On the way to these sites we would pass small towns and villages. It was early morning so they were ghost towns at that hour. We would see nothing for miles and miles, then all the sudden masonry / mud strip mall type buildings would line each side of the road for a quarter or so mile. On the way back, these businesses would be packed full of night markets, people cooking, drinking, selling goods and just hanging out. Our driver pointed out hanging out together by the few lights or bonfires was much better than in the dark at their home.
Every morning once we got to the clinic site (a church or school) we were greeted by a major figure in the community. Usually a preacher. He would show us around and introduce us to our prayer team and translator team. These teams were compiled by people the preacher had brought to us. They were volunteers, and PMI gave them a "free pass" for them or one family member (but not both) to go through clinic. These patients were in addition to the "magic #" Dr. Bolt gave us. Dr. Bolt was our head doctor.
|350 people in line|
Jimmy Angodia is a special gift to PMI. He is so great to have on the team. He travels with us each day and speaks a hand full of languages. He walked down the line of people with Katie and the registration team and one by one asked the key questions we needed before they started clinic: Who is with you (it was hard to tell who was with who), Who is here to see the doctor, What is your name and "how many years do you have" aka what is your age. When it was their turn to start the clinic rotation, we weighed them and they went on through clinic.
|Jimmy and I: Day 1 Clinic|
Clinic had multiple stations, in order: Registration, Triage, Providers. From Provider they would go to PT/OT, glasses, Family Planning or Pharmacy. The providers determined where they would go when the left the Provider's station. At each station I placed a registration team member. They were called runners. They were to walk patients from point A to point B and hand off to the next station. Seems mindless for us, but you would be surprised how many people would wander off, go chase children, go sit, etc.. instead of just going to the next location.
|Katie registering patients|
|These people were at the back of the line on day 2. We stopped about 100 people in front on them. These people did not go through clinic.|
Once we had registered everyone, the registration team had some free time. This was great to be able to walk around the area we were in, play with the kids, lend a helping hand to where it was needed, or just take a few minute personal break. After the last few patients were through the providers we started with the prayer team and translators. Without fail every day, we had people not understanding or just trying to do what they can, to get them and a family member to be seen, despite the rule: it was them OR a family member. Not both. By day two we had a system to help regulate this. Prayer team and translators had names tags made of duck tape. When it was their turn to go through clinic we would pull their name tag off and stick to the back of the registration form. If there were not seeing the dr, but their family member, we would still take their name tag and write actual patients name on the form. This helped with passing of the name tags. It sounds brutal, but with so many people, there had to be a way to regulate it. There wasn't enough hours in the day to see all the people that would show up, so we just had to be as fair as we could, in the safest way. Day 3-5 I had my game face on and those tough rigid stopping points and conversations of "we are done taking patients" became a little easier. Confusion would come when we started registering the prayer team and translators. They would know they had just been told no more, but yet soon after, we would let 30-40 more people through. It would then have to be explained they were getting to go through as a Thank You for helping PMI that day.
While in Africa I was surprised, humbled and felt loved more times than I can count. The pure happiness everyone has is overwhelming. It is a joy no one I know in the US would have if in the same conditions. Spending time in such a poor country really helps remind you of what is important. Not be surrounded by "stuff" helps you understand how they can be so joyous and happy.
They literally have nothing to compare their life/ condition to. Everyone they know is in the same position: poor, hungry, thirsty, sick. But they are thankful for what little they do have. Children go to school, women work, men work. They may not get paid and it may not be the same level or capacity of work we know but you got the sense people were working and doing the best they could. They are working in the sense they are raising multiple children. They are working in the sense they are carrying gallons upon gallons of water on their heads (even children as young as 5). They are working when they pick fruit and put pounds of it in the basket on top of their head.They are working with what they have. They are working to stay alive. The will to live that I witnessed is something I'll never forget. I don't think I would stand a chance.
I noticed women still have a sense of pride. If they had it, they came to clinic in their "fly rags" as my Grandaddy Hall called Sunday best. They would nurse in public, but want to be in private for urine samples and would even hide the cups when walking outside to the latrine.
The communities really had a sense of community. It seemed that everyone helped one another, everyone pitches in when needed and everyone trusted one another like family.
When we would ask how old they were.. we got more than a few 40,50,60,70... after thinking about this... they probably do not know how old they are for sure. I didn't see one calendar. I have no idea how they would keep up with the days/ years, especially when you get on up there. Some of the elder would really had to think about how many years they had.
While I've never forget the love, hugs and smiles of the children, I'll hold forever with me the depth of life I saw in the adults. I swear, even if we couldn't speak to one another, when you looked into some of these people's eyes you just felt you could see the world. Stories to last a lifetime. Some of the kindest, most sincere, intriguing eyes I've ever been looked at with or looked into.
It was most interesting to see the reactions to the photos. Almost every time I took a photograph, they had a stern, strong and serious face. After showing them the shot, they would bust out into laughter and smiles.
|All these children belong to this lady.|
|He was playing duck duck goose and every time he got tapped on the head he would run back to his mother belly laughing!|
|The kids loved high fives|
|Guards were with us everywhere we went|
|Katie registering patients|
|"We have been knowing each other all our years"|
|Cows and Clinic|
|Of course his name is Elvis|
|PMI gave this child a wheelchair. His friend waited all night and say with him.What an utterly amazing friendship, and especially at this age.|