John goes home laughing

Wilsons_2013 Posted by Rory Wilson on Sat, 12 Apr 2008 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

John is an eight year old lad from a village about 20 miles from Kiwoko. On Thursday he was at school and on the way home was well enough to climb a tree to get some mangoes to eat with his friends. On Friday he was not able to wake up properly. His mother knew something was wrong, but hoped that everything would be ok. When he still could not talk or sit on Saturday she became concerned. On Sunday she thought that she must get to hospital. The costs of travelling with her son and other 3 month old daughter, as well as being away from being able to plant in the family garden at a time of year when the rains have started, had discouraged her from going any sooner, but now she had no choice. It was Monday when she arrived on the ward. John was deeply unconscious. His only response was to squeal in pain if his neck was moved at all. The neck was stretched back as if looking at the ceiling to minimize stretching the spinal nerves. He seemed to have meningitis, and a test of fluid from his back rapidly confirmed it. We started him on treatment for his meningitis, and also his pneumonia. He had obtained the pneumonia from his mother trying to feed him over the weekend when he was deeply unconscious, so he had ended up with some of the food in his lungs.

After some days, the pain seemed to be well settled. Then he opened his eyes, and then weakly tried to respond to my greetings.

Being poor is a curse in so many ways. This boy would have been brought to us much sooner if his mother had not been concerned about the financial consequences of spending time at hospital. She thus very nearly lost her son. John walked out of the ward with the carefree gait which an 8 year old should have without any obvious problems remaining from is infection. It is a miracle indeed that he has not been severely brain damaged by the infection. Such occurrences are a testament to the commitment and skills of our nursing staff, and are the reason why patients sometimes come from such long distances seeking care at Kiwoko. It is great to be able to see such patients improve, though the underlying social ills caused by such poverty are even harder to treat.

Yet the contentment most folk have with their life remains a profound lesson for those of us with greater material wealth. I was driving through our local swamp recently to be surprised as two fish flew through the air just missing the windscreen. I stopped in time to avoid hitting the two young lads chasing the fish. Then we saw the dozen youngsters up to their middle in the swamp catching fish with their bare hands and tossing them onto the road. They were going to feast well that night, and were having a ball meanwhile! Finding pleasure in the simple things in life is something many of us have lost – I suspect that I have much to learn from such children.

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