Friday, January 15, 2010

The Day from Hell



The other title I was considering for the blog entry was “Jiggers Suck” but my day was absolutely terrible. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Ever feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back? Well, I feel like that a lot here in Kenya and today was a prime example.
St Camillus was sponsoring a jiggers removal day at Otati Dispensary. (Wondering what a jigger is? Read a blog that I wrote in November.) Otati is a village about 30 minutes from the hospital. Our hospital staff visits there regularly to do child immunizations and HIV testing. This particular visit we were teaming up with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to remove jiggers from children in the community. The children are most effected because Otati Primary School is infested with these bugs. They breed in the dirt of the floor and then burrow into the kids feet while sitting in class. I cant imagine trying to learn as bugs are eating away at my feet.
Seven of us from St.Camillus were suppose to leave the hospital at 8:30am. Well that was slowed down by our driver who was busy washing the car. It’s a must that a car is sparkly clean before setting out on any journey. Not quite sure why this is because the car is covered in mud/dirt within minutes of driving down the road. Anyhow, we left around 9:30. Not too bad. We finally arrive at the dispensary after navigating the road that really could be a creek bed.
What’s a dispensary? Think of it as an outpatient clinic…from the 1800s. It’s nothing more than a two room building with a scale and some basic medications. No electricity or running water. I was expecting Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman to greet us on the front step. Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if they filmed that show here.
The Government showed up an hour late with a few nurses to help. But they didn’t bring any of the medical supplies St.Camillus had given them the previous day. A box full of razor blades, antiseptic, gauze, and antibiotics disappeared within 24 hours. It’s amazing how anything of value just walks away and is never seen again. I’m sure somebody knows exactly where they are. So we made do with a few blades and gloves we had brought. Together we set up a tent outside (the dispensary is too small) and got to work.
Thirty people from the community were told to come to the dispensary. They each were suppose to bring a basin and water, so we could soak their feet in water to soften the skin. Well, they brought basins and water….muddy creek water. So once we removed the jiggers we couldn’t soak them in water with antiseptic. Instead they were sent home with bleeding feet drudging through ankle deep mud. We had a heavy storm blow through in the morning.
Word spread like wildfire that we were removing jiggers and handing out shoes. Masses of people came from the hills, some with jiggers others came just to gawk (a popular thing to do around here.) You would have thought we were giving free pedicures not digging out jiggers with razor blades! By the end of the day we had helped almost 100 people.
I spent a good portion of the morning de-jiggering Brian, a seven year old special needs boy. He had one of the worse cases because he doesn’t realize when he’s being bitten and doesn’t pick off the bug before it burrows into the skin. Brian would not hold still and I cant blame him, I couldn’t either with somebody stabbing my sole with a blade. But his kicking made it almost impossible for me to remove the jiggers. Doing this I realized I could never work in a children’s hospital. I can’t bear to see children in such pain and to know that I am the one causing it.
The afternoon I spent dejiggering cute old men, with not so cute old feet. Wilson was one of their names. Through translation I found out he believed the jiggers were a curse because he didn’t go to a funeral of a close friend. Another man, needed much more medical care than just his feet. He had oral thrush and what I assume to be elephantitus. Yikes.
The day was filled with shrieks, cries, and screams of young kids as we sliced into their feet. We used some topical numbing cream but that didn’t do a whole lot. These poor kids- literally! At one point I saw a mother with a tree branch caning her son because he was crying too much. He’s your son, not your donkey! How does caning a child make them stop crying? One of life’s great mysteries that I will never understand!
By 4:00 I was exhausted, flustered, and ready to go. We packed up and almost headed out when the government workers realized they didn’t have a way to get home. Their vehicle dropped them off in the morning and couldn’t return because it was unable to navigate the muddy road. We volunteered to take them to the junction where their car could reach instead they wanted to be dropped off in another village much further down the road. We’re doing you a favor, don’t push your luck. Turns out that their vehicle never planned on coming back to get them; they had somewhere else to go. A perfect example of Kenya’s messed up government. Our driver made a special trip sliding down the mud path to take them to the main road. 45 minutes later he returned to take the St.Camillus staff home.

Was the day chaotic? Yes!
Was the day frustrating? Yes!
Was the day worthwhile? Yes!

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Biodiversity2000 said...

Hi, I was just in Kenya living in a place where you couldn't go a couple days without a jigger. The locals were great experts at removing them, no numbing cream needed. My roommate took one out of her 18-month-old daughter's toe while she was sleeping. The local treatment afterward is to cover the hole with vaseline, especially if the egg sac burst. Is this anything like what you're doing? Are local parents not aware of how to remove jiggers there?