AIDS vs. Malaria

March 2, 2010 at 2:11 PM 5 comments

Hey guys, we just returned from back to back “out of town” trips.  Here is the post from Friday 2/26/10.


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AIDS vs Malaria
At breakfast, Johnny, the Executive Director of ARM, told us about a man he met who lived in the epicenter of HIV/AIDS.  Growing up as a boy in Uganda, he remembers his village and a neighboring village having animosity toward each other. Back then, and still today, the villages of Uganda were steeped in witchcraft and promiscuity.
One day, the neighboring villagers came over and put a curse on the village. The following week, three people on his street died.  The villagers believed it was because of the curse so the leaders of the boy’s village went over and put a curse back on them.  The next week, several people in that village died.
In Ugandan custom, when there is a death in the community, someone from your family must attend the funeral to pay respect to the dead. He remembers for a period of time, his family was going to funerals nightly!
As it turns out, these people weren’t cursed, they were dying of AIDS.  It was spreading rampantly due to promiscuity.
Unfortunately, this problem remains today.  One of our leaders, Trudy, is a native Ugandan who now lives in Minnesota.  She has lost 6 siblings to AIDS and currently has another sister afflicted.  Most of the children under the care of ARM have lost their mothers and fathers to AIDS.  If these orphans were not taken in and cared for under ARM sponsorship, they would be “street kids” left to wander the streets, susceptible to child sacrifice as recommended by witchdoctors, who believe that sacrificing children will bring prosperity and heal illnesses.
Can you imagine if you and your spouse died today, how would your young child survive? I know you are finding this hard to believe but trust me. I am seeing these conditions with my own eyes.
Today we drove to Masaka, about a 2 hour drive, to a hospital known for treating pediatric AIDS.  Prior to our visit, we met with the Chief of Staff and his nurses and other hospital facilitators.  He mentioned that in addition to the AIDS clinic, he wanted to bring awareness to the rest of the hospital.  While focusing on the AIDS crisis is worthy, he feels that the “glamour” of AIDS (helped by people like Bono, etc) overshadows the bigger crisis in the area, Malaria.
As it turns out, more kids die each year of Malaria than of AIDS.  Malaria is a preventable and curable disease.  Parents just don’t recognize the symptoms or can’t afford the treatment which consists of a pill regimen. 
So, we decided to see a few wards of the hospital.
We started in the AIDS clinic, where the waiting room is outdoors with just a small roof to cover the seats.  It was full and most patients there, young children, have walked to the clinic by themselves due to not having caretakers (likely, parents died of AIDS or Malaria).  I saw a 7 year old girl holding hands with her 4 year old sister and she is clearly mothering her as she wipes the dust off her dress.  The sadness in their eyes is heartbreaking.  It’s as if they are just going through life’s motions.  There is no joy or spark in their eyes. 
There are also grandparents who have brought the children they care for due to the death of their parents. 
The hospital staff encouraged us to pray and encourage their patients, so Johnny, our fearless leader, started talking to the 150 people in the waiting room. This hospital currently treats 10,000 AIDS patients. There are no beds for this ward. Patients just show up for their medicine and wait their turn in this waiting area.
 As he started talking, through an interpreter, you can tell he was empowered by a higher source and started preaching the gospel message of Jesus’s love for us.  Everyone clapped and shouted “Amen”, throughout his message. The faith of these sick and dying people is amazing.  Even a Muslim grandfather stood up and thanked us for encouraging the people of the community.
Our team passed out quilts made by a church group in Minnesota.  This brought so much joy to the patients. And they thanked us profusely and bowed on one knee as we gave them their blankets.  One mother was so excited to receive a blanket for her daughter that she jumped up and down and laughed with pure joy!
After that we headed to the maternity ward which consists of about 20 beds in one room.  You give birth there in front of everyone.  There are no private rooms, no monitors, no ice chips and no cribs.  Just you, your family and everyone else giving birth that day.  After you have your baby, you bundle it up and it stays on your bed with you.
We passed out blankets there, too.  They were overjoyed.  One lady sat up to give one of us a hug and we noticed that she had 2 blankets but only one baby on her bed. As we went to get the extra blanket, someone else told us that she was having twins and was currently laboring to get the other one out!!!!  Hello?!  She was so thrilled to see us that she wanted to sit up and hug us during her pushing!!!
At the other end of the room, I noticed that a few ladies hadn’t received a blanket.  So I walked over to give them one.  One lady, covered only from the waist down by a sheet, thanked me for the blanket profusely.  She had no baby on her bed. It died during childbirth.  So here she is now, in the same room as mothers with 20 new born babies, just having lost her child.  It’s unimaginable to us in the States.
Then, we headed to the children’s ward. Before entering, we were warned that this was going to be a difficult thing to see.  The stench as we walked into the ward was stifling.  Parents littered the hallway holding their sick and crying children.  This is also one big room with 2 dividers.  There are 52 beds but 87 patients admitted, so mothers hold their sick children in the hallway.
The listlessness and lethargy of the sick children is heartbreaking.  If a child had any energy, they cried tears of pain.  Most of our team was brought to tears.  Medications (read “shots”) are given in the hallway in front of everyone else. 
We prayed for the children in the bed area and passed out beanie babies that were donated to me for the trip.  The mothers were thrilled to receive the gift, the children too sick to care.
As we were leaving the ward, we were stopped by the parents in the hallway who told us we couldn’t leave yet because we hadn’t prayed for their children yet.  These people were desperately coveting our prayers.  So, of course, we prayed.
Needless to say, the bus ride home was very quiet as we mentally processed what we just saw.  There is no way to prepare for that experience. There is also no way to accurately describe it.  I hope this gives you a glimpse.
Today, hug your child. Praise them and be grateful for their health. No matter what you are going through today, these people are experiencing worse…everyday.
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A Fish Out Of Water Straddling the Equator

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dina  |  March 2, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    Wow Josie, thank you so much for sharing with us. Every time I read your blog I am brought to tears. What an amazing, life changing experience! Can't wait to hear all about it when you get back! XO Be safe!

    Reply
  • 2. Bronco Bojovic  |  March 3, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Josie, I’m just speechless. The amount detail that you put in writings paints a crystal clear picture of your experiences. This evening I’m going to start reading your posts to my children. We all have a lot to be thankful for. Be safe! Josie you’re a wonderful person!

    Reply
  • 3. Karen  |  March 3, 2010 at 7:22 AM

    Just had CNN on in the office and they talked about landslides in Uganda, with many people missing….Hoping everyone is safe!!!!Karen Dunlavy

    Reply
  • 4. o.lafflitto  |  March 3, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    WOW, Josie I can even finishing reading the current event to my family without bursting out with tears. I'm so happy to know that the gospel is preached, bringing hope to the people in need. There are things that we will never understand like why some people is so blessed and others just have to go through much pain. I'm was so happy to know that you give the beanie babies to the children.I will keep praying for you every morning before going to work, until you return.

    Reply
  • 5. Flap  |  March 4, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Absolutely amazing….thanks for your vividly descriptive writing.And, yes I am praying for you as well.

    Reply

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