Wednesday, August 22, 2012


A couple of days ago, I was sitting at the table and my arm started itching. I told my mom I needed to get the pest killers here. They come to the complex every Friday. Then yesterday, I got some itchy hives. I took benedryl and went to bed. This morning, I woke up with hives all over my body. My palms look like I'm developing graft vs host disease, but I haven't received any transplants lately, at least not that I know of. I think it might be fenugreek seed, an ingredient in the granola.  

They've gone down now after a nice concoction of zyrtec, prednisone, hydrocortizone, and benedryl. I'm blaming my sleeplessness on the prednisone. I found out today that we don't have any transitional health insurance, so that's really nice. At least I went to Urgent Care. But I learned in Uganda that money doesn't matter as much as I thought, so I'm not stressing about it.

I got back from South Sudan last week. In case you don't know, Sudan has been a war-ravaged country for many years. They are now rebuilding in a period of peace that began, at least on paper, in 2005. The war took many lives. There are many orphans. The country is very poor. 

Death is a cultural norm. Resources spent on life are sometimes considered wasted. A child on the compound has chronic hepatitis B and esophageal varices. The blood vessels in the esophagus are swollen and have potential for bursting. In that case, a patient will puke blood and likely die from blood loss. Treatment was available for $2000. Someone said, "Why are we treating him if he's just going to die anyway?" This attitude pervades. On the compound, there is a different attitude, because there is the Lord, who breathes life, who created life, who offers hope. And the purpose of Cornerstone Children's Home, where we spent the majority of our time in South Sudan, is to bring a hope and a bright future to children who otherwise would have none.

I helped some kids. I took them to the doctor and gave them medicine, and they got better. I thought some toddler twins had tuberculosis based on the reports of their long-time symptoms: fevers, productive coughing, neglect after birth. But they got better after five days of antibiotics and cough medicine. Their lungs were totally clear when I left. This was the best part of the trip. But it was also the worst part, because five days of antibiotics probably would have made them better a year ago or maybe two years.

One child, Simon, stepped on a nail, and it almost went right through his foot. He went to the hospital, and said they put an injection into the wound. I'm guessing tetanus, maybe antibiotic? I dressed it a couple of times, told him how to baby it, gave some painkiller...not much, really. But he got better and was playing soccer like normal before we left, and he wrote me a note before we left that makes me cry like a baby. 

One girl, Betty Mundua, was having recurring ear infections. I gave her five days of antibiotics and ear drops. Things were clear before I left. I have a hard time believing that it is totally clear, because she has been battling this for something like years. She probably has nerve damage and chronic hearing loss from a simple childhood ear infection left untreated...and that's even if it's totally healed now.

No-nyo is the nickname which means "little girl" in Madi, one of the prominent tribal languages, of my small friend Dorothy. She had malaria and an upper respiratory tract infection that took her down. She was feeling better after a couple of days of medicine.  

Helen is a woman who is married to Juma John's son. She helps with the cooking regularly and can be seen with her own son around the compound. She had malaria, pyelonephritis, and chronic headaches. I gave her 10 days of IV antibiotic therapy. Her symptoms were resolved sometime around day 7. 

All these children were treated for about $40. But a notebook is something like $8. Materials are expensive. Meds are cheap.

Travel was nightmarish, especially our first attempt at getting home. I think it was the first time in our marriage when Thomas and I were both really angry at the same time. I'll spare you the details, but really, I'll spare myself from having to remember them. Although, it really was kind experience. 

But, as you can see displayed at Jimmy John's in Lawrence, Kansas, "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted." And so I am now more experienced than before. You think I should put it on my resume?

I'll give you the short version. Taxi drivers continuously shouting in Juba-Arabic about us, around us, to us... if you've heard Arabic before, you know it sounds like people verbally ripping each other's heads off, even when they are saying thank you... Juba-Arabic is no different... driving 70 mph toward equally fast oncoming traffic with no visible sign of reverting to the correct lane and "boda-bodas", or motorcycles, everywhere... in between every car, 24 hours of missed appointments, stopping to buy chickens multiple times on an already late bus, arguing with airport officials, emergency travel service at $100/hr - which I only found out after the fact due to poor connection...the list goes on... $4000 for new tickets home (very painful, especially in full knowledge of how far $4000 would go for the children), and an unexpected night in Uganda. 

That morning, we ate better than we had in three weeks, and Africans sang songs to Jesus in English really loudly. It was the most beautiful sound I could have heard, like salve to my soul. We got beautiful souvenirs for our family that afternoon, and we arrived with several hours to spare at the airport. The officials kindly let us into the airport - something we had trouble with before - and all our flights home were on time. So I really can't complain. That one more day in Africa was beautiful.