Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slum Family

It's a screamer today. 45 plus degrees. Not a lot you can do on days like this except ensure that whatever you choose to do, doesn't involve a lot of activity. Great reason to bring out the inflatable pool again, and rather than see how many people we can fit in a car (20 plus!) we will see how many we can fit in a small inflatable pool...your guess is as good as mine!

I was hit pretty bad Thursday week ago with an acute bacterial infection. I don't think I have ever been that sick in all my life. At one stage when the fever kicked in and my temperature started to soar I started to panic and became somewhat delirious! My mind was clear, but my body wasn't playing ball. I tried to tell myself to settle down, but it started to slip away from me. I felt trapped in my body as it was going into shutdown...

For a couple of days I was layed up in the clinic with IV fluids, antibiotics, anti nausea medication, pain killers the works! I still have the doobylacky in my arm for the antibiotics (there are about 5) which I have 3 times a day. During this time, Sam has been constantly at my whim and call ensuring that I have enough cold drinks to help me keep my fluids up as I haven't eaten.

Now that the worst is over, I am grateful for the whole experience as it gave me a new perspective on what we do here, and also further insight into the daily challenges of our patients.

When I was layed up in the clinic during the worst of it, the staff (most of them ex-patients) kept checking in on me to see how I was going. They also came to pray for me. Even the kids came to see how I was going, as I was supposed to go with them to the Water Theme Park on the Tuesday! Here I was, supposed to be serving and caring for our patients and supporting the team, and I am the one being cared for like you wouldn't believe. I ended up going to the Water Theme Park on the Tuesday, with the doobeylacky still in my arm, with Sharlene administering my IV antibiotics during the day! You couldn't do it anywhere else but India, and the kids had an awesome time....

Just prior to getting sick, the medical team asked me to go with them to one of the local slum areas to pick up a family. I have been to a number of slums now, but it still challenges me to think that a large part of the world's population live in such conditions.

Jeerina, the grandma of the family, who is only 35 years old, found herself responsible for 3 babies under the age of 2 years - Aamna (2 years), Shabnam (18 months) and Rukhsa (9 months). Aamna and Shabnam are her granddaughters, whilst Rukhsa is her own. Jeerina also has 5 other children of her own - she did lose another 2 children just over 2 years ago from fever and both on the same day..the kids were only 3 and 6. Two of her daughters Sahbna (12 years) and Rijhwana (10 years) help her with the babies, and do a remarkable job, however it also means that they are unable to attend school - and so the poverty cycle continues. The cause for the intervention is the state of the babies and their current living conditions. The babies were extremely malnourished - they are so small for their age (I will get Lou to put the photos up when she gets here in 3 days...not that I'm counting). Also, the team advised me that on their first visit, they saw the grandma washing the babies in the same pan where all the dishes were....they have no toilet, no form of sanitation. All 10 people live in an area that is no bigger than 3m x 3m..so when one gets sick, they all do.

Well we took the family back to the Ashram and the babies have been doing great! In fact, the whole family is doing great. They are nearly ready to head back home. We will continue to support them with weekly visits where we will teach them about family planning, hygiene etc. As part of our new development program, we will be training our staff to become Community Health/Development Workers who will be vital in providing the ongoing support to families such as these, where we believe we will not only see transformation in the lives of the people we serve, but also the communities where they live.

We often talk about the capacity of the ultra poor, and their ability to work themselves out of the poverty cycle. It is often debated that they don't have the capacity to understand the work we do nor are able to become involved as they themselves become more empowered.

I would think that it takes tremendous capacity for a grandma who has no social support, alone with three very sick babies after having lost 2 previously and both on the same day, to get up each day and continue to fight....despite the odds. I felt trapped and alone for only a moment when I was sick....they have been doing it for generations.

The strength and character that is required to get up in the morning when you are a walking skeleton, suffering from TB, HIV and alone, is huge...and they have it.

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