17 February 2009

Field Day

I accompanied Sr. Joy, Grace and Jairus on their day of visiting clients in East Kabras.  We had to wind our way though dirt roads as wide as the truck along roads that I would not even want to be walking on.  Deep cuts ran in the middle with a few dips that seemed to be aimed at only affecting one side of the truck.  The addition of dust made it impossible to travel at a speed much higher than 20 kph (12 mph).  Ironically, the roads which were nearly impassible by car were shadowed by a myriad of power lines that looked exactly like the ones that you may see in a less crowded part of the United States.

We made four visits.  The first was to see a girl who had requested aid with getting epilepsy medication.  In order to determine need, a visit has to be made at the home of a client.  The meetings were conducted in Luhya and Swahili.  On the car ride between stops I was given the details of the previous meeting.  At the first home I noticed that everyone, children included, had yellow bloodshot eyes.  I can assume that dust plays a large part of this, but nutrition must also affect the coloration.  It was like looking at one of those old pictures of Ben Johnson (I think that is the name of the Olympic sprinter who broke the 100m record and his eyes were yellow due to HGH) in real life. 

The second stop was impromptu when Joy noticed a home of a client where the child was laying unattended under a banana tree.  Children are often left to their own devices in the area, but there were two infants who were both sick laying and crying.  Grace said that the first had been so sick last week due to malnourishment that she nearly died.  The second was a child of no more than a year who had flies literally in his mouth and suffered from severe epilepsy.  Upset, Joy and Grace determined to track down the mother who was at work.  The infants were being watched by their siblings who were no older than 8.  The older ones were just as poorly off.  Two were shirtless and one wore a dress that did little more than hang out of politeness.  We found the mother and she told us that she was unable to take her son to the center because she could not get off work (housekeeping).  Joy demanded to see her boss, who was not there.  So we went to see his father.  A quick meeting ensued where Joy and Grace explained the need for the mother to have a day per week to go to the clinic.  He agreed, we said good bye, and went back on our way.

I have noticed that conversations always seem to drag on, but when it comes time for the end there are no lingering discussions.  It is like that on the phone too.  I will call someone, and once whatever I have asked has been answered the conversation ends.  No good bye.

The next two stops were for patients whom I see at the center fairly often.  Luka is another infant with epilepsy (do you seem to see a pattern here with children and epilepsy?).  Upon arrival we found him eating outside.  Having what his mother said was 'breakfast.'  Joy told me that meant that it was going to be the days only meal if they were having breakfast so late in the day (noon).  The children were sharing a plate of arrow root.  Which is like potatoes, but does not taste good and lacks any real nutrients.  I was struck by the fact that the home only had one bed.  I assumed that that meant the children would sleep on the floor of the home.  My suspicion was proved wrong when Joy told me that the kids slept outside.  I had noticed that there was a large area of rags and clothes spread over the ground in front of the house, but assumed that they were clothing to be washed or possibly sold.  No, that was the bed for the kids.  Sleep with the stars, the moon, mosquitos, cows, flies and chickens.  Not so romantic.

The last stop was to see Jairus.  He is about 10 years old and has CP.  He also is a very close second to the best smile in the world.  He does not talk much at all, but man does he light up when you play with him.  He was in the center yesterday and I was teasing him as he was working on his fine motor control with his left hand.  The father, mother, second wife, and most of the families fifteen children were around.  Jairus smiled coyly as Joy and Grace asked about how everything was going.  The father told us he was upset because the mother was lazy and is not helping the boy.  He spoke very well, but the mother later told Joy in private that the father was a liar.  Jairus is supposed to be in school, but the father said he was unable to go because of a lack of uniform.  The mother said that Jairus had never been taken to a school.  The father was lying.  In addition, she said that he was cheating on his two wives and favored the second wife over her. He put on a show that he had a lot of concern for the child.  As it turns out, it really was just a show.  I could even notice something was slightly off about his demeanor.  That was confirmed in the car ride home when the others said that he was lying through his teeth.

The day was certainly important because it gave me a better idea of how far the clients have to travel to come to the SJC.  It also allowed me to see the conditions that we are fighting against whenever the child comes in to do therapy.  There are many to have not improved at an acceptable rate and home life has everything to do with it.  It is terrible to see children treated as second class by their very own family.  Young siblings do not seem to care, but older ones are aloof.  It makes sense that some families have problems with older siblings beating their handicapped brother or sister.  The parents indifference trickles down to the children.  The last father even made it seem as if his son was ours.  Jairus had remind the father that his son was in fact his son and not owned by the SJC.  Seeing stuff like this is not easy.  It makes me feel like I can not really do to much, and whatever I am doing is entirely undone the minute the child leaves.