Children color a “Stop HIV/AIDS Stigma” poster at the TASO Children’s Clinic.
Colin’s second column documenting our experience in Uganda is now available online at StowSentry.com and in print (pick up your copy of the Stow Sentry today or subscribe)!
On Monday, during our home visits, a woman on the side of the road flagged down the TASO vehicle. This happens quite often, TASO giving random people rides. This woman was holding her child in a blanket. She was barely a woman, only 19. We picked her up about 3km from the main road she was trying to reach. She was on her way to the Busiu clinic. Her son was dying in her arms. A baby of 1 year, he looked like a 2 month old baby with the face of a 100 year old man. The TASO driver remarked, “That child has no life in it…” The woman told us that she was released from the hospital 3 weeks ago because she could not afford the treatment or transport to Mbale. The child’s condition continued to deteriorate. The boy layed nearly lifeless in her arms, eyes rolling in the back of his head, struggling to breath, unable to lift his head. It was horrifying. The TASO counselors asked her where the father was. She said he was looking for money for the child’s treatment and they were to meet at Busiu hospital. We reluctantly dropped her off at the clinic and gave her money to pay for transport to the main hospital in Mbale, as the Busiu branch wouldn’t be able to treat the child’s severe condition. She promised to manage the money herself. She promised to take the baby to Mbale. Today, Colin and I went to the Mbale hospital to look for the woman and her child. We had her name jotted on a small notebook. We handed the notebook to a young doctor. We searched through the wards and he looked through the hospital log books. No trace of her. He said that if the baby died at Mbale hospital the death would have been recorded at Busiu rather than Mbale. It’s hard not knowing what happened. It’s hard to see a dying baby. I wonder if her husband took the money and spent it elsewhere. We will follow-up further. It’s so sad. The TASO staff kind of shrugged off the tears…this is not unusual. They’ve seen it before. Not me. I don’t have a backbone for this kind of thing.
You know, before we came to Uganda we celebrated the 1st birthday of Colin’s nephew, Cass. He is a vibrant, curious, active, loved, and perfectly cared for baby boy. He has everything he needs. Not spoiled. Not deprived. Just the love of two parents, grandparents, and family friends, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and the freedom to grow and live. He walks and plays. He waves and laughs. He can open and close. He can even eat on his own. Cass is a normal 1 year old. Why can’t every sweet baby boy be like Cass? This single scenario sheds light on the struggling, inadequate health infrastructure in Uganda; poor transportation plays a part; lack of prenatal/antenatal care; lack of education…so many factors. The young mother is trying so hard. This isn’t the first time she has struggled with a sick infant; she lost her first baby. The TASO counselors asked if she’d ever been tested for HIV and she said no. In many parts of the US, prenatal HIV testing has become routine. An HIV+ woman can prevent transmission to her child with some ARVs prior to delivery and careful, exclusive breast feeding for the 6 months. Such treatment and education is available to women in Uganda, but not on the scale needed. And the mother’s HIV status as cause for baby’s ill health is speculation…the TASO counselors were just doing their jobs. It’s so confusing, all this poverty and suffering. I see it here. I see it in Ohio. It’s everywhere. I feel so helpless, but not hopeless. Things will get better. That sweet baby will be okay…
May 24th, 2007