Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A bag of pills brings a dose of perspective

My cousin and her family are missionaries in Africa.
I am proud of her.
I've been carrying this post inside of me for the past few weeks.
I've been chewing on it everyday.
You should read it.
Read it to the end.
Chew on it.
I can't let it go.
I feel that I have to share.

Everyday, I am becoming more aware of the things that are important in life.
Everyday, I am more aware of how fortunate we are.
Everyday, I am thankful for our family, our friends, and the love.
Everyday, I am working to keep things in perspective.
Everyday, I wonder if I am doing enough to make a difference in the world or even in the life of another human being.

August 9, 2011…I couldn’t believe it!
Living in Africa has allowed us to have many new experiences…some good, and some not so good. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to experience the “not so good.” If you know me, you know that I went to college YEARS ago to become a registered nurse. I believe that God has gifted me with a heart that sees people’s pain and He has given me the desire to try to help those people. I believe in quality care and have often referred to nursing as a career in caring. I recently had the opportunity to see that not all health care providers think the same way. My sweet friend called me a couple of Fridays ago. She was in the hospital, had just delivered twins and said “PLEASE COME!” Of course, I went. When we approached the hospital, we were a little confused about where the entrance was so we asked the men sitting around the flower bed where we should enter. Come to find out, the 8 or so men sitting there were prisoners. Prisoners in Lesotho are dressed in red sweaters and are wrapped with red blankets. This has absolutely nothing to do with my story, but we learned something new. The door that they pointed to was up the ice covered stairs and had a handwritten note taped to it that identified it as the “maternity ward.” We entered the room after calling out the official “koko” that means knock-knock. The women inside responded “kena” which means enter. There were 4 women gathered around a pot belly stove, shoving twigs and paper scraps into the stove, trying to stay warm. These were the mommas. They each had an old time hospital bed and their babies were snuggled under the blankets. No newborn nursery. From the time the baby is born, it is the mother’s responsibility to care for them. My friend was fortunate enough to have a private room. This very small room is actually attached to the nurse’s office/labor room and there was constant traffic down the middle of the room. The patients are responsible for distributing their own medications. The nurses give them a small bag when they are admitted with their meds inside, directions written on the bag. Each mom must wash her own clothes, baby diapers, empty her chamber pot, hang her clothes on the line, get her own water-from the outside long distance tap. My friend had a c-section and still was required to serve herself. The mom brings her own blanket from home, or she doesn’t have one. She also must bring her own bath basin, towel, washcloth, cup, plate, etc. Her meals consisted of dried up beans, cold moroho and a little bit of papa. She provides her own sanitary pads. If she does not have any, she must find an outside visitor to go to the store and buy some, if she has money. If she has no money, she must use whatever she can find that will serve the purpose. In the mountains, many of the women use brush gathered from the side of the mountain. My friend entered the hospital pre-eclamptic and her blood pressure had not been taken since she had delivered. I was introduced to the nurse, who was not too happy to see the white faced American. I was escorted to the hospital administrator’s office, who was very nice by the way. While I was away, my friend was forced to sign a document, that she could not read, saying that if she left the hospital that day, she would not be allowed to return if she developed a problem. The Basotho woman has no rights, no privacy, and my friend received no help. Twins, no family to help, no formula for the crying babies (her milk had not yet come in), no pampering, no nothing.
I thought about the birth of our sons. If we wouldn’t have been in such a progressive hospital with competent and caring nurses and doctors, our sons may not have lived. I had family surrounding me. All my requests were granted..all my needs met. When we arrived home, there were balloons welcoming us. When my friend arrived home the following Monday, her mat was on the floor, her husband away trying to make money, her daughter out of school so that she could stay home to care for the other children. There was no soft bed, no decorated nursery, there was not even any food…other than the corn from the field drying on the outside tarp.
Needless to say, the entire event stressed me out. I had been in a couple of hospitals in Lesotho, all of them run basically the same. I wanted to do something to fix the problem. There was little that I could do. Jimmy reminded me that I could not change the government health care system. I could not demand that my friend be treated fairly…in rural Africa they accept unfairness. What could I do?
Love the momma and pray that the joy of Christ is evident to her as I care for her and her babies. What did I want to do? Smack a few people upside the head…but missionaries probably shouldn’t do that sort of thing.


1 comment:

Antoinette said...

Our lives here are really so luxurious. The standard of care your cousin describes is so low, but what a testament to the many people who take that system for granted and keep going. Miss seeing you, my friend. xo