Hello! We are officially reconnected to the world. Today was the first full day of work. I realized today that we only really get 18 days of full work. That’s kind of sad. So much to do and so little time to do it all. They promise us that we will see lots of progress, though. We started off the day with another wonderful meal from our kitchen staff (they always cook the BEST food), followed by preparations for our morning visits. We packed our medical bag and headed out to the village, Linda, with Kath and Andrew (official caregivers).
I was blown away. There is an entire world that exists outside the walls of Livingstone. To be quite honest, it looks as if a bunch of kids started building and expanding around each other. Everyone’s houses were so close to each other. I must admit, I was pretty surprised at some of the homes I saw, but I was also saddened by others. These people are very resilient. We visited with 6 patients today, 4 of which were to dress nasty wounds. The first person had a blister forming on his leg, then it became infected and spread. Months or even years down the road, this resulted in terrible swelling and a really nasty wound. When he removed the bandage, I was shocked. I helped where I could, but I mostly stood back and watched for this one.
Disclaimer: Because a lot of these injuries are very brutal, I won’t go into much detail on the blog about them, nor will I share any pictures, but if you are interested, message me or ask me when we get home to show you some images.
We then visited a man with epilepsy. A few years back, he had a seizure and fell into the fire. This resulted in a nasty burn wound. Even though his wounds healed tremendously, it eventually became reinfected and has now opened up again. This time, being a little more used to the sight of a nasty wound, I jumped right in and dressed the wound. It was really cool to be able to get in there and help. The next patient was a school teacher who had her legs amputated due to infection. Luckily, all of her wounds were healing well, but we administered pain medication to help with joint pain and salts for diarrhea. We then visited a women suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure. They had THE CUTEST little kitten with them. It was literally the size of my hand. I hope it survives. We checked her blood pressure and blood sugar, then advised her to sit in better positions to assist blood flow.
The last two visits were rather grim. The first man had already lost a few toes to infections resulting from leprosy and infection. Blisters would form, get infected and spread. His feet were in really bad shape. We had him clean his wounds with a solution, then we dried and dressed his wounds. Unfortunately, one of the toes on his left foot was pretty black (gangrene) and probably needs to be amputated. We gave him a referral to the local clinic and urged him to go there soon. If not treated, the infection will spread and could lead to death. Finally, we visited a man who only had two toes remaining. The bottom his “foot,” rather what was left of it, was pretty much one massive sore. Fortunately for him, it appeared that his foot was making improvements. You could see the new skin that had been growing the last couple of weeks. It was slowly making its way over the wound.
Overall, the first day in home care was enlightening and shocking at the same time. Enlightening, because I had no idea just how bad small things like blisters can become. Because they walk barefoot everywhere, wounds on their feet get infected and quickly result in major health problems. I was pretty shocked. Not because the wounds were worse than I was expecting, rather I was shocked by just how normal these things are and how tough the people are. First of all, none of these wounds would EVER get nearly this far in America, but the fact that they deal with this and have such high pain tolerances is incredible. Any one of us with a massive open wound cleaned out and bandaged would freak out without numbing agents or painkillers. They blow me away.
Anyway, in the afternoon, we went and visited an old person home. This small compound had about 30 people living in crazy conditions. The home offer food and accommodations. . . that’s it. There are no programs to get them up and moving, no health care, etc. So, we get as many as we can out of their beds and have them come to the communal area for games and stretching. Today we played stretching bingo, kicked a ball around, gave people water, and played UNO. I think one of the coolest moments was when a man said, “Thank you. I was thirsty.” Although this may not seem like an impactful statement, hearing it from this man really hit me. It is not in their culture to drink water. For many reasons, it is ridiculously difficult to get anyone to drink water, so you know when someone says something like that, they must have been VERY thirsty. It was amazing to see the smiles on their faces as we visited and played with them. I can’t even imagine any of us having smiles on our faces if we were placed in a situation like that.
Overall, I was blown away by my first day.