A Taste Of My Own Medicine

Not only do the Benidictos (see last post) of the developing world inspire me to do my job daily, but motivating also is having the opportunity to take a ride in our community members’ shoes.

For those of us who have grown up with the understanding that the flu comes around once a year and modern medicine is just a phone call away, it becomes easy to second-guess our staff members for calling out sick for the 3rd time in a month or missing a meeting to attend another funeral.  So many in the developed world pass judgment when they see photos of African mothers slumped outside their compounds not tending to sobbing children or farmers breaking from work on the shamba that should inch them out of poverty.

It is a whole different ball game when you take a few steps in their shoes. Disease and the unfortunate aftermath are daily realities here – and this past week I had another unwelcomed opportunity experience just that.

With incredibly rapid onset symptoms, I fell ill with a bacterial intestinal infection, most likely caused by consuming contaminated food or water. I was immediately rendered bedridden, pining for the comforts of home. Though I would never wish this upon my worst enemy, let alone myself, it did offer some wonderful perspective on what exactly we are dealing with here in the Healthcare Program.

I was experiencing the exact symptoms my team has spent so much time training the health reps and CHWs on-

– NauseaVomiting

– Diarrhea

– FeverChillsBody aches

– Unusual sleepiness

– Sunken/tearless eyes

– Dry mouth/cracked lips

– Dry skin

– Sudden weight loss

– Dark urine/no urine

– Faintness/confusion

I could not hold myself upright, not to mention get myself to the kitchen to drink water – the sound of which practically sent my stomach lurching and I couldn’t think straight. Ironically, I was slated to edit the Diarrheal Disease curriculum script the day I fell sick! While I was so exhausted it hurt to speak, it instantly became more than evident that people can’t just ignore these overwhelming symptoms, and will themselves out of their lethargy and head to work.

Lucky for me I had my Cipro prescription and ORS mixture just a few steps away from the mosquito-net-encased, cozy bed that I could not imagine peeling myself out.  I laid there imagining the average Kurian’s lengthy trek in the blazing sun, on a dusty, bumpy, wreaking road to reach a clinic that likely doesn’t have the drugs they need even if the staff is actually present to help to help them.  Then I had the chance to live it myself. Though feeling slightly better, I made the mistake of getting on a boda boda too early. This truly assured me of my convictions!  It was an awful and painful idea that sent me straight back to my bed.

There is no wonder why clinic attendance is low despite a vast need. This is why it is so important to provide prevention education and early mitigation at the household level. We already have the education piece in the works, but in the next few months we plan for our CHWs to bring ORS and Zinc (to prevent severe dehydration), supplemental food (to reverse malnutrition due to diarrhea and other causes) and even antibiotics to help treat children under 5 years old who have been suffering for too long.

Did you know?

  • Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million children every year.
  • Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of child mortality and morbidity in the world.
  • Diarrhea is a leading cause of malnutrition in children under five years old.

(Facts from WHO)

Now imagine the long-term implications of a society of children frequently missing school or adults that cannot work due to preventable and treatable diseases.

Now that I am on the mend, largely due to the help of our FT5 version of CHWs, (Thank you Team for taking such great care of me!) I can fully say that I am grateful to learn exactly what it means to have the type of disease we are working so hard to prevent and treat here.