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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some things I'll never get used to . . .

No matter how many years go by.  

Rats.  Taking a shower last night, drying off, turned around to see a very large rat.  He was a bit sluggish, which was why I could trap him under a bucket, hold it down with my foot, get clothes on, and then call for help.  Scott and Julia killed it.  No matter how many years I live here, my startle reflex does not diminish.  

Bodily fluids.  Talking to patients bedside, and getting a warm feeling . . . literally as the baby on the bed behind me soaked my back with a well aimed stream of urine, mom oblivious.  I jumped, mom jumped, baby stopped, I moved out of range (or so I thought) and he let loose in the new direction and got my feet!  At least his hydration shows he's drinking plenty of his milk. 

Dysfunctional families.  Getting histories on the four new "nutrition disaster patients", as Heidi put it, that came in yesterday, plus one more for today . . I hope I never see this as normal.  Happy Malioni is NOT HAPPY.  In fact she's a stunted little toddler, curled up under a sheet with distended weeping skin, and I know my frustrated lecture to her dad about why he disappeared for a WHOLE YEAR since her last admission did not really accomplish anything.  Nor did calling to task the teenage mom of the starving baby in the next bed by begging her parents to take charge.  Nor did finding out the next patient was one of 17 children of 4 wives in her father's home, with not enough food to go around.  Then there are two little girls with severe brain damage, one from a difficult delivery and the other from cerebral malaria, and in a place where kids need to fend for themselves at an early age, those who aren't able tend to slip away.  As much as caring for these kids feels like beating my head against the wall . . .I hope I don't ever stop knocking. Because it's not right.  Hunger season is upon us.

Death.  Heard that one of the nurses from our health center delivered a baby Monday after a long and not-so-well-managed labor, severe gasping distress and unable to be resuscitated.  So today I stopped to say sorry, and pray for her.  The investment of her body and heart for 9 months, and left with nothing but grief.  From there ran into another nurse friend who told me one of our long-term patient/neighbor/friends had died in the night, a teenage boy with a seizure disorder and developmental delay.  His competent, caring, patient mom had brought him to us for many, many years for anticonvulsants.  So I biked up there with our summer intern Anna, to sit hip to hip in the mud-floored house, trying to comfort this lady who was weeping as she gently held the dead hand of her son.  My teenager is about to graduate from high school and go to Yale; hers is dead.  Tears.  Part of almost every woman's life here, the loss of children.

Burdens.  I thought that in these last few weeks, it would be easier to NOT pick up the burdens.  So many things are no longer in our hands.  And I've cut back to only seeing patients one day a week.  But I still care, it is not possible to live here quietly observing without being drawn into the pain, and without trying to bear some of the burdens.  Scott carries even heavier ones, helping dismiss a teacher this week who was causing many difficulties at school, counseling about pregnancies, fixing electricity, sorting out budgets, and on and on.  We may lose another teacher who is trying to get to California to go to a church-based year-long supernatural-ministry training, which will be a blow to the senior students he's preparing for exams this year.  As our team reminds us, God's timescale is LONG.  He's not finished in Bundibugyo, not at all. 

And so while much of life feels very normal (the raucous weavers in the early morning, Asita's laugh as she brings a cooked dinner of beans and pumpkin into the house in pans stacked on her head, Jack and Julia working on a math problem together) there are still some very broken parts of this place that I hope I will never, even when I'm gone, accept as inevitable or tolerable.  

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