The Luke Commission 2011 clinics are back in full swing – swinging back and forth from predictable maladies to ones just too difficult…
Harry and Echo faced several hard cases at one mobile clinic deep in southern Eswatini at a school called Makhwekhweti. However, that’s often when God’s presence radiates beyond the physical.
In one long day 589 patients were treated and received medications, another 146 tested for HIV, and 125 were fitted with eyeglasses.
Emaswati waiting for various treatments, counseling, vision testing, and medications wound around three school buildings.
It was a sight that a camera cannot capture but a mind holds dear. Sounds of excitement and hope filled the air. In the background the Jesus film resonated; it was shown four times that day.
Amid all this stood a 10-year-old boy with rickets. We met him last year. The lack of vitamin D in his diet caused severe deformity in his legs, as they bow out. Operating on him, Echo noted, might cause even greater pain and trauma as he grows into manhood.
“I doubt anything can be done to correct this now,” said Harry. “It’s too late for this boy.”
The Luke Commission team did build him one of the PET wheelchairs. “He really should not walk or stand as much as he does,” Echo said. “It’s sad.”
Up walked a young mother with her baby girl whose head was enlarged. Hydrocephalus (when the fluid around the brain doesn’t circulate properly) is not uncommon but left untreated causes brain damage and often death.
The mother had been referred to a neurosurgeon in Mbabane but had not taken the 100-mile journey to the city.
“You must take this baby to see the doctor now, now, now,” emphasized Echo, pointing to the referral slip. “Get transport any way you can, and do not wait another day.”
An hour later a gogo brought her crying grandchild to Echo. Checking the baby carefully, Harry and Echo could not find anything outwardly wrong. The baby was shaking and rigid. “He’s inconsolable,” Harry noted, a medical term suggesting a serious problem.
Grandma was the sole caregiver for the baby and five siblings, all recently orphaned. If she took the baby to the hospital, who would care for the other children?
A family member must stay with a sick child. Fortunately, the baby was watched throughout the day and showed improvement with Tylenol syrup and antibiotic. However, the complications of bush treatment were evident once again.
Meanwhile, waiting in the eyeglass line was a 14-year-old girl with bilateral nystagmus, meaning her eyes dart back and forth involuntarily. “Lenses do not stop the eyes from moving, so we could not help her,” said Nick Creasap, 4th year medical student volunteering from Ohio.
Another case: “I don’t often question God,” said Kalvin Tuinstra, Echo’s father. “But when I watched a little 5-year-old girl with a club foot, only half of the other leg, a hydrocephalic head, and a cleft palate, I couldn’t help but wonder what God had in mind for her…”
Last year The Luke Commission cared for a lady with chronic osteomyelitis. She returned to last Monday’s clinic.
An accident in the 1980’s mangled her right arm from wrist to shoulder. Infection settled in the bones and oozed through her skin for years. Her body revealed hundreds, if not thousands, of scars from witchdoctor cuts, as she furtively tried to relieve her suffering.
In 2010 Harry and Echo put her on IV antibiotics for three months. She stayed in Manzini with her sister, and every day went to the TLC campus for treatment.
“Bone infections are hard to penetrate. She probably needs 3 to 6 months more of IV antibiotics,” explained Harry.
That’s complicated enough. But more problems surfaced. Treating patients who live in remote communities is usually a logistical nightmare, as this one is turning out to be.
This mother has 7 children, 6 still living at home. “The father is not in the picture,” said her pastor. Her sister no longer lives in Manzini. The woman’s only income is R10 to R30 ($1 to $4), which she might make on a “good” day selling oranges and buns.
TLC could pay her transport every day to come from the country for IV antibiotics. But it would take hours to get here and be extremely costly. Maybe TLC should rent her a room in Manzini, so she could be close to her daily treatment. Still, what about her children, and how would she earn even a meager living?
Echo considered several ideas, none of them without risks. “I will get back to you in a few days,” she told the lady, “after I think and pray.”
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The Luke Commission team also transported an elderly lady from that clinic who is nigh until death from abdominal cancer. Staff leader Sipho checked her into the mission hospital.
“At least her family knows all that could be done has been done,” Echo said. “That’s very important to Emaswati.”
Yes, all that could be done has been done, and yet we are reminded how little that sometimes is. Jesus tells us to show compassion to the poor, but He does not say the road will be easy.
Grateful for the Great Physician,
Janet Tuinstra for The Luke Commission team worldwide