Number One makes us think of the trailblazer, the groundbreaker, the pioneer, the person or persons who lead.

Number One puts us in touch with what will happen next – two, three, four, and upward.

On-site-manager Ndumiso helps new staff members be thorough, so the medical team can make certain each patient gets comprehensive treatment.

Room One at The Luke Commission outreaches, whether in a rural school or on the Miracle Campus, lays the foundation for the rest of compassionate medicine, given freely and professionally to all Emaswati who might otherwise go without medical and spiritual care.

However, Room One is a quiet leader who seldom gets special notice. Today, we will try to rectify that – at least for a few minutes.

Crowds, children to adults, wait outside Room One.

Patients are registered in Room One.

The Luke Commission staff working there must speak good SiSwati and English. They must smile and put each patient at ease. The TLC team in Room One must listen carefully and understand body language. They must ask questions and encourage honesty. They must love their patients, stranger and neighbor alike.

Felicia steps outside Room One to direct a young man.

It’s not an easy job. But it sets the stage and tone for everything that will happen to each patient for the rest of the day.

The registration form has been written and rewritten throughout the 14 years that The Luke Commission first started treating rural Emaswati. Today, includes names and contact information, family history, homestead practices, and, usually for the first time, a detailed health assessment.

Early morning…a busy day ahead. Room One is in a tent this day.

Each patient is encouraged but not obligated to test for HIV and sometimes TB. If the patient needs a wheelchair, crutches, or a mobility cart, this is noted on the registration form also. Diabetes and high blood pressure are documented, as are the patient’s three most pressing medical concerns.

“I have never been asked all these questions, but I like The Luke Commission. You look at me and hear me,” said one young mother in Room One. “I would like the doctor to see my children, too.”

Every outreach is different, although lines outside Room One are similar in patients’ expectations and trust.

Honoring the patient’s request, Room One staff member fills out a child registration card for each of her three small children. “I would like to test them (HIV) today, too, please.”

“My back hurt me yesterday and today,” said an elderly man, grimacing as he sat down. “Can you give me a walking stick and some tablets?” (Most Emaswati do not have a medical cabinet stocked with ibuprofen and panado (Tylenol) and aspirin at their homestead. Over-the-counter medicines are appreciated as much as antibiotics and medications for specific ailments.

Those who come early are first in Room One lines. But no one comes “too late.”

“Yes,” answered TLC staff member with a smile. “Let me learn a little more about you first.”

Critically ill children and adults are fast-forwarded into immediate treatment. Staff members unobtrusively watch for those who might become lost in the crowd. The Luke Commission’s “Every Last One” slogan is more than just a catchphrase. It’s the first priority in Room One.

Room One lines form based on numbers assigned to patients as they gather; first come will be first served.

“I cannot see to cook anymore,” said a grandmother who was raising three grandchildren. “ Eyeglasses I have no money for… You helped my neighbor.”

“Yebo, we will help you,” assured TLC team member.

Joyful Emaswati wait their turns. They came to TLC outreach in their community last year. Therefore, they relax knowing they will not be overlooked. Or, if it gets late in the day, TLC will not “shut their doors.”

And so the day continues. The lines are long. They often extend beyond the windows of the classroom, beyond the length of the building. But “rural health motivators” who have come to assist with the crowds assure the waiting patients that their turn, too, will come.

Another on-site-manager Thulani answers Cebile’s questions. The baby smiles over her mom’s shoulder, while her 2-year-old brother hides in his mom’s lap.

“We often train our new staff members in Room One,” said one TLC on-site-manager. “If they can understand the importance of Room One and each person who comes to this room, maybe they will be able to understand and adopt TLC’s overall DNA. We are going to the Liswati people. This is not just a job. It’s a calling. And it all starts in Room One.”

Room One is abuzz with activity. So are the lines outside.

by Janet Tuinstra for all those everywhere who carry TLC’s DNA

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