Wednesday, 14 September 2016

One More Day to Get It All Done

After collaping in bed, surrounding my head in ice packs, the 5:30am alarm came very early. I was absolutely grateful that the rest and medication seems to have done it's job though. My head had settled down and the pain was gone. The after effects of the meds though were still present with cloudy thoughts and the feeling of a slight electrical charge going through your body with the numbing and tingling of fingers and toes. I knew those would subside through the day.
This was our last day of eye assessments and it was going to be full but all we could do was take one patient at a time and do our best.
I am extremely thankful for the support of my team through my migraine meltdown and the morning routine. They got everything together and check that I was good to go and we were ready to go when Xander arrived at 6:40am. Just as we pull out of the gate, the van stalled. A few feable chugs and I looked at Xander and inquired-Clutch? He sheepishly looked at me and replied "Gas" No way. The gass station was close so he had taken the chance on picking us up before getting some. He grabbed a container and ran down to get enough to get us to work. Karen and I took the opportunity to have a morning walk, choosing a route along our exit just so we didn't miss Xander coming back and hold the team up longer. It was a beautiful cool morning with clear skies and bright sun. We enjoyed being part of the early morning community heading to work and school. Several young children greeted us and the young girls often compliment me on my hair. We noted that this is what is different about our Western world. Not enough walking and knowing people in communities and a child would never walk up to a stranger, especially of a different race and engage them in a conversation.
We got back to the van and Xander arrived with gas- In an old cooking oil jug and used a cut off Coke bottle as a funnel, stuffing a rag in for a gas cap. We were ready for launch attempt number 2.
As the van crested the hill entering the village, I tried to capture this wonderful community that has welcomed us so.
Due to us being late, our line up was long and patiently waiting. As we climbed out, I greeted the people and sincerely apologized for the delay. Quickly, getting straight to work. Xander wasn't staying today as Cathy and Sara still had lots of errands and plans to get ready for the Timvane Centre and school so I would have a new translator switching out with Spencer throughout the day. This is John and he is studying to go into business and so he was quite excited to practice his English. First though we fitted him with this fantastic frame from Rachel Hill at Personal Optical. He was thrilled.
And with a deep breath and a big smiles, we opened the doors and started taking people in. I left Jessie in charge of our flow. She has become a fanstastic assistant and organizer and I trust her to know where everything is and to watch and judge our time. She is also good at crowd control. The guys from the community were trying to push to have people actually waiting in the assessment room but that got confusing and noisy so Jessie became door keeper making sure that only 1 person came in at a time. Every now and then though, they would open the door to check and Jess would have to shoo them out. I could see the frustration on her face and tried to lighten the situation. I chuckled and said "It's like nails on a chalk board for you when that door creaks open, isn't it?" YES she said. Do what you need to do, we will get through this! Our goal had been 130 people and we had until 1pm when Xander would be picking us up. I could focus on that number, I just had to focus on the eyes in front of me.
Like Blessing and her 4yr old daughter Mercy. Blessing needed glasses for distance and it seems like her eyes had changed during her pregnacy like they do for many women. Mercy had clear beautiful eyes and great vision. I hope that she keeps her good health.
This is 8yr old Alick. He needed glasses to see the board at school but once again there is a bigger concern with his left eye that is severely infected. He again has no way to get to the hospital in Blantyre or a way to pay for it. This could be serious enough for him to loose his sight so our team is going to try and get him looked at and cover the costs. This will happen after I leave so I will let you know as soon as I get an update.
When 67yr old Frank came through the door and greet me with a smile and a good day, I had a panic attack. He was just like Pnanzi from a few days ago with corneal scarring that was so severe that glasses were not going to be any assistance to him. I asked him the usual questions. What could he see now? How long had his sight been like this? Had he been to the doctors? What had they told him?
Similar to Pnanzi, he hadn't seen for a long time and the doctors had said they would have to do expensive surgery and he couldn't do that. He just wanted glasses so that he could read again.
I sighed and smiled and gently told him that unfortunately, I didn't think that glasses would bring any change but I would give him the best glasses I had and if they worked, he was welcome to them. Jessie found a +4.50 reader and he put them on. No, they didn't change anything. He handed the glasses back to me and and took my hand, Thanking me for trying and for coming and helping the other people in the village. I smiled and said it was my great pleasure. He smiled back and said "God bless you and your work" and left. It was a moment of grace I truly needed.
Jessie was panicking as there seemed to be more people coming. 
I said not to worry, we would take one at a time until the van arrived. Xander would call occassionally, giving us updates on our time and finally said to be ready to leave at 1:30pm. Jessie asked how many more I could do. I replied that I would just keep taking people one at a time until we saw the van pull up. She was in charge of packing up the room and being ready to load. I would take care of all the equipment.
Spencer and John traded off watching for the van, checking with Karen and Bryan and translating. Spencer then said the van was coming down the road. I did 3 more patients before Xander pulled up outside the window and Jessie was ready to load up. 
The church crew help us navigate through the crowd that was going to be left behind and I couldn't look away from the faces that I knew we were disappointing but there was nothing we could do.
It was 1:45pm and in the van, Karen, Bryan Jessie and I finally had a chance to have lunch. We weren't actually done for the day. We had another stop at the Titsirani Centre for the Disabled which our friend Gibson co-ordinates the programs. This had been booked weeks ago. 
As we drove down the road, it was like we where in missionary villa with compounds and out reach centres from several different denominations. I was really curious about why they were so concentrated in this area.
We arrived at the centre which was like a large gym/community hall and after a few minutes of set up, we were officially welcomed. Much like the dancing and ceremonies at the villages, the people here wanted to officially greet us. They sang a song of welcome then made a procession up to shake each of our hands to welcome and bless us. It was terrific!
We then went to work to assess them before they closed at 4:30pm.
As we worked, it was starting to be a struggle to find glasses in the powers and sizes that we needed. I suddenly felt bad that we had done this group last. With no intention but without thought, we had left it so that we were giving them the left overs. Much like they often receive in life. I left terrible. I wish we had realised this would be the situation and had given them first pick.
But there was nothing we could do at this time and so again, we just needed to give them the best we had.
This is Ernest. He needed a distance correction and a +2.00 reading as well. I knew that those powers were in short supply but I asked Jessie what we had. As I rummaged through the bag, I found this FT bifocal that had been donated by one of my patients in Canada. Her husband had died a month after purchasing them from me and knowing about my trip, she hoped that I could use them. I wasn't going to be taking bifocals as they don't usually wear them here but I hadn't wanted to turn down her offer so I accepted. Sure enough, this pair was exactly what I needed and fit. A bifocal was also good for Ernest as with his mobility, switching glasses is very difficult. Some things are meant to be.
This little boy has Downs Syndrome. We weren't allowed to assess him but he was very curious about our equipment and Jessie did a great job of occupying him so he didn't take off with any of it.
This is 17yr old Yuzor. He is suffering from the after effects of having malaria as a child. He wasn't able to respondwhen we tried to assess with the eye chart, as he is minimally verbal and I was getting mixed readings on the auto refractor but it seemed to be that he was definitely very near sighted. He did know his colours so I decided just to take a reasonable reading and one of the great high index glasses we had gotten from Deborah Perry. I stood infront of him and we asked when he could see my face and the colour on my shirt. When they went out of focus, I fit him with a -7.00. I don't know exactly what the difference was for him but his face lit up and a smile came to his face and he was pointing to all sorts of stuff around the room. I stood back about 25ft and we ask if he could see my face and the colours on my shirt. He came running over and gave me a hug. I think that was a YES!
The Titsrani Centre gave us some of the most challenging cases and some of the most rewarding. By the time they closed, we were able to see everyone. Our final clinic and no one was left behind.
After, we made a stop over to Hamilton's wood working shop. He is a talented carver making delightful objects from ebony, africosa and other native woods. I am very excited to be bringing home some of his work.
It was time to pile in the van and head back to our last night in Canada house. With our extra passengers, we were starting to look like one of the local transport vans.
It was the last in Malawi as a team. Bryan and I were leaving for Canada in the morning, Cathy, Sara, Karen and Jessie would stay behind to finish the work, organizing and errands to update the Timvane Centre and help get the new school started. I suddenly realised that, in the 2 weeks that I had been there, I hadn't had a chance to see the Timvane Centre our church had funded and build. Xander graciously said "No problem, I will send you a picture" Fantastic! For 2 weeks I have been 2 blocks away and when I fly to the other side of the world I will get a photo. Also.......I still hadn't gotten my rat on a stick.
Tonight we would have a team dinner at a lovely restaurant Cathy had made reservations they serve rat? You can ask, she said while rolling her eyes.
The restaurant had set us up in a private room and it was nice to reflect on our time together and memories. As we all tried to decide on our dinner, most decided to try Chomba a very Malawian fish that is suspose to be better than tilapia. Rat wasn't an option so I went with goat. Since it had been a daily sighting, I knew it had to be fresh.
When the food arrive, most had ordered the fish breaded but Bryan opted for grilled so it came whole with the head and everything. This freaked out most of the others but I just turned to Cathy with great hope....Do you think my goat will come with it's head on too? You're terrible, she scoffed. But I was hopeful.
It didn't. I did offer to share so that the others could at least say they tried one took me up on it. Janet and Xander were shocked that Bryan didn't want to finish the fish by eating the whole head. That's the best part! He decline but they helped themselves to it.
After dinner, it was serious packing and organizing for me. I realised that although I would have room for everything, I had pottery that needed to be protected and a lot of space to fill. While keeping my weigh balance. So how do you fill space without adding weight? AIR. There was lots of bubble wrap and ziplock bags from glasses so I lined my suitcases with them usuing my clothes around the edges.I hope it works.
I was ready for my last night in a bed for a while and my last night under the African sky.

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