Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I never thought to mention that ...

There was a fight not long after church last week. We were busy decorating our Christmas tree as a family when one of the neighbor boys came to get Caleb because there was a fight going on. Caleb came back quickly to report that one of the boys was bleeding from a cut that he had received. I went out to find the boys were all sons of my gardener. One of them was bleeding from a deep cut just below his eyebrow. I later learned that the boys were arguing about a football (soccer) match and one head butted the other causing the cut.

A trip to the hospital resulted in eight stitches. We returned home with a bandaged boy and some pain medicine. The Malawi health system is notorious for not explaining to its patients anything related to their troubles. It is normal that patients leave the hospital with pills to take, some vague instructions and no idea of what the name of their illness is or any broader understanding of their condition. Based on my interactions with people, I don’t believe the normal school curriculum has much about health or the body in it. So, I usually take extra time when I have been to the hospital with someone to explain about their problems and why it is important they take their medicine and what the medicine does and does not do.

When we arrived home, I had Sete come in the house and I explained to him about his stitches. I explained what stitches are, that it is important to keep them clean, that the doctor said we could remove the bandage after two days and what the ibuprofen that he needed to take would do.

On Tuesday Sete returned to have the bandage removed. As I removed it and cleaned around the area, I began to explain again the need to keep it clean and that the swelling would go down. Suddenly Sete slumped forward into my arms. He had fainted. We grabbed a chair and had him sit for a while and drink something. As he returned to normal, I asked what had happened. He said that his heart had been racing. After a little more talking, we learned that he had been afraid. His heart was racing with fear that he would die. With all the explanation I had given him, I never thought to mention that he would not die! The rest of the family quickly assembled around him to show off scars of past stitches and give testimony to the fact that they are still alive (all of us but Faith have had stitches somewhere).

I am constantly amazed at the how we can take simple things like knowledge for granted. What many of us consider common knowledge is not understood by many in this world that have not had the benefit of a good education.

Have a great Christmas and while you’re at it, thank God for your education.

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