Life-changing Moments

dispensary 1024x768 Life changing Moments  |  Kingston Real Estate

You know when people go on humanitarian aid trips and see things that change them forever? I had [another] one of those moments a few weeks ago.

We stopped to visit a small rural medical clinic and while we were there a man came in with really bad injuries from a moped accident that had occurred 4 days ago. He couldn’t walk and was dragging himself around through the dirt, so all of his injuries were filthy and infected. One of the wounds was down to the bone, and in other places he had exposed tendon and artery.

The staff at the med clinic are trained but do not always get the supplies they need from the government system. One of the staff is working there on a volunteer basis until such time as funding can be secured, but he has no idea how long that might be or if he can sustain himself. He’s a qualified medical technician (I think this is between a PSW and RPN).

There was no sterile gauze, no bandages. Not much for cleaning the wound, just some bottles of saline and some iodine. We did our best with the gloves they had, and those pinchey-things that hold the cottony stuff you use for wiping that had been sterilized at another medical facility 10 km away in their autoclave. And we used a clean handkerchief for the final layer you can see in the photo.

There wasn’t gangrene, but there was infection and lots of necrotic skin, and the foot had started to become septic.

Later, one of our team members shared that the man had managed to express (through interpretation) that he was very much impacted by being treated “like a human”. I’m pretty sure he was an alcoholic, and I couldn’t even guess when the last time he had bathed, and his other foot had been crippled by something-or-other, a good authority suggested perhaps parasitic infection. One of those things that you don’t hear of very much in the first world, but “simple” things maim and kill people here all the time.

He seemed pretty freaked out and anxious when he first came in and was receiving medical attention. I really wanted to take his hand but it took a bit to get over my shyness about it. After I heard the comment above about being treated as a human I think I might not be so hesitant if I find myself in a similar situation.

The man was going to drag himself back outside through the dirt to where his son was waiting to take him home on a bicycle, so one of our team members carried him, the 100ish pounds that he was. He has no access to clean water for the wound so we gave him a couple of bottles, but there’s no way of knowing if they’ll be used for the intended purpose.

We tried to impress upon him that if the wound is not kept clean, he could lose his leg above the knee, if not his life, but through the interpreter it was hard to tell what sunk in.

His life may have been saved today just by having his wounds cleaned and properly dressed. And thankfully the clinic had enough syringes and antibiotics to give him shots. He doesn’t have anyone at home to help him keep it clean and properly seen to, so we can only hope and pray for the best.

So the “moment” that I had was about the overwhelming sense of futility that sometimes washes over. Will he die because the wound isn’t kept clean? How many others like him? Why is my house is better equipped than a medical clinic? Where’s the sterile gauze? They’ve lost four mothers in childbirth, and one baby, because the nearest ambulance has to come from at least 30 minutes away. Why why why why why

Thankfully my first and lasting impressions of these villages in Kenya were that there is so much hope and joy and beauty here, in spite of the hardship. People are coming together and doing amazing things to improve the quality of life within their communities. Four years ago there was only one RN running this clinic, and now she has 5 more staff including two with formal medical training.

The immediate futility is so hard on the spirit, but I am full of hope for the future.

UPDATE: He came back in a few days later and the wound was looking AMAZING. Well, as amazing as exposed arteries and tendons can look. The important part is that it has been kept properly clean and is showing promise. The man was in such awestruck gratitude that he couldn’t begin to express his feelings in words. But his face said it all.