Good Morning Everyone,
Thank-you all for your continued interest in our goings on here in Mufindi, Tanzania.
Many of you know the terrible sadness we felt last year with the death of twelve year old Felista from our Children's Village. Felistatried so desperately to stay alive alive! Both her parents had died from HIV/Aids. After caring for her Mother while she passed on Felista lived alone in her mud home for two weeks. She knew she was ill too.
Hope had been generated by a visit to her villageby Dr. Leena Pasanen, the Finnish doctor who works part time for our NGO. Leena has worked as a missionary doctor at the Finnish Lutheran Hospital in Ilembula for over 30 years. Her Kiswahili is excellent and her calm consistent commitment inspires hope.
Felista decided to walk by herself to the Hospital. Alone she spent nights in the bush getting there. After arrival she went to the main entrance and sat there all day waiting to recognize Dr. Leena. Leena believes it was ordained that she herself left by the front door that day. Felista approached her. She was tested and found positive. After a time it was decided that she should come to live in "our Children's village" (it is no longer called an orphanage because some children just come for an extended stay as they are nursed back to robust health). Anyway Felista moved in with 53 other children. She was put on septrin, a sulpha antibiotic. She was seen at the Unilever hospital and the local government hospital. Both failed her. Leena's father became ill and passed away and she returned to Finland and stayed 3months with her 94 year old mother. Felista became weaker and weaker. Finally she no longer had the strength to attend school although when Anne was here last May she held her on her lap giving her a ride home. For several months when the outreach nurses came for clinic day they FORGOT her records. Felista became more and more fragile and slipped away. It was so desperately sad.
We all vowed her passing couldn't be in vain. A Mufindi clinic has been built so people are within walking distance could attend. We believe we will see 2,000 people a month. Dr. Maganga has been hired full time. It is wonderful to have a respected experienced Tanzanian doctor. He will work with Dr. Leena as well. BUT we were informed by medical people that all this would be useless without a CD4 machine. The going price for such a machine is $50,000. !! YOW! We screwed up our courage and emailed Stephen Lewis, our mentor and passionate advocate for people with HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan Africa. He had once offered to help with bureaucracy that we might encounter trying to do business here. His response was simply wonderful! Stephen Lewis contacted the Clinton Foundation and Becton Dickinson.
Why is a CD4 machine absolutely necessary? Well with my layman's understanding, here goes.......the CD4 machine administers an HIV test - it tests for antibodies. The CD4 countcounts the variety of white blood cells that help to fight infection. The HIV virus infects CD4 cells and destroys them, that's why the immune system doesn't work well because it is missing this vital function of the CD4 cells. Progression of the disease is measured in stages 1-2-3-4. It tells when to start ARVs. Healthy people have a count of 800 or above. A clinical assessment is needed as well. How sick is the patient? Is weight loss, chronic diarrhea, persistent fevers or chronic cough present? Is there opportunistic infection present eg. thrush, TB?
Felista's count when it was finally achieved was an achingly low score of 2! Too late for her recovery. Because of the amazingly quick help from Stephen Lewis and his friends at Becton Dickinson our price was lowered about $20,000. We have asked for more reagents at this low price as well. We have been thrilled to learn that we can order 1,000 reagents at the special price. Reagents are needed for every test. But several tests can be done at one time.
We are so thrilled to think that the benefits to the villages will be life altering and that that by keeping parents alive to love and care for their own children the growth in orphans will be halted. We fervently hope so. Anne and I were once told that "death has become a way of life here" and we have seen the growing ravages here in Mufindi.
Love to all,