I tried a few times, I was determined to smile and be positive. They received enough woeful looks from others. I think this was helpful as Joyce smiled back a few times, especially as we were leaving. In spite of this happy attitude, I’m not sure Lina knew how to handle it. I didn’t see that baby smile once or do anything with her face at all. I saw no emotion whatsoever. At one point, I gave her my ring to play with, assuming she was bored, not realizing that she waited all day every day for something to happen in her life. She looked at the ring, and after about 2 minutes, she grabbed it from my hand. After a few more minutes, she started fingering it, but she never really played with it. Then she displayed one emotion: anger. I’m not sure who or what at, but she threw the ring and with surprising force, hit my hand as well. Later on, when I got back to the clinics, this is what finally caused me to break down and cry. This little girl didn’t understand playing, even with the simplest of objects. The seasoned folk in our group assure me Lina will be fine, as getting that first help is the hardest part, but a small part of me keeps wondering. This will keep me praying for her survival and ability to thrive. As the same group that found Lina was leaving the hospital, Greg, Lawrence (the driver), and I, it is now obvious that none of us could emotionally leave her after discovering her the night before. We all had to see it through that she would be helped. Anyway, I asked Lawrence how he could see that poverty in his country and continue on, and he said the most profound thing, which I did not expect from him. Lawrence is a fantastic driver, very jovial, and I had not yet seen the depth he displayed at that moment. He said ‘Lina is a miracle from God’. ‘What!?!’I responded, ‘a miracle, she seems so overlooked, she has HIV, malaria, severe malnutrition, her muscles are wasting away, how can she possibly be a miracle!?!’ (I didn’t mean to sound so angry but in the back of my mind all day I was trying not to yell at God for letting his child fall so far, at no fault of her own. Joyce was only 27 years old with two kids and a very hard life…that’s a birthday I will be seeing shortly as well, perhaps one reason she touched me so). Lawrence responded with the same words I used, but they had such a different meaning. He said ‘She is 2 years old, has survived malaria, HIV, existed without food or water, and is still alive. She is God’s child and is a miracle.’ He’s right. I could now see that God was holding her in His hand, making sure she was still there, carrying on, until he could get us over to Kenya to find her outside of a senior citizen home. What an odd series of events to show us His power and grace, and as the returning Canadians on the trip say, it will be incredible to see her in the future, to see how much she has thrived. She is the reason we come to Kenya. All of us came to help her.

We have had an amazing trip, seen so many ups and downs, and clearly saw the impact that Chalice has made in Mwengi and MCOH in Mikinduri. Please continue to support these groups as I have seen firsthand how they can use anything you are willing to give them. As satisfying, enjoyable and exhausting as this trip has been, we’re all very excited to join our families on Monday and share with you our personal experiences. Kenya is a beautiful country, full of wonderful, amazingly hard working people. To those who were able to help us touch nearly 5000 people in our clinics, thank you for giving us the reason and ability to come. Even though each of us pay our own way, there would be no reason to come without your support. I have been so blessed to see God in all of these people and situations, and hope you were able to take a piece of what we experienced. We look forward to seeing you all and may God bless you as he has us these last three weeks. It is only by His power that everything has been so seamless and everyone has had the strength to continue.

Summary: Met a miracle touched by God, who was my first reason to cry here.

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