Our newly sharpened suturing skills were going to be put to the test as we went to the Kality Health centre in…you guessed it, Kality City.
Lee and Alynne assisted Dr Northcott to teach 12 Health Officers (Like a Nurse practitioner or Physician Assistant) some finer points of sewing while I ran the camera snapping pictures of the facility, some of the patients and the outside of the building.
I met a lady outside who had her toothbrush with her, and she was brushing her teeth with a stick. A stick. Seriously. It was about as thick as two or three round toothpicks put together and was frayed at one end. She was brushing it around her teeth and gums. That is what they use here. Sticks. To clean their teeth. It might explain why Matt and Kari pulled at least one or two (or five…seriously) from every single person getting their teeth assessed that day.
Hence why I came out help them.
Once my picture taking was done, I put on my dental assistant hat and helped out Matt and Kari in the dental surgery suite. I was cleaning instruments, and restocking for them as fast as they were ripping bones out of people’s heads. A record number of people were seen by us that day, including one six year old boy. He was a terribly rotten baby tooth that needed removal, but was terrified of being there. He initially sat in the chair with much coaxing, but as soon as Kari brought out the suction tube while Matt was prepping to freeze his gums, this kid moved faster than a cat on a hot tin roof. It was the closest Matt has ever come to a needle stick in his career as a dentist. Thankfully, he has reflexes a fast as a mongoose, and was narrowly able to avoid getting stuck and contracting the HIV. His screams attracted of all in the medical clinic and immediately everyone are to investigate…and I mean everyone. Within seconds, there were nearly a dozen extra people in the room. His mother was very angry with him for embarrassing her (or so her body language said) and this boy was being shrieked at from every side of the room. It iwas hard to believe that the Italian didn’t colonize this country cause I felt like I was having supper at Lucia Defillippis’s house in Toronto with Fran Drescher as the dinner guest.
I made him a glove animal to try and distract him, and drew a chicken on it and used the fingers as the comb of the chicken. I made the “Bauck Bock” noise chickens make as I handed it to him…the irony of me calling him a chicken didn’t occur until after I had done it. I then hoped the cultural differences would be such they wouldn’t be offended with the chicken reference. Needless to say, he didn’t get his tooth pulled.
Once we were finished there, we went to the Kaliti centre for lunch made by some of the guardians of rice and vegetables with bread before our home visits. These visits were powerful for perspective, let me tell you.
Our first home was for a girl who lived sometimes with her dad and step mom and sometimes with her mom. The step mom was pregnant and the dad had a googly eye. The daughter was aptly given the name “Pupil” so she could grow up and be her father’s eyes. She wanted to grow up to be a pilot and make enough money to take care of her dad forever.
We then went to a home where six people lived. It was owned by a daughter of the grandmother who was raising her daughter while she went to work in UAE to support the family, a girl who worked as a prostitute, a man who had mental health issues as well as two other brothers. The grandmother guardian lived in a tin shack in the yard of this place and slept in the main house with everyone else.
Our next home was for a girl who lived her mom and three other siblings. When I say home, it was the SMALLEST space that has ever been called a home that I have ever seen. Five people living in a room that was big enough for a double bed, a shelf beside it, and a space at the end of the bed so small the door couldn’t even open wide enough to fully open. The eight of us had four on the bed sitting, two on stools by the door, one standing, and the mother on the floor squatting.
Stop and think about this for a minute. This home for five was smaller than my king sized bed. They had to cook outside in a charcoal fueled stove, there was no toilet, no water and no electricity. Dick asked her where they all slept, and she looked at him with surprise that he couldn’t figure out three went one way, and two slept in reverse in a head to foot pattern. Five people in one double bed aged 14-43.
It took EVERYTHING that I had to stem the flow of tears as she was thanking us for the support we were giving her and her daughter with our visit, and for the support for her and her daughter in getting HIV+ medication. She explained that she was trying her best to be a good mother. I asked the translator to tell her from one mother to another that she was doing an amazing job. It was then the tears began to flow. I was able to turn my face away and thankfully the visit was over cause I needed a good cry and a hug from Alynne afterwards.
I could not even come close to imagining what her life as a mother had been like. Not even a little bit.
We went back to the Kaliti centre to do our medical and dental treatments for the kids there. Dick brought out his guitar and we sang a few songs with the kids to lighten our mood. It was there I truly appreciated the power of the selfie as we were swarmed with kids wanting to have their pictures taken and then see the pictures.
Once we finally finished there, we headed back to the house for comfort food. Spaghetti. Those Italians still have their hooks in Africa. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mount a second attempt at colonization….!