After returning from Kafue, better rested, we met for devotions early for our 5th day of clinic. Bill prayed and asked that the neediest patients would find their way through the gates to us. Every day after, it seemed that each patient who entered had an urgent need. My day started with a young lady with congenital heart disease. I gave her $17 to see a cardiologist in town. My second patient was severely malnourished with kwashiorkor, and I had several other severely marasmic infants. We had so many that were sick that a church member arranged to drive them all together in the church van to the hospital. One mother brought her infant daughter to me with all of her prior health records. This infant had grown well and nursed well until her mother developed a serious infection in her eye. She was hospitalized for several weeks, and during this time, she was unable to nurse her baby.
Her father fed her porridge, but the baby lost weight. By the time her mother was released from the hospital, she had no more milk for the baby.
I met one boy whose mother told me that her son had been normal until just before he turned two. Then his head began to enlarge dramatically, and he lost the ability to walk. Since then, his condition has declined, slowly but steadily.
We began keeping a list of patients who could be helped by the Cure Hospital in Lusaka. We hope that the church will be able to transport families there monthly for treatment. Mary, one of the midwives from the church, kept a list of our skinny children to follow up for us after we left. I have some hope for what we do because I know that the local church is there behind us, trying their best to raise money together to finish the things that we start.
The following morning, Bill again prayed that the sickest patients would somehow squeeze through the gates. My first patient was a 13 year old boy, carried in by his father. He was completely unresponsive that morning when his father tried to wake him. He was comatose, and cold. As it turns out, this boy sleeps on a concrete floor alone. Generally, the family sleeps together at night, but since he has gotten older, he has wanted to sleep away from his parents and younger siblings. He had no covering, and the temperature during the Zambian winter dips into the 40s at night. We filled latex gloves with hot water and stuffed them in his clothes and transported him along with 3 other sick patients to the hospital in the church van. Once he’d received some glucose and warm IV fluids, this boy was doing cartwheels in the hospital halls. Later in the day, I met a 5 day old baby with ophthalmia neonatorum, a serious infection in the eyes which can cause blindness.
This is easily preventable with eye ointment at birth, but this infant had been born at home. For another $2, this little one was transported to the hospital as well. We treated his mother’s infection before she left the clinic. Carla had a 3 month old baby arrive with severe jaundice and a rock-hard liver protruding from her belly . . . even in the U.S., conditions which cause this are difficult to treat. Many children with hand and foot deformities came for help; all were added to the list of children to send to Cure.
The evening before our last day of clinic, as we drove back to the Lothian House, the van carrying all of the church volunteers (our interpreters) hit a child who ran into the road as they left Kawama. The driver got out of the van to see if the child was hurt and was immediately encircled and beaten by the crowd that had gathered. He and the child were taken to Kitwe Central Hospital for treatment. The church members stayed there with the child’s family all night; she only had minor injuries and recovered well. In the morning, Mary brought her to the clinic to be sure she was well. Even after being up all night, the church volunteers arrived in good spirits, singing praises and blessing us as we began our last day of clinic. The crowds were particularly desperate on our last day. Several of the sickest people in the
crowd were trampled as the mob stormed the gate; once they managed to break through, and several people ran inside. Chad, our 6’4” blond security officer, ventured outside to pick up those who were injured in the stampede. We worked as quickly as we could to see as many patients as possible. When we finished, we had seen 2826 patients; Matt had given away over 600 pairs of reading glasses. Even so, there were still hundreds who had not made it through the gates.