I am learning to look for God`s hand in the little things- even those things that go wrong and just add more annoyance to your life.
Yesterday I went to both banks in Kimilili and, yet again, neither bank liked my debit or credit card. Annoying as this continued trouble with African banks is, today I learned a possible reason why. I had the extreme pleasure to accompany a group of children from Omwabini on a routine trip to the Ampath Clinic in Webuye. I went along to find a bank that would work for me, but I quickly realized that this would be more than a simple trip to the bank. You see, the Ampath Clinic is for patients who are HIV positive. These four beautiful children are victims of HIV.
After successfully visiting the bank, Mille, Saul, and I returned to the hospital where we had dropped of the children and their dorm mother. Saul offered to take me inside for a tour of the facility. Walking in the door, the waiting rooms are overflowing. Most look completely normal and some look like they`re starving.
I was told that Tuesday was the day that they treat the most patients. It is quite the efficient set up that they have. You go through from receptionist to the counselors, to the room where vitals are taken, to clinicians. There are nutritionists on staff, as well as doctors and nurses. The clinic serves well over 1000 patients. I was most impressed with the psychosocial counseling that is mandatory at each visit. One of the counselors was my guide through the clinic.
Once I met all the staff, Elizabeth (the counselor) and I sat down and had a wonderful conversation. You see, in Africa, as well as most of the rest of the world, there is an extreme stigma against those with HIV or AIDS. Elizabeth had reached the end stage of AIDS; she was covered in a rash and dying. Her family had abandoned her. Her husband left her alone. Her neighbours had locked the latrine and the bathroom and left her to die. Many possess the belief that to touch someone with HIV or AIDS or to touch something they have touched, will mean that they will also become infected. As such, most sufferers share similar stories to Elizabeth`s.
But Ampath found Elizabeth and brought her to the hospital. I heard a lot of new medical lingo that I don`t quite understand and one of these terms was `CD4 level.` Apparently, when you have advanced AIDS your CD4 levels drop. Elizabeth had a level of 74 when she was brought in. As of today, she has been on medication for 6 years and her CD4 level is well over 700. She has remarried and, although her in-laws have shunned her, she has two children. Both are HIV negative. Her prayer is to live long enough to see her sons through university. With this dreadful illness it is difficult to ascertain how long one will live, even when on medication.
These four wonderful children look healthy. They always have a smile on their face. It is of no fault of their own that they are HIV + . The illness they suffer from was inherited from their mother at birth. AIDS killed their parents. It will most likely kill them as well.
I was able to play with the younger three boys while we waited for Joseph to finish in the X-ray department. I chatted with them for a bit and then showed them how to use my camera. They were actually decent photographers for their first time. 75 pictures later I have a few really good pictures to share:
Meet Joseph, standard 6, double orphan, HIV +
Meet Fred, Standard 4, double orphan, HIV +
Meet Joshua, Middle Class, double orphan, HIV +
Meet Brandon, Top Class, double orphan, HIV +