Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hapa Hapa Syndrome

"Hapa hapa" means "Here and here..." That's where it hurts, we heard several times today at Ebwali Parish, from the kids and guardians alike. "How long?" "Two weeks," was invariably the answer. The orphan feeding program was busy, githeri notwithstanding, but most of the clinical problems presented were generalized aches and pains -- and jiggers, of course. We worked until about 1:30 PM, then loaded up the van and waved kwa heri ('bye) to everyone. David Mabenda asked to have his photo snapped with Dr. Hardison before we pulled away.

Returning for hospital rounds , we encountered a classic country "traffic jam." Meanwhile, a new patient had been admitted to Ward I: he was recovering from a minor assault and a major hangover. A new patient had also been admitted to Ward II: Millicent came through the CCC via the outpatient department. She appeared to be about seven months pregnant. After a negative pregnancy test and a thorough ultrasound, however, it was determined that she had ascites. Millicent then agreed to be tested for HIV and learned she was positive, not pregnant.

Ironically, Brigit, another new patient, was discharged today after lengthy HIV testing and counseling. She had been admitted with non-specific complaints, and several family members had died from AIDS-related illnesses. Brigit had been so surrounded by disease and death that she simply could not believe she was HIV-negative. I wish I had a picture of her smile when she finally accepted the doctor's reassurances.

Ruth's daughters came to visit today. She was able to walk outside with their help and sit in the hospital garden. Ruth, too, was smiling. She will be taken home to Luanda by ambulance as soon as one is available. Patients usually walk or take a matatu home from the hospital; but crutches in a matatu would just not work.

Emmah and her family left this morning for the long holiday trip to their home -- eight hours from Maseno. How empty it seems here without them, and how much we miss them already! "Traveling mercies," dear friends, and Christmas blessings to all.

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