We held three clinics in Malenga this year. Last year we had two days of clinic and had to turn some of the villagers away. We wanted to see as many people as we could so we increased the clinic days to three.
The preparation for clinic began several days before the actual clinic. In the evenings, after dinner at the farm, the team counts the medications and puts them in pill envelopes to give out to the villagers after they are examined. The medications that we will be distributing are very basic, Panadol (Tylenol), Brufen (Ibruprofen), antibioitics, cough syrup, eye drops and ointments and ringworm ointments.
On clinic mornings, the church is seperated into three sections by blankets and curtains stretched across the rafters by the Care Workers. There is a waiting area, an examination room and the “pharmacy”. We will be working with two Zambian nurses – who will review the nurses’ assessments and suggestions for care and approve their recommendations.
There are benches placed around the waiting area. The care workers have placed two desks together in six areas for the examination room and the pharmacy has two benches for the medications. The nurses that work in the pharmacy will also be distributing the de-worming medication to everyone that visits the clinic. This year, we also have Rapid Test Kits for Malaria. We are going to be completing the RPT kits on the villagers with malaria-like symptoms. Because the malaria has developed resistance to the old medications, we will be be checking that malaria is present before medicating for it.
Before the clinics begin, the nurses, Hands at Work staff and the care workers gather together. We sing a song, say a prayer or share a thought with the group. We are ready to begin!
When we arrived at the school, there is already a line running the whole length of the school, waiting for the clinic to begin. The clinics start and for the rest of the day, we are busy. Busy doing assessments and examinations, checking vital signs, asking the villagers about their ailments and symptoms. Inside the church, you hear the murmur of conversations in Bemba and English. Each nurse has a Care Worker at their station as an interpreter and there are two interpreters in the pharmacy area as well to help explain how to take the medications. Near the pharmacy, we have a station set up where the malaria tests are administered. Frequently a baby is crying when their finger is stuck for the test. In the corner of the pharmacy area – there is a slit in the logs where children are constantly peeking in – hoping to be given a sweet(candy).
On clinic days, the nurses stay at their stations from 9am until 4pm examining, talking and giving out medications. We see a variety of ailments from minor to major. One lady is carried into the clinic and laid on the concrete floor. She is unresponsive, emaciated and perspiring. Her sister accompanies her and tells us that she has these spells about once a month. We check her blood sugar and find it to be very low. We ask if anyone has sugar and one of the care workers runs to a neighboring house and returns with a bag of sugar. We dip a sucker into the sugar and place it in her mouth and she begins to come around soon after that. We find out from sister that she had not eaten in 20 hours. One of our nurses accompanies her to the hospital via Pastor Blessings car,where she is admitted.
One of the saddest part of the clinic was seeing a 9 month old baby boy named James. He was very, very ill, dehydrated and only weighed 9 pounds. His mom had taken him to the village clinic a few days prior and he had tested positive for AIDS – as had his mom. His father had passed away earlier in the year. There were two other siblings that were doing well. We found out on Saturday afternoon that James had passed away that morning.
The team saw over 600 people in the three days of clinic. We all wished that we would have had more time so that more villagers could have been seen. We also saw the careworkers and their families. The Care Workers stayed by our side through the entire clinics, translating for us and working as hard as each nurse. We only stopped long enough to grab a sandwich and drink.
One of the men that visited the clinic told us that he knew he was a real clinic because he was greeted with smiles, love and encouragement and he felt better before he received any medication. The Zambian nurses told us that they were not sure why a team of nurses would come to Malenga for a medical clinic. However, when the clinic was over, they said they knew that our only goal was to help the people of Malenga. They were very impressed by the throughness of the assessments by the team.
It was satisfying to know that we had made a small difference in the lives of the people of Malenga for that day!
We traveled back to the farm on clinic days, exhausted but fulfilled!