Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Week and the River

This week will go down in history here as “the week they drained the river”. The emerald green river, a hallmark of Pina Blanca , which allowed this little town a small amount of uniqueness and beauty, was drained. Nearly the entire town came out in disbelief. They watched the water dry up and along with it a certain amount of dignity and pride. There were rumors of why and for how long. Some said months some said forever. I overheard in the café that the mafia had taken over the Tilapia market of Lake Yahoa and the growing amount of pollution in the lake was being attributed to the river. Who knows the truth but the muddy basin left behind was horribly ugly and filled with a tremendous amount of rubbish that had accumulated over years. Many farmers depended on the river to help with cattle raising and a large portion of the town used it as a washer and dryer for clothes because there are gigantic cliff rocks that the clothes can be laid on to dry. For many it was a bath tub, others a recreation site for swimming and boating (sorry no sailing) for others still it was food supply by means of fishing. It would be only weeks before it became garbage dump and a mosquito breeding heaven. A great many towns people complained and with in a few short days the river was ordered to be filled again. Jenny and I were so happy. There is a significant amount of public health education required around the use of the river but until other structures are put in place it does have a purpose. It was good to see the authorities have a vested interest in what is important to the town.

We brought in 2 new children this week to keep a bit, both severely malnourished and quite ill. Both of them had Kwashiorkor a form of protein malnourishment which causes the child to swell up like the Michelin man. The children eat a lot of starch which fills the belly but has no other nutritious components. Their faces were so puffy the skin was taught and their hair was falling out. Both had severe pneumonia and bad dermatitis. Neither one had the energy to smile. The boy was 3 yrs old, brought by his grandfather and older brother. It was painful for the man to admit he couldn’t take care of the little one. He was afraid to leave him as he did not know us. The oldest child was also quite thin but not nearly so malnourished. His demeanor was one of humble pride much like the grandfather, with an element of quiet strength and a sense of protector. He was clearly the primary care taker of the 3 yr old. When we offered them food he turned it down and said “No, save it for Anthony”. When it was time for the grandfather to leave with the older child Anthony’s eyes welled up as he held out his tiny little hand, fingers spread. Anthony tried to walk after them but his little legs could not keep up. His older brother turned and saw Anthony following, he went running back and hugged Anthony one last time. As I picked Anthony up he began to sob, quietly at first then he couldn’t hold back. I held him and sung to him for a long time but his tears still flowed.

The other child was 10 mos old and had been at the government hospital for a week. She came in with measles and received an IV in the scalp because she was so swollen they couldn’t find a vessel in her arm. Unfortunately the IV infiltrated which resulted in a giant burn covering ¾ of her scalp. She wasn’t getting better and the family had no money so the hospital sent her home with vitamins to die. By the time her mother got her to us her head was badly infected her lungs were filled with fluid and she had a horrible case of Scarlet fever. After a few days of intense IM antibiotic therapy, appropriate wound care and being gentle with refeeding she is doing quite well. Neither are out of the woods but both have definite improvement, in fact, Anthony smiled at me today….


Anonymous Leanne said...

Hi Aunt Bridgette....hope you are having a good time! ONce again can't wait to have you back home! Things are going good here....schoooooools out for summer! HAHA

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