As I strolled down the dirt road–dust kicking up in between my feet and flip-flops, the smell of rain in the air, tomatoes, onions and fish being sold by market women, I found myself just walking to walk, thinking to think, and absorbing what I just watched earlier in the morning…
I spent the morning at Mansa General Hospital (a provincial hospital about an hour from the Congo border), a hospital that probably any American would run away from, and a surgery room that would make even a plastic surgeon cringe, however on that day- it was not-it was a place of peace and thankfulness to the 60 men, women, and child who had come in with cleft lips and palates, clubbed feet, burns covering their bodies, and a small baby that had skin flaking off her face and an eye that could no longer see the world around her.
Smile Train had arrived! An organization dedicated to helping people with deformities to be ‘treated or worked on’ for free. I had the amazing opportunity to sit in the room with a Serbian doctor who has spent the last 20 years traveling around Zambia making dreams of smiling and dreams of walking finally come true. After so many years of being discriminated against and loosing hope and faith, people sat next to other people with the same issues-realizing it was just not ‘them’, that they were not alone….
There was a queue around the corridor and the doc would call them in one by one and begin the process—‘what is your name, when is your birthday…’ however that was not that easy. I have found most people don’t know when they were born, children are shy to tell you their names, and having a parent tell you how their child got burned across their chest and arms is even harder. The nurses weighed them for anesthesia purposes and tested everyone for malaria (if the malaria slide was positive they could not operate due to the heighten risks and severe complications).
Just imagine traveling almost for 2 days to get to a hospital in hope to have surgery for something that has plagued you your whole life, and with a single prick of blood- you find out your positive for the malaria parasite and you can’t get operated on, because there is not enough time to get treated, be operated on, and get on the waiting list, before the doctor has to pack up his tools and travel on…..
Once again, that darn mosquito has ruined the lives and chances for so many Zambian children and adults.
I hate malaria~
Jane Coleman, Stomp Out Malaria Coordinator, April 2012