Published: June 2nd 2012June 2nd 2012
Matayo is a very small village just off the main road to Mangochi. This Wound Clinic differed to the one at Nkhudzi Bay because it was held outside, under a huge huge tree to be exact. I can't explain in words just how large the tree was, but only to say it was the biggest I have ever seen. It provided good shade from the sun and was in a secluded position which would have provided some privacy for those attending had it not been for the audience of many that greeted us each time we showed up!
Sometimes we went to the Tree in the minibus and sometimes on the back of bicycles. It depended on whether the minibus was needed elsewhere. It was a decent trek on a bike and it meant that the riders had to wait for us because it was too far for them to go back and then return again to take us home.
Clare and I went to the Tree a few times and always had a translator with us. The translator (either Sam, Martha or Sophie) borrowed a mat from a local house so that we could set our equipment up
ready for the clinic to start. Water was also fetched from the village pump for us to use if any of the wounds needed washing.
A couple of people stand out to me from Matayo - one was a man aged 34 years who had injured his foot on the pedal of a bicycle - he was riding it without shoes, and he had got a decent cut that needed treatment. He walked 2 miles (barefoot) to the Tree from his home in a local village a couple of times for us to clean and dress his wound. The first time I met him it was quite upsetting to think he had to walk home with a bandaged foot and no shoes. It was hard to comprehend that shoes were such luxury items in this part of the world and that people seemed to accept that walking around, riding a bike and even playing football without footwear was normal.
The second time he came to the Tree we noticed that his wound was taking time to heal, probably because he was still having to walk around without shoes. We cleaned and redressed his foot but knew that by
the time he got back to his own village his new bandage would be filthy and of little use to protect his injury. Luckily for him I had gone to the Tree in a pair of almost unisex flipflops and I decided to give them to him so he at least had some protection and a bit of comfort whilst his foot healed. Needless to say he was very pleased and I am sure he had a better journey home.
Another 'patient' who stands out for me is a 8 year old boy called Manuel. He had horrendous wounds on one of his legs - 2 deep circular injuries on his shin that were caused by a branch falling off a tree and hitting Manuel full-force on his leg. The first time I met him he was being carried to the Tree by his mum on her back like a baby would be carried around, accompaned by his younger siblings. He was screaming before she put him down because he knew what was coming.
We managed to get him to sit down on the mat and we started to unwrap the bandages covering his wounds. The first thing
that hit me was the smell, closely followed by the flies all over the bandages. The wound was oozing and the flies were feeding on the blood. It was horrible and both Clare and I did our best not to breathe through our noses, the smell of decay was that bad.
Manuel continued to scream whilst we tried to soak the bandages off to minimise the pain he was experiencing. The flies persisted and Manuel's mum spent the time wafting the things away with little effect. Once we had removed the dirty dressings we quickly flushed the wounds one at a time with pump water in a 50ml syringe. The wounds were very smelly and were obviously infected and the flies tried to get in and have a go at the raw wounds. We doused each wound with iodine and put a variety of dressings on them which fortunately we had brought from kind reps at home. We wrapped Manuel's leg with fresh bandages and asked his mum to bring him back to the Tree in a couple of days.
When we saw him again we repeated the process and did note that the wounds looked cleaner and
appeared to be healing albeit very slowly. Obviously Manuel wouldn't be having a well-balanced diet, adequate rest or even basic antibiotics so we estimated that his wounds would take a very long time to heal, if they ever did. We also thought about what might happen when the dressing supplies run out and there's nothing left to dress the wounds with. Doesn't bare thinking about really. One pleasing thing about Manuel was that we saw him walk to one of the final clinics I attended - his leg was obviously less painful and he was more trusing of us as we sorted him out.
Other patients attending the Tree came with a variety of minor wounds and sprains which we treated to the best of our ability. A couple of people turned up and we weren't able to help them - one young girl aged about 9 years who had gone blind over a period of a few weeks and another who had mouth ulcers. We recommended both of them attend the local health centre but knew that might not be possible being as it was about 5 miles away and just too far for them to walk to
and too expensive for them to get transport to.
Whilst we saw some distressing things under the Tree at Matayo that will stay with me for a long time, I also liked the place because of the local children who congregated there. Each time we arrived there would be few kids waiting and the number grew as the clinic progressed. All of the children should have been at school but had an array of excuses as to why they weren't there!
The children loved to have their pictures taken and we spent most of the time in-between patients taking photos and showing the children them on the back of the camera. They became expert posers and we got some fantastic photographs. One day I took some balloons and the kids had a great time playing with them. They also enjoyed kicking a tennis ball around. I think they were the happiest bunch of children I came accross in Malawi and it was a pleasure to go to the Tree to see them. They had nothing but still spent the whole time smiling and having fun.
Something else I enjoyed at the Tree was watching a local man
called Levi making mats out of soft cane. He made one a day and sold thm for about £1. He had a wife and 4 lovely children so he had to work very hard. I gave Levi my pen-knife and even though he couldn't speak English, I know he would find it very useful.
There was a load of insects around the Tree, including ants, flies and flying things I had never seen before. The flies were a total pain but the ants were worse as they got everywhere and some of them had a sharp bite. Chickens also roamed around totally free-range.
Overall the Wound Clinic at Matayo was a positive experience which I enjoyed almost as much as Nkhudzi Bay. Hopefully future volunteers will make it a priority to go there and I sincerely hope Manuel is lucky and makes a full recovery from his leg injury. I also hope that Levi speeds up and makes more mats so he has a bit more money available to feed his beautiful family.
There are more photos below