Sunday, May 08, 2005

My Own Illness

Living in Pina Blanco feels like a dark paradise. You enter looking around at what nature has offered.... lush greenery, beautiful flowers, an amazing array of birds from the exotic to the plain, cute little lizards of varying shapes and sizes, all delivered on a river the color of emeralds which runs through the center of town. On the surface it's embracing, but just about the time you've got your arms wrapped around it you realize that it's all poisonous. The air smacks of mold and dust, the warmth on your face turns quickly to a burn, the water is polluted and the soil filled with worms just waiting to be delivered to your mouth. You must be careful who you shake hands with, forget about hugs and you find yourself praying they don't breath hard for fear of TB. Somehow or another I have passed through those phases and now have come to accept it at face value. I do hug now and I have eaten their food and yes I have become ill in different ways, but I'm not sorry.
I haven't written for several days because I became so ill they needed to take me to the hospital in Guatepeca. It is more north and about one and half hours away which is closer than San Pedro by a little, more importantly the road is much better so it can be reached in an hour and 15 in a pinch. I was pretty out of it when we arrived, Jenny had to leave me there because night was falling and the rains came...a bad combination for driving. It was a Christian evangelical hospital there were no bugs and it smelled of clorox. Both a relief. If you can imagine the hospitals of the 40's in the US with the nurse uniforms, ancient equipment and extreme formality it was much the same. My doctor spoke broken English quite well but not a single other person. He trained at a good school in Guatemala which was a second relief. It was impressive how efficient the hospital was run. The nurses each had a job and they had checks and balances with regards to medication. The student nurses came and helped you to the bathroom, they put your shoes just so and folded the blankets just so. Dinner was not possible the fist evening but I had three humble meals on the second day mostly tortillas with soup which was more than I had eaten in days. (I have been blessed with the feeling of going to bed hungry.... a feeling foreign to most of us, but not so foreign around the me when I say, thankful takes on new meaning). After a day of IV antibiotics and afraid of the cost of staying on in the hospital I decided to take the IV on the road and administer from home. We do it all the time in the US right.....true, but lets just say it's a little more challenging in Honduras.
First of all they said that we had all the supplies we would need....well I arrived home and much to my surprise in the box was only multiple vials of medicine and a single needle! Second of all they were kind enough to let me leave with a heparin locked IV in place (this is that little thing that sticks in your arm and hurts like hell when you bump it) but they didn't give me any heparin to continue it's use. Now a drug addict may have been psyched ...." ah, I got a needle some medicine I'll spit on it to clean it up between problem". As you can imagine I was not so elated.
Jenny and I tried to drive around in a down pour that evening and find more supplies (I'm sick as stink and not supposed to get that stupid little IV wet). After multiple trips we finally found ourselves knocking at one of the local doctors doors at 9 pm begging for at least heparin so I wouldn't have to get a new IV in the morning. That night I gave myself 15 injections with that one little needle and proudly hep locked the IV for the night. The next day went better and we were able to get the rest of the things I needed. I'll spare you the rest of the saga ending with I'm feeling much better and I'll pull the plug if need be, but leaving early will be a bit heart breaking as I have oddly enough gotten used to this place and my work is not yet finished.

The face of Poverty

Raining here. I don't mind so much because today at midday it was still sweltering. We were in church, for a midday mass, they were all praying for peace and food while I was thanking God for the weight I lost so my thighs didn't stick together on the pew.
In retrospect, I guess, I have put a big emphasis on the bugs here and how they have affected my experience. Truth is I have realized it's easier to talk about the roaches then to hash out the human suffering that is surrounding me. It seems as though it is a forsaken place. When I was in Bolivia, where there is an equal share of poverty, we stayed in the city most of the time. When we briefly moved out into the country we were on a giant tour bus that made it all seem like one long drive through movie with out any popcorn. There were terrible housing situations....the cows and pigs would live in the house with the family all in one room with a small mud fence court yard and no bathrooms, just holes in the ground no dignity. It seemed terrible at the time, but,it felt different to me, that poverty had no face, it had no name and it certainly didn't know my name.
The poverty here is much more fierce, it burns like a hot poker. Jenny tells me they say it will be much worse as we go higher into the mountains because the people are freezing to death in combination with starvation. We postponed our trip till Monday in an attempt to get the plantation into a healthier condition, fast! The children have been coming down with pneumonia left and right. Marietta, a nurses aide and the closest we've got to a real nurse, noticed we have a few cases of resistant lice. Been treated with Right but it's not coming out. Two cases of new diarrhea as well. We are also preparing for a chicken pox outbreak. Our guard's son came in with it and his mother is pregnant which can be a lethal combination for the fetus.
After spending the better part of the day playing "Where's the keys" and beating our heads against the wall as a new form self gratifying Yoga, I decided heck with it we will go through the ceiling! So I grabbed one of the guys who was hanging out eating dry tortillas and we drug this huge ladder up the stairs to the hallway of the three doors. We tore down one of the ceiling tiles and crawled through the ceiling onto the other side. When we landed behind door number 2 which turned to be accessible to door number 3 also. There we found what seemed to be an abandoned apt. with boxes of junk in the entrance way. As I progressed through the rooms with Jenny behind me we were suddenly ambushed by a flock of bats! They didn't hit us thank god but we hit the deck. Thing is they weren't leaving the apt just moving room to room. Well we had come too far to go back now so I first asked Jenny if we got bit how fast did she realistically think we could get rabies treatment and satisfied by her answer of 4 hours I grabbed a broken window screen and we squatted under it moving room to room with the bats. Now I don't know if it actually protected us from the bats but it did make us feel better! We discovered boxes and boxes of blankets and clothes. So many things we could use. Everything was dirty and had evidence of the mouse buffet line but nothing a little bleach and some stitching couldn't handle. As for door number one well we removed the lock with a hack saw and found more of the same. I think the rat I smelled was a pack rat and it will take some time to get to the bottom of it. Jenny I have already decided to over haul the kids clothes take what they don't need or can't use along with the extra blankets and drive them up to the mountains where they really need wool blankets. Most of these supplies seem to have come from the army (brought after Hurricane Mitch). We think it was stored by Dr. Youngburg's wife (now 80ish) who from what we can make out wanted it all saved for a "rainy day" in other words if donations dried up and money got too tight. Well the rainy day is here and there is no sense letting this stuff rot. Funny how the Lord keeps giving us new missions.....Jenny and I learned about the people in the mountains and suddenly we find 15 boxes of wool blankets......
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