Had a whirlwind of a few days! I spent last Friday at the Larawatu Malnutrition Clinic again. Rainy (my translator) was sick, so Dr. David (the SF doctor) took her place. After passing out eggs and weighing the children, Dr. David and I searched the village people for eye cataracts. Cataract surgeons from Australia are coming in two weeks to perform about 100 surgeries. They only perform surgeries on mature cataracts and only on one eye of each of the patients. This way they can double the number of people who receive this surgery. We stumbled upon a very sad case. I noticed a small baby with reflective eyes– the opposite of cross-eyed. Beyond that, the baby looked pretty unhealthy and was struggling to keep his head up. I called Dr. David over and he had seen this baby before for skin problems. He thought the baby may have TB which is becoming a big issue in the villages because it is contagious. After discussing the baby’s situation with the 20-year-old mother, Dr. David learned that 1. the baby was 1.5 years old but looked like 6 months, 2. he cannot walk, talk, etc 3. his 22 year-old father was a drug abuser in Bali and contracted HIV. This was just heart-wrenching; staring at little baby who was so unhappy, fussy, no appetite. The mom was doing the best she could to keep him calm. This probably means the mother along with the baby both have HIV. I was in awe trying to take in this bad news. I know SF does not (yet) provide support to HIV cases. Although the government does have HIV drugs, I know that they are expensive and must be rotated often. The bottom line is that this case probably will not have a happy ending. I was just looking at the father as Dr. David put on his gloves and felt around his lymph nodes, thinking wow he is my age. The father had a very hoarse quiet voice and was skinny enough to be on the malnutrition program himself. The mom remained very calm. She obviously knew something was wrong with the baby, but I’m not sure she knows the extent of his issues. Interesting to observe the way Dr. David is so patient and gentle with his patients even as kids, grandparents and headmasters of the village rush to the scene. The village is much different from the sterile hospital room secluded from other patients. Rather, everyone in the village is taking note of the issue and listening in with eyes wide open. Probably a good thing after all as HIV can spread easily through Larawatu with sword fights, sacrifices and sexual encounters.
I woke up early Saturday morning to watch the baby turtles hatch and struggle to reach the water. It is amazing that they know exactly which way to go, minus one or two stragglers. We are not allowed to interfere in the process because it is natural and Nihiwatu wants the turtles to sense the smells and atmosphere of the beach. This way the turtles will come back to this beach and hatch more eggs. The turtles are just tiny–a few inches wide! It is actually quite hard to watch them hit the water because waves are pounding, white water is crashing. The turtles get washed up and smashed back into the water. Only a few make it because of predators. I spent Saturday running an eyeglass clinic in Rua village. We saw about 35 patients, all older. We have an Indonesian eye chart for far-sightedness. I learned the Indonesian words for the pictures on the charts so I can point to the picture and ask if they can see it. I really enjoyed working this clinic. I definitely needed Dr. David to translate a few times when patients had different problems–cataracts, one eye was worse than the other, or when they wanted to walk out of the clinic with their eyeglasses on instead of using them for reading only! One lady was quite funny. She was my first patient and stuck around to observe other people being tested. She watched which glasses they received. She looked a little unhappy and jealous almost! A few hours later, the lady came back with her bible (tiniest print) and said she couldn’t read it which really bothered her. We then adjusted the prescription and she could read the bible! She was ecstatic. All of the Sumbanese patients came in their best-dressed clothes. The ladies wore lacy colorful tops, with stitched skirts, and hair in buns. They dress up when they go to the clinic. They were such sweet and gentle elderly people.
Yesterday afternoon Nihiwatu put on a traditional horse race on the beach! It was fabulous. We all had to be creative in making hats–many were banana leafs, floral headdresses and woven crowns. The horseriders are wild! None of them wear saddles. It looks like a nightmare trying to control untrained horses!! It was a lot of fun.
Dato took me to meet Margarita and her family in her village this morning. They were all smiles! They immediately laid down a woven bamboo mat for me to sit on. They brought out coconut juice, hot chocolate and peanuts on a big tray. We sat in a circle and I asked Margarita and her family many questions. Unfortunately, she does not speak English and I do not speak Indonesian. Dato told me it’s easy and I must start. So that is my next goal! Maybe I will learn a few basic conversation topics so I can now call Margarita. Margarita, by the way, has a cellphone and facebook. This was all so bizarre to me. Here Margarita is living in a bamboo village with large funeral rocks, water buffalo, and no electricity. The irony is so interesting. Dato kept calling Margarita “the boss” because she is so educated now and living a good lifestyle. She supports her parents and makes good money working for the government hospital. I am so proud of her. It also humbled me to see how her life has changed for the better. It makes me feel very satisfied thinking that I paid for her nursing education and her life is forever changed. Her mom made me a woven ikat embroidered with my name. It is bright blue, green with a Sumbanese pattern. The Ikats are dyed with local plants and minerals. Ikats are worn around the waist or like a scarf. Ikats take a long time to weave and so many Sumbanese believe they have magical powers and strong symbolism.