Dr. Henry Reitzug of Puyallup, a member of the board of directors of Lakewood’s Northwest Commercial Bank, is on a mission to Darfur, Sudan, as part of Tearfund, a leading relief and development charity, working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches worldwide. Dr. Reitzug has been sending his observations of the country and people and we are reprinting them (in a series) with his permission. Read the other installments (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen)
Inside the safety of the Tearfund compound, Ed Daein, South Darfur, Sudan, Thursday 6/5/08
Although Darfur abounds in hate and violence, starvation and sadness, joy does creep back into the hopeful hearts of mothers as they see their children improving. One little guy was having a bad hair day today, but did gain an ounce since yesterday, and while his liver is still large, his malaria is improving. From personal experience I know that improvement of malaria does not immediately create feelings of wellness, so while he frowns, the discerning mother already senses the positive change in the malaria, and no doubt is aware that the weight graph on the chart at the end of the bed has made an uptick. So a smile creeps across her face. That too is a reward in this work.
There were more of those moments today while making rounds. There was also the sadness of having confirmed that the child we tried desperate measures on yesterday, passed away as I had anticipated. Life is harsh here.
And yet there is not that sense of resignedness, that heaviness of the crushed spirit, that was so evident in the camps in Uganda. The level of humanitarian Christian involvement is much greater here.
Making rounds with Dr. Muzamil today was again very interesting. On the dirty Pediatric Ward we saw a number of cases of severe sickle cell anemia with painful joint swelling, a boy who fell off a donkey and somehow got tetanus, a 10 year-old girl who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and needs daily insulin ‚Äì which requires refrigeration. When the only power in town comes from generators, and that only for waking hours, she faces an uphill struggle. There was also the one month-old who weighed less than 3 pounds and probably had a congenital viral infection, with a mother who had guilt written all over her, and would not raise her head or her eyes until I patted her on the shoulder in reassurance. Then the slow smile came. No words for that situation; sometimes communication is enhanced by not knowing the language.
And then Dr. Muzamil and I got to sit and talk as colleagues. He is employed by the Sudanese Ministry of Health, has turned around the medical care of both the Stabilization Center and the Pediatric Ward since he arrived last September, working tirelessly while his family is in Khartoum (light years away and many days of travel), Promises for incentive pay and a vehicle by the Ministry of Health have not materialized for one reason or another so he is planning on leaving.
Although Tearfund would continue to run the program, without a competent physician managing the medical complications at the back-end of a nutrition program, things can unravel quickly for that most vulnerable segment of the population. Everything is so fragile in Darfur, health, food supply, safety, and programs to help the neediest. There is no margin for error.
A number of the staff who are staying here are looking forward to the opening games of the European Cup (?) this weekend. Unfortunately the satellite dish needs fixing and the only guy in town who knows that sort of thing is usually drunk. With the weekend upon us they sent one of the logistics guys to find him. (“Go fetch the satellite doctor!”). There is no legal alcohol in Sudan, by the way.
Today is another scorcher of a day. No clouds or signs of the impending rainy season other than the frogs and lizards constantly coming inside to get away from the perma-dust. Today, however, I have not seen any of the frogs around. Hmmm. Those drumsticks we had for lunch were awfully short ‚Ä¶.. Nahh, the nice ladies who cook wouldn’t do that.
Time is slow here; I have stopped thinking about the length of time still ahead of me, and I feel at peace. For that, I thank God and thank all of you for the many prayers you are sending up on my behalf.