Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tragedy and Hope

Miercoles, 22 Julio 2009

Today was my first day at the clinic in about a week. When I got there, I learned that yesterday there had been a birth in the clinic. The mother had come in very weak. The baby was born feet first and the mother had no strength to push it out. One doctor had to pull on the baby’s legs while a nurse had to apply pressure to the mother’s stomach. The baby was born asphyxiated and purple. It took 4 or 5 minutes before they could get the baby to start breathing. (Lack of oxygen for this long causes serious brain damage that affects one for the rest of their life; from learning to walk to performing in the classroom.) This morning the little girl had a fever (around 39 ÂșC) when I came in, and after nursing a bottle of warm, purified water (the family couldn’t afford milk) she began to vomit it all back up, a brown mucus along with little bits of blood. We had to put a tube down her throat to her stomach to help siphon out the fluid because she didn’t have the strength to cough it all up. The doctors believe she has an infection from inhaling some of her feces as she was born (hence the brown color…) She fought the fever all day and at times the antibiotics quieted her crying. But, before the end of the day the fever came back and the poor little girl was burning up. The family decided they are going to take her home, while the doctors want her to stay or even go to a hospital. Part of the family’s wish may have to do with money. Dr. Rivas had no idea if the family was going to be able to pay for the medicine and treatment they had received over the past two days. (He also told me that at some clinics, they don’t let the patients leave until the bills are paid. This is not the case at the Clinica Bethesda; his first concern is the well-being of the patient. He figured the Clinica Bethesda has lost 3-4 million quetzals over the past 2-3 years from patients who have not been able to pay. Because of this, the clinic cannot buy the equipment they would like to or improve the clinic as fast They are currently constructing a new operating room, X-ray room, and lab room; the expected completion date is pretty far away.) It is expected that the baby girl will die without the medical care she needs as she has not been able to quit the fever, a sign of the infection she has. As I left the clinic tonight, I saw the father outside waiting to take her home.

While much of my blog has been touched by striking stories of poverty and hardship, there are two stories I wish to share that capture the hope that I have seen (which I also hope has been evident in my reaction to HFPF’s work.) Today I had lunch with a 10 year-old boy named Marcos. Every weekend, Marcos works on the street shining shoes to support his family. He used to do this every day until a woman came down with an HFPF group. While I don’t the name of this woman I do know she changed his life. After asking why he was out on the street and not in school and learning of his story, she ensured a fund was set up so that Marcos could go to school. This fund provides for his uniform, school supplies, and buys him lunch every weekday. We got ice cream after lunch and Marcos told me that he likes school; he eventually wants to go to college to read and ultimately become a professor or teacher.

On our journey to Barillas from Guate, Marco and I stopped along the way at a small aldea. We got out of the car and walked down a muddy path between two houses to get to the residence of Don Sebastian. Don Sebastian is a talented artisan wood carver. When he was young he had some sort of accident or illness and he can no longer walk. Still, through his beautiful craftsmanship and hard work he has put all 5 of his children through school and 3 are teachers. Don Sebastian is a great big man with a soft face and eyes that twinkle when he smiles. His giant hands lovingly carve beautiful figures of the Guatemalan people, capturing their struggle. A woman carrying water on her back or her head, a man hauling a huge load of firewood, a young girl carrying her little sister, wrapped in a shawl on her back.

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