Our last day was the most memorable for me. We were asked to bring our medical team to a “day center.” We woke up early and drove for a couple of hours to the town of Micuzi. Our truck turned off the main road and down a dirt track for another few miles – passing trees, bushes, and huts – before coming to a large clearing with a hut, a bamboo table with benches on 3 sides, and “men’s” and “women’s” bathroom stalls.
The center was run by Pastor Bongo, a Christian minister who served the people of the surrounding villages. Doc Glenn and Joe quickly set up the clinic on benches and a table in the hut. Andrew and Simon pulled Simon’s truck up alongside the table and tied a tarp from the truck to a nearby tree, providing shade to the area where we’d be spending most of the day. Dolores set up a triage station across the clearing where she assigned each person a corresponding number on their hand and on their history/assessment sheets. Each day in Mozambique we got more organized and figured out a better system to deliver care. By Day 2, I was in charge of the Pharmacy section and by Day 7, I knew where everything was and how to dispense it.
It was a beautiful day with blue skies and low-hanging cumulus clouds. We saw about 100 patients, who were split between the three medical personnel. 90% of them had to pass through pharmacy on their way out. I remember looking up one time and seeing about 15 people waiting for their medications and for a moment I felt a drop of panic that I was getting behind, but I when I looked in their faces, I saw only peace and placidity. This was a village in Africa – no clocks/no calendars – just local villagers coming for medical care and advice from some visiting Americans. I realized that I would ‘get done when I got done’ and nobody expected anything else.
The pharmacy was always the last station to close and when I finished up I discovered the team hanging out in the middle of a big group from the village – singing, dancing and drumming. The rhythms of Africa are like no other and my heart was bursting with happiness to experience first-hand the gift of the African people. As we left them they were still singing and laughing; and we were all waving and smiling from ear to ear. But the joys of Africa live alongside the hardships, and the day ended on a somber note.
One of the village women had asked if we could stop by her home on the way out and see her son, who couldn’t walk. We headed back on the same dirt road and after a few miles stopped the truck, gathered some supplies, and walked about 10 minutes down a narrow footpath. Their home was in a clearing; a hut, fire pit, clothes line, some pots. Her son was 36 years old, had a wife and 3 young children and he had AIDS. He scooted out of the hut, sitting on a mat where he removed his socks to show Glenn his feet. They were swollen and infected, covered with hard, raised, foul smelling lesions. The doctor diagnosed him with Kaposi’s sarcoma, one of the AIDS related cancers. Glenn and Joe washed and bandaged his feet, and I gave him a large dose of antibiotics in his wasted deltoid muscles, which made him cry. We gave him some oral antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, and instructions for his wife and children to protect them from catching the virus. It was light when we got there, but had become night while we were working; and we used our headlamps to find our way back to the truck. It was a quiet ride home and a strong reminder of the plight of so many of our African brothers and sisters. Thanks to all the donors and supporters of Team Rubicon for making it possible to share the gifts of those who have so much, with those who have so little.