Well I am officially living in Rugazi for a month! It feels wonderful to not live completely out of a suitcase and to have a routine for the first time in a few weeks. I also feel like I can finally get to really see and dive into a place in Africa finally. This was after all one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this beautiful country!
So far Rugazi has been amazing. It is so lush here it put what we thought was a very lush Mbarara. This also means that I have an afro every day of the week now but good ol' dry heat Saskatchewan will take care of that in a few months time! Our drive to Rugazi was fairly uneventful except getting used to the apparent lack of road rules here is trying at times for some of our group. The drive on the opposite side of the road to us in Canada and it seems like the bigger you are the more you can drive into oncoming traffic and it is up to them to avoid you! We took the main highway from Mbarara to here but the farther
you go the less kept up it is to a point where our bus driver would fail to slow down and drive in the wrong lane to avoid massive potholes. The bus we were on was probably built in the 50's and has a very appropriate name of Menopause. Being in this rather, ummm...matured bus as it swerved around the highway certainly did not allow for us to catch some shut eye during our drive!
We met the VHTs today. These people are the Village Health Team and are responsible for keeping tabs on their communities, providing information, and being a middle man between the health care facilities and the community basically. The three of them were so welcoming and I am very excited to tour the community with them tomorrow afternoon! Apparently we are heading to a very remote village only accessible by foot near a crate lake! Fingers crossed we are not rained out tomorrow. We also met Dr. Ida who is our supervisor while here. She seems so brilliant, intimidating, yet mothering. I am very happy she is our supervisor as she has already given us a lot of great advice while living here.
Some of that advice is to watch better for storms like the one we got last night. I have only once seen a storm that bad and I was in northern Ontario when a tornado was moving across the lake next to ours. It was like being in Niagra falls when standing in what we thought was the sheltered pathway between our eating/meeting house and our residence building. It was so intense we had to tape down our curtains because our broken windows might blow out of their frames! Thank goodness the locals told us this might happen or else we would not have thought about it. Luckily we all survived with no damage to us except maybe our ear drums from the thunder.
Today also marked the first day of our clinical rotations here at the Rugazi Health Center IV. This day has changed my life. We got to see how their health care system just does what they can to provide the best care they can. Their ideas of sanitation made me cringe but when I realized they did this to save the patients money (they have to buy their supplies and bring it to
their appointments if stocks are low at the health care facility like they are right now) I completely understood why they do it like that. They are just doing way they can and always try their best. They taught us so much information about the health care facility here too! Once I get used to how things run I am hoping to share more of this knowledge. Some of the cases I saw today were removal of stitches, a patient with epilepsy, one who was bit by a pig and children and adults suffering from malaria. All of these cases were super interesting to me but it was my last patient of the day I was asked to consult on with Tenielle that really broke me. So this is my official trigger warning! If you are having a bad day, beating yourself up about something, or simply want to continue on your day without being sad I understand and therefore am telling you to stop reading right now. I wish you the best of days.
So my last patient was a 4 month old male who was HIV "positive". The reason I type "positive" and not positive
despite his initial tests is that the protocol here is that you need to be at least 18 months of age to be deemed HIV positive as by this age you can have 3 conclusive tests showing positive or negative. This patient was showing signs of wasting, poor appetite, and anemia. When hearing this information before seeing the patient I never realized what image would forever be burned into my brain. Here was this little mouse of a human breastfeeding from his mother, belly swollen from malnourishment, eyes bulging out from lack of body fat, cheeks reminding be of concentration camp victims, and the tiniest limbs I have ever seen. I instantly looked to the mothers face for any sign of her breaking down at how sickly her child was and I saw nothing. She was even laughing at my attempts to translate my questions to the other student present from Kampala. And then it hit me. This is just their life. HIV is like the common cold back home, all try to avoid it but most rarely do but you just keep on living. The fact that her son, barely a human would clinically probably not see the age of 1 year old was just a fact of life. It was not uncommon, it was not out of place, it was just the norm. I kept myself together and tried to give the best advice I could given the language barrier, lack of supplies here, and just overall lack of knowledge. Then I ran to our residence for lunch, making a quick excuse to run to my room and bawl my eyes out. Not only for the boys mother, the lack of care they get here, the great life I have back in Canada without really appreciating it the way I should, the HUGE barriers to care they experience here, but truly for my patient. Who I would say probably would not see the next raining season here. He barely had a chance to form his mind, to learn to kick a ball, to speak his first word and he probably never would. Those huge brown eyes, and sunken cheeks I think will always stick with me and what they meant to me. This little boy showed me more than he will ever know. Every single day I get is huge, it is amazing, it means I am alive and not battling with a sickness that claims hundreds of lives every year. He showed me that gratefulness can simply be knowing what you have and not complaining about how your food is not perfect, your hair is not laying right, that someone is annoying you, or the weather. These are all things to be taken in stride because you, sitting here reading this, are alive, hopefully well, and experiencing life every day you open up your eyes. Clearly, I am not saying you have to have the same revelation I did but this is simply how this little boy affected me and how I want him to ultimately continue to affect my life.
Enough preaching from me though about sad topics. Getting another storm and time to sign off and watch the rain before we lose power!
Sending love from Africa!
Tot: 1.893s; Tpl: 0.097s; cc: 8; qc: 46; dbt: 0.0366s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb