Good morning from Mufindi

Good Morning -Habari za asabui !

Thursday, after convincing “my” students to clean up close to 5:00PM so that for once I could be ready for Anne and Yusto I was filled with satisfaction. The youngest form one students, just four of them were back in class. I had learned that there had been a “conspiracy theory”, Mr. Nabeot’s words, going on. The form 2 and 3 students had told the youngest form 1’s the Musungu’s English(that would be mine) was too hard for them and that they would be forced to do a play in the community hall for 600 people at the end of the novel study! “So Mam, they ran away.” Jenny was with me as she had come to class too.

Walking up the dusty hill with bags crammed with school stuff we could see our car pulling up. Out jumped a very serious Anne and then Yusto on his cell phone. Yusto’s nine year old daughter, Abigail had been playing with friends under a tree when one of the boys had climbed the tree with his jembe to hack off fruit. Everyone from 4 to the oldest bibi and babu have their own jembe. It looks like a short squat hoe. No tractors here! Everyone works to prepare the maize fields using this tool. While wielding his jembe high in the tree it had slipped out of the young boy’s hand, crashed though the branches and cut Abigail’s skull. A friend of Yustu’s had bundled her onto his piki piki (motorcycle) and taken her to the Luhunga dispensary. We approached to find a silent Abby with enormous fear filled eyes and with a blood soaked kanga cloth over her head and NO personnel working at the dispensary. Jenny took control. We must go to the Mdabula hospital. Everyone crammed into the car. Anne had her props I had my bags and we had four adults and Abby all crushed together. We would take the “short cut” road. Anne was driving. And oh the road! It was approaching dusk and we were lurching, careening, engine straining up a long mogul filled red dirt road. Petrified mud bumps and ruts challenge the tires and our spines! Ahead we could see the flames high in the sky from yet another clearing of fields in readiness for planting of maize in the coming rains. Three quarters of the way up a car was stopped and a piki-piki too, flames were blowing across the road! Anxiety rising we all waited to scoot through, little Abby still silent squished beside her father needed medical help. Now almost dark except for the bright orange flames disappearing black faces waved us through. Sterling Moss, valiant Anne Pearson soldiered on. One dim light bulb lit our way up to the unfinished hospital. We all made our way to the tiny reception room. Anne and I remained sitting outside on benches. A solid, stern, no nonsense Tanzanian nurse, the only person on duty marched Jenny, Yusto and little Abby into a small treatment room.

A terrified Abby went from complete silence to volcano of screaming and screeching and heart wrenching yells for her Mom in Kihehe! Anne and I looked helplessly on.

A woman arrived in a dirty Kanga with a small baby on her back. She sat on the bench right next to Anne. It was clear her baby was dangerously ill. Abby et al finally emerged, stitches in place, blood soaked kanga once again covering her head with the scowling nurse following still admonishing Abby with every step. Jenny took one look at the woman and babe sitting on the bench. She greeted her and then hustled her quickly into another examining room turning on two dim lights. The baby who was actually two years old has “Kwashiorkor”, a protein deficiency. Mom had left the milk programme saying her baby didn’t like Musingu milk. Maybe he was lactose intolerant??? This disease usually presents when the mom has had baby after baby. 33% of them die in hospital. The skin becomes paper thin, flakes off, usually starting in the hands and feet. Orange thin hair is another symptom. The child is often swollen everywhere and if the swelling magically goes away it usually means the swelling is on the way to the brain causing death. The child has no body temperature control so the little one must be kept warm. Jenny scooped up the baby and Mom and now ALL of us crowded into the car to take them back to the orphanage. The father being excluded tried to push a huge bag of maize in! No space-silent little Abby was on my lap and her blood soaked kanga was pressed against my cheek . Jenny told us that of the 5 children that have come to the orphanage with Kwashiorkor 3 came too late and died. People in Mufindi don’t realize it is easily treated if caught early. We headed back to the orphanage and Protea Point(the volunteer house) in the pitch dark by the long route. Jenny called Dr. Leena in Ilembula for treatment suggestions. It was a dark silent ride with all our bodies jammed together. That was just “another Thursday”!!

It is Monday morning and Mom and baby are still here learning healthy care and the little guy is slowly improving.

On Sunday we were with Geoff and Vicky Fox three hours away visiting Dr. Leena at Ilembula hospital. We were in a ward with 24 moms and babies all born within 24 hours. Mattresses are foam. Donated sheets don’t fit the beds. Kangas cover babes. The ward is brimming with the excitement of new life. Family members prepare food outside. Geoff wanted most particularly to see the surgery to know the needs for our hospital. Proudly Leena showed us the new electric machines to wash and dry bedding. Absolutely nothing is easy here! New pipes had to be dug to fill European machines with water. Then the machines had to have small wooden barriers nailed to the cement to keep the machines from vibrating off the ledge. The three hundred bed hospital is thronging with patients, family and visitors. It is obviously a place of hope The Finnish Lutheran church has been patiently waiting for the government to take over the running costs. So has Leena—she prays a lot too!!

Kwaheri all---Ruth