Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Chrissy Chipriano (who gave me permission to share this) joined our team the end of last September. In her 6 months here, she developed some symptoms that were not completely diagnosable. Following her gut (ok, the prompting of God!) that something was not right, she had every possible test done both in Kampala and then in America. Two weeks ago, surgery showed cancer on her thyroid. Tomorrow, Chrissy will have the remainder of her thyroid removed. Please join us in praying for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. We love her and miss her here!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Rose came into the health center Tuesday struggling to breath, blue lips, unconscious and intermittently convulsing. Her weeping father placed her onto the hospital bed and collapsed on the floor crying. Behind him was Rose’s mother and several women whooping and wailing the cry of death.
We diagnosed her with cerebral malaria and subsequent lab showed to many parasites in her blood to count. The nurse Amos was able to put in an IV line. We found the needed medicines but still watched helplessly as the child’s breathing patterns changed and we seemed to be nearing the end. I asked the father if I could pray for the Rose. He blanched and then slowly nodded. I did not understand. The nurse then told me the father presumed I was going to give the last rights to the child. Why else would you pray? Uncharacteristically, I looked the father straight in the eye and said I do not serve a God who only rules over death, but one that gives life. (Inside I was begging Jesus to show us his power.)
After I prayed, I remembered the oxygen concentrator that the Grace team brought last January. After dusting it off, I ran around the health center looking for a power supply. None with 110V power could be found. So I biked as hard as I could to our home and brought back a small generator. When I arrived, the women were wailing and all the mothers in the ward seemed to have gathered around the little bed where Rose was lying. Jessica and Amos had started the IV Quinine. Amy found some artemether at our house and sent it down to the health center for us to inject. We started the machine and oxygen began to stream out. We connected the tubing to Rose and began to pray. Slowly, she regained color. Her body seemed to relax. Feeling a little better, we left the bed to see the other patients.
When I returned that evening with my KaDoctor (ka means little in Lubwisi) to check on Rose, Lilli and I found her already sitting up and smiling with her mother. Praise God for small miracles!
Over the past 13 years, Michael Masso and many helpers (both Ugandan and missionaries) built a water line from Ngite Falls to Nyahuka where we live. On the way the line branches to many communities and brings clean water to nearly 70,000 people. Before the line was in place, cholera epidemics were regular and annually many people died of this terrible disease. Since the completion of the waterline, there have not been any recorded deaths due to cholera in our area.
Three days ago, the water stopped flowing to Nyahuka. I checked the source at the waterfall and found it to be flowing well. Baffled, I followed the line of taps (many broken) from the waterfall to our town. With each tap the flow was smaller until at the hill just above our house, it stops.
Between the taps there are about a dozen of line breaks where water is spilling onto the land making large mud pits. You would think people would not want these mosquito-carrying, land destroying swamps in front of their house. Surprisingly, it is probably those land owners that cut the line.
It is currently not cocoa season. So, there is no income in our district. However, one can make bricks out of the mud on their land and sell it to make ends meet. There are some houses that are 2 feet above their surrounding yard. Why? Because they have cut away the dirt to make bricks and, over the years, the house has become elevated. Today, I passed one yard and saw mud seemingly flying out of the ground. As I got closer I saw a man digging a hole in his front yard about 5 feet deep and 10 feet long. Behind it was a large stack of bricks he was making.
So, with every mud pit and broken tap I passed, I became more and more angry. Why are people so careless about our waterline? Do they not realize that their selfishness of not replacing leaking taps or cutting lines is leaving thousands of people without water and possibly causing an epidemic that could take the lives of dozens of children?
Then I sat convicted. Why am I only worried about this on day 3 of the crisis? Because it is only now threatening the water supply that fills up the cistern that gives water to my kids; in a few days, we will also be carrying jerry cans of water from the river for our family’s use. I have been thinking “Sure, people can walk to the river with jerry cans and lug them back to their house to boil. If they don’t boil, it’s their fault. This is how it has been for centuries. I have other good work to do at the clinic.” But now it is threatening us. Before this, I was happy to take two showers a day in the stifling heat just to cool off, even if others were struggling. After all, there is plenty of water around. They can figure it out.
Then I became even more angry. The people upstream did not worry about using the water because there seemed to be so much of it. The source, Ngite Falls, is a power full 300ft waterfall that is always flowing. If they took a little just for them, it shouldn’t matter. This is the mentality of our public officials have regarding their “cuts” of money they take for each good will project that comes along. Because of this, we have no blood or medicine at our government health center. None. The money has been sent to local officials for that medicine and blood and it has even been signed for, but still we wait to see any of it reach Nyahuka Health Center.
Frustrating days like these make me want to pack up and move back to the US. But now I am realizing, that even if we did, my heart would still ache for my friends suffering at the end of the waterline.
Post script: (Amy writes) Travis has located a man with water experience and is meeting with him right now to examine the leaks and try to bring some repairs. At CSB, students have been going to the river with jerry cans for water and some have now complained of stomach issues. Lorry trucks have now brought clean water for the kitchen to use for their meals which have been delayed due to lack of water.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
We are happy to announce the birth of a baby girl to our neighbors, Majerie and Salo! She is a healthy, pinkish, much loved, little bundle with a head full of hair!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Leaving the kids sleeping for naptime, with Gladys to watch over them, Jess, Anna, Pastor K, neighbor B, Travis and I made our way to the home of Francis and Sarah. Every covered and shaded area was filled with family and friends. Singing had already begun. Travis sat in the elder katubi with Kisembo and other muzeis. Jess, Anna and I sat on my kitangi on the outskirts of the women. As the family is Catholic, the lay priests shared in Lebwisi. Later, B explained that they spoke both of Jesus Christ and that the death of the child was rumored to be a result of a curse that was place on the child by someone or some action. As we continued to both listen to the liturgy and sing responsive songs, students from Nyahuka Parental Care Primary School, Alpha Primary School, and Christ School Bundibugyo made the number of mourners swell from 200 to 400. Speeches were made by the local councilman and a clan leader. One man rose to speak, but the director of the burial quickly asked him to remain quiet and others escorted him away and sat with him. As Chairman of the Board of Governors for CSB, Travis was asked to give a speech. He shared of our appreciation for the families of Francis and Sarah and gratefulness for our friendship with the couple. He continued that we do not understand why some children are chosen to leave earth at a young age, but we do know that Jason is now in the arms of Jesus. It was the only part of the burial where the group said “amen”.
Following that were more speeches, a reading of the amounts of money that various people and groups contributed to the burial costs and more singing. It was then that one of the brothers on Sarah’s side accused the family of Francis for not doing enough to care for Jason and blamed them for his death. The family leader of Francis countered with yelling until there were 3 or 4 people for each family yelling at each other. The end result was that the wife’s family demanded a payment of several goats. Teacher Desmond came and said candidly to us “Here, there always has to be some confusion.” I could say that about most of my days in Bundibugyo! Apparently, the goat deal was made as the burial of the casket then proceeded.
As a mass group we all followed Francis and Sarah, holding them up as they were weeping and wailing, to the grave down behind the houses. The small casket that was draped in deep purple fabric was laid down and both metal rebarb and then cement was placed over it. Amidst singing was wailing and crying, the most vocal was the mother Sarah, until she passed out and was carried by her sisters. When Travis checked on Sarah, he found that the sisters had placed a plastic bag tightly over her mouth to help her breathe. He showed them how to make it looser and then found himself explaining why she needed more space in the bag for carbon dioxide and oxygen interchange before he remembered that they did not understand English and he did not know the Lebwisi word for carbon dioxide!
Last night when Travis met with the CSB teachers, he asked what ways they could support Francis and Sarah. The immediate need was to help provide for the burial. They also said that they needed to be patient friends as a person is not the same after losing a child. They explained that sometimes the person is angry, or quiet, or loses interest. Their marriage would also need to be supported as clans blaming each other can create a wedge between a husband and a wife. Additionally, they probably owe people a great deal of money for all the medicines and hospital trips they did in search of help for Jason, so financial sharing with them would be a support.
I have been reading “Bwamba: the Functional and Structural Analysis of the Patrilineal Society” and finding it totally interesting and it allows me to have a framework from which to understand this culture in which we live. Among the Bwamba people (which includes the Babwisi), there is a serious belief that there are spirits out who will try to grab your ankle as you are walking alone in places. Those spirits will intend to do you harm and are often sent by local witchdoctors or by angry ancestors who demand a blood sacrifice. So, if sickness, or worse, death occurs and there is no evident explanation, then there needs to be a place to put the blame. If someone dies from being hit by a motorcycle (a common occurrence), then the blame is placed on the driver and a serious penalty is paid. We once witnessed a gasoline tanker hit a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) at an intersection in Kampala. When the tanker driver had seen what he had done, he jumped out of his truck and quickly ran away, leaving his truck abandoned as he knew a mob mentality of justification for the accident he had just caused was imminent. However, if there is no visible reason for the death, such as in the case of a child’s death, then blame must rest somewhere. Thus, families blame each other for lack of care, for bringing a curse, for not appeasing the angry ancestoral spirits. And a blood sacrifice has to be paid. Yesterday, that was one of the reasons why the mother’s family was demanding a payment of goats.
For months now, I have been carrying around an article that appeared in the February 16th Daily Monitor entitled “Only 25% of children with cancer complete treatment.” At that time, I could barely read it as we were mourning the death of Baraba Paul, the boy whom we had tried and tried to provide medical care for by arranging free cancer treatment, through visits to the hospital, by following up in the village, by sending people with him to Kampala so they would not have to be alone, and through the efforts of the kind staff at the Hope Ward at International Hospital Kampala to keep him there, even without parental support. He was given the treatment. He was offered a free and safe place to stay. But it was still too much for his family to leave their village and stay in Kampala. And when they missed their treatments, was it fair to give the very, very limited chemotherapy resources to one in whom the disease had already progressed too far while others are desperate for medicines? The article states that “as many as 1,200 children are admitted to the Uganda Cancer Institute but less than 300 complete medication largely because of the high cost of drugs and other remedies.” And that statistic is just for those who are diagnosed and are able to be admitted to the UCI.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the needs here. By the statistics I read. By the number of requests for food, pens, school fees, and medical help. By the lack of resources in developing places like Uganda. By the hopelessness of those who blame each other for the unexplained death of a child. By the pressure on a young couple who has believed in the Amazing Love of God to renounce their faith and turn towards ancestral curses.
And then I am reminded by the most common phrase here, “buke buke” meaning slowly, slowly. For the power of the gospel to make an impact here, a place that is as hard as the sun-baked clay, it takes prayer, sacrifice, patience, love, perseverance, and a faith that God IS working. He promises He is.
Please continue to pray for the faith of Francis and Sarah to be strenghened and for the CSB teachers who surround them. Please pray for their families to understand the love of God through Jesus. Please pray for the students of CSB to have open and receptive hearts today as Master Peter and Travis speak at chapel about God’s power and love. And pray for faith for all of us to continue to bless the name of God even when it doesn’t make sense.
Monday, June 6, 2011
As you read this, please pray for Jason, the son of CSB teacher Kataramu Francis and his wife Sarah.
One of the joys of being the third wave of missionaries here is that we get to see the fruit of the labor of years of work here. One such "good fruit" came to our door the first months we were here and over the year and a half, we have built a relationship with John.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
The last couple of weeks, with Amy's help with admin at home and loving the children, and Jessica coming to partner with the medical work, I have been able to consistently be in the health center. Its amazing how this change has made me feel a bit more at home. I have made a few new friends that are daily struggling to treat patients at the local health center despite the chronic lack of resources. I have had fun, the kind of fun that comes when you feel you are doing what you are suppose to be doing.
Here are a few children we saw this week.
Please pray for Jason who has Tropical Splenomegaly Syndrome. Jason is a child of a Christ School teacher who has developed a complicated array of symptoms. Miraculously he is still alive today. He is still not walking, his spleen still fills his abdominal cavity and his blood count remains bafflingly low.
Pray for Rose, who weighs less than 65% of the normal weight for her height. She is one and only weighs 11 pounds. Her mother is from a village near the Congo border and was just recently diagnosed with HIV. She has been faithfully breastfeeding her child, yet the child is failing to thrive. The child probably has HIV as well.
Pray for the three 2 year olds that we admitted this week who all weighed around 14lbs.
Pray for Charles, Betty and the many other nurses struggling to provide good care.
Pray for medicines. This week the health center ran out of malaria medicines and several antibiotics while we are struggling to treat over a dozen kids with severe malaria and severe pneumonia.
Pray for wisdom as we try to treat each of these children and determine a workable plan to support the medical and lab supplies of the health center without replacing the current system.
Thanks for helping us be here in so many different ways. It is hard to be here, but it is good to be here too.