Tuesday, June 27, 2006

AIDS and Life

Scooby-doo! Where are you?? I feel like I’ve disappeared from the blog for a while, sorry about that. I’ve been on the internet about 3 times since my last post and haven’t posted for a couple of reasons. 1) I’ve seen some things recently that have been, emotionally, difficult for me to place, let alone write about. 2) my time on the internet is usually spent fighting a slow connection and thus getting only a few things done when I am on… Let’s start here: Marcel’s Orphanage. Through many many people’s support we were able to reach a goal of $2,000, which means that we will be able to buy beds and mattresses for 30 kids there which also means that another 30 kids won’t have to share beds anymore. Plus just having some nice new mattresses will be an added advantage. The problem has been getting the money from a bank in the US to here. There is a bank that will let me use my credit card, however, it will only allow me to withdraw about $200 at a time. I’m in the process of talking to different bank managers to see if something can be worked out to get this done, but it’s a timely process, but I’m working on it. Things with Compassion are going well. Lately I’ve been helping them organize some forms they use for the kids. They have folders for each child and in them are pictures and different forms based on health checkups, home visits, maps to these kids houses (which is interesting because many times there’s no real ‘road’ that goes there, only a small ‘bike trail’ that winds through the hills. One guy described it as the ‘shire’ as in the Lord of the Rings…) In these folders I find a plethora of information, some of which completely contradicts itself. One child’s folder had 3 different forms that said the child had 3 completely different birthdays, another form asks the child if their parents are alive, separated or dead, but they are asked this every 6 months instead of being asked 1 time and having that information kept in the front of the folder. By searching through all the 5 different forms I found relevant questions that I’m compiling into a couple of concise and relevant forms. If you’re a prayer, pray for all of our compassion kids, but especially for Nicholas. (sorry, I don’t have pictures now, but I hope to soon) Nicholas is the sweetest, happiest 13 yr old kid. Both of his parents died of AIDS, his father in ’95 and his mother within the past few years. He has no brothers and sisters and he lives w/ his aunt. Nicholas also has HIV, but he has a more serious condition now which effects his balance. He cannot walk or even sit up without completely losing his balance and falling over. It’s the strangest thing, it’s like being drunk and it sounds to me like an inner ear thing, but the doctors are stumped. We sent him to a hospital in Kampala (a 6 hr bus trip) to see the doctors. Now the hospitals here are not like they are back home. First of all, you’re not admitted unless you can pay. You aren’t automatically admitted just because you’re sick. Secondly, the patents are taken care of by their families and not by nurses. The nurses stand around and talk or do general cleaning of the building from what I’ve observed. So Nicholas has been at this hospital for nearly 4 weeks and his aunt has had to stay with him the entire time. Which means she can’t work but Nicholas’s bills are piling up. Now Compassion is paying for his hospital stay, treatment, plus money for his Aunt who sleeps on a mat directly underneath Nicholas’ bed which looks more like a cage w/ bars than an actual bed. And walking through this children’s ward, seeking these kids w/ feeding tubes in their noses and seeing their parents with them… it’s just tough. Seeing kids sick is just a tough, tough thing. A child with AIDS… they didn’t do anything to deserve this, they are the innocent victims of crimes of passion committed by their parents who, as in Nicholas’ case have already died themselves and have left orphans to be taken care of by family members… it’s just painful. So they’ve done CT scans on him, looking for problems in his brain and haven’t found anything. The doctors don’t know if it was a virus that caused this or if it is just a result of the HIV… I was at the hospital when we were sending him back home while we figure out what else to do with him. And I had to carry him to the vehicle. I started w/ my hands under his armpits trying to let him walk, but about every 6th step he would stumble, so I resorted to piggy backing him to the vehicle. Every time I visit I try to bring him some candy and let him play games on my cell phone. Beyond that and praying I don’t know what else to do… We may end up sending him to Nairobi for further treatment and tests. Fortunately he’s not getting any worse, and equally as fortunately there is an organization like Compassion that is there to provide for what would otherwise be no care for this child at all. Beyond that I’ve been doing home visits w/ the HIV/AIDS project children we have. I go w/ our health coordinator who is a nurse and we visit w/ the kids caregivers and just take a look at their homes and compounds and make suggestions and see if there’s anything else that they need that compassion can provide (small things like lamps, soap, food, but also big things like a new plot of land or a new house or kitchen…) The things we see… 8 people sleeping in 2 small rooms on 3 mattresses with an additional mattress that’s never been used because there’s no place for it in their small house. A child with marks like chicken pocks all over his body which is a skin infection resulting directly from the HIV he has. Kids who are dirty and very thin (not like you see on those feed the children infomercials but still, smaller than they should be). Pit latrines which consist of simply a hole dug in the ground with a few logs laid over the top where someone could easily slip and possibly fall in. One family had their pit latrine about 75 yards away down a STEEP hill and there’s no WAY they could get there in the evening or if it were raining… So compassion tries to help. We will try to allocate money for a new pit latrine or even a bigger house. Part of me wishes we didn’t just hand out money but part of me knows that’s exactly what they need and don’t have. It has to be a BOTH/ AND like my friend Roger says, not either/or. The toughest thing though was visiting a child’s home and finding another young lady in the house who had recently been tested positive for AIDS. She was in bed without a top on pouring water over her head and complaining because her head was hurting so much. Alice, the nurse, told me that what she was experiencing was an infection in the spinal fluid which was causing pressure on her head and what she would have to do is go to the hospital for a spinal tap to drain the fluid and without that she could die even within a few hours… So Alice recommended that she go immediately but the young lady refused to go because she didn’t have money to pay. Now a week later she did end up going to the hospital, and I found out a few days after that that she died from the spinal infection which was a complication from the AIDS… Hearing that she had died, knowing that only 10 days ago I visited her in her home, knowing that Alice recognized what she had and recommended her to go to the hospital and she didn’t and now she’s dead… of AIDS… It hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure I know about AIDS, I know it kills, I know the statistics, facts, and figures… what I didn’t know was the person. You can read about something until you are blue in the face but to see it… to experience it…. To know that this young lady is now dead because of AIDS… I just don’t know where to place it… Just another day in Uganda I guess. Seemingly millions of miles from ‘home’ and ‘the rest of the world’. And you’ll go home and complain about your commute and complain that there’s nothing to watch on tv and tomorrow, someone else will die of AIDS and the world will continue to turn… On a happier note… the US Ambassador has asked me to sing the National Anthem at the 4th of July ceremony at HIS HOUSE where there will be around 500 Americans celebrating Independence Day. I sang at our swearing in and he was ‘very impressed’. Funny thing was, I had a terrible cold and I was so nervous that I could hear my voice quivering… It’s much more difficult to sing in front of a few of your peers than to sing in front of 500 total strangers, so I’m sure I’ll be better in a week!


At 28 June, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I can't even imagine what you are experiencing but can't help shed a few tears in reading your latest posting. We do take so much for granted - we don't even realize it. It almost feels shameful to want something - just to have it - when the people you are working with NEED so much. What you are doing is amazing and no doubt you are touching many lives in such a positive way. Keep your chin up and try to stay positive. Love, Jen

At 29 June, 2006, Blogger Jennifer Noble said...

I think what you're doing is wonderful. Your posts make me feel thankful for what I have...which is why I need to read more often! Good luck with the singing! What an honor! I'm working on a care package but it may take a little while.

I really do admire you.

At 01 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are tough things to deal with. I was a PCV in Swaziland and even after three years in country I was not able to deal with seeing children without parents living alone and caring for their siblings and children with HIV. Good luck with your service in Uganda, I hear its a beautiful country.

And PS, please don't say that their parents got HIV from "crimes of passion." For one thing, the chance is only one of them cheated and thus the other was also "innocent." But they are all victims in this, and with the amount of stigma and discrimation in Africa and against PLWHAs we don't need to start calling them criminals as well!

At 07 July, 2006, Blogger Dixie said...

hello cuz,

wow!! what amazing and moving moments in your life there...your experience is so different from mine. I hope you sang at the 4th! I like the idea that we might meet in the middle, but really I'd rather come over and see your part of the BIG continent...

stay strong...cuz dixie

At 10 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going a different route in your prayer request. I pray that all those that are trying to help have the strength to continue to help.
Brian, rationalize to survive. The problem existed before you got there. Anything you do is more than was done before.

At 08 August, 2006, Blogger Brian R Dunn said...

Dear Anonymous: I chose the words 'crimes of passion' very carefully. To make a vow of marriage and faithfulness and to then cheat on your spouse and thus infect your entire family with HIV/AIDS is a tragic, selfish, criminal act. I hope those 2 minutes of lustful pleasure were worth giving the family a death sentence.


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