Courage to Fight For Lives

Day 1: Kisumu, Kenya

Our Agenda:

Travel with Home-Based Testing Community Health Workers (HIV/AIDS)
See vaccines at work and meet moms-to-be at  Siaya Clinical Research Center  (Vaccines/Maternal and Child Health)

Fighting For Change
This is not a Mercedes driving, play six holes after lunch sort of doctor. This is a doctor who looks at the overwhelming epidemiological issues facing his patients in Rural Kenya- and sets about coordinating the best care he possibly can. The needs he cites as those that would be “High Impact” in preserving the lives of more of his pregnant patients?

Electricity, consistent, all day, every day, so the C-sections are not interrupted when the generator must take over for a few hours.

For women to come for care at least four times during their pregnancy. This way, issues can be identified before they become emergencies. Because once a childbirth emergency begins in rural Kenya, a women is not likely or able to walk the many miles necessary to have help delivering- which means she may become one of the six in every thousand women who die in childbirth in Kenya.

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Strong

Not Alone After All
This is a lovely, vibrant fellow Mom I sat with at Siaya Hospital- she and this little Choonkaloonks passed a sunny afternoon telling me about a bleak time in her life when she found courage to fight.

She and her daughter are enrolled in a Tuberculosis study at the hospital, funded by US dollars.

It provides a high level of diagnostic and treatment support to combat this wily foe, which likely would have claimed at least one of their lives, if not both of them.
“It gave me encouragement and strength when I had none,” she says, through quiet tears.

The Lowest Point

Her husband had passed away, and infected her with HIV before doing so.

His family tossed her and their 3 grandchildren out, free to brand her with stigma now that their own son was gone.

She sought her own parents and said she was ill- her baby was ill. Could they help?

But they had even less loyalty to her than her in-laws, dismayed by the shame she’d brought to them by testing HIV-positive, they turned their backs.

It was her lowest, most vulnerable point, she explained through a translator.She was completely adrift, ill, and frightened.

Living
“I had to live for my children.” She says, and we’re not crying anymore.

She’s sitting up straighter, and I can hear the pride in her voice.

Her children are safe- she takes them all for routine testing for HIV and Tuberculosis, and takes precautions such as placing them under bednets when they sleep.

This will help protect them from malaria, just as when a mother makes sure the water she fetches is treated to help her baby stay rotavirus free.

It would seem as if few things are the same here as in my suburban, chlorinated world- a place where parents would gladly wrap their progeny in bubble wrap to cushion them from bumping up against any potential ill.

Here, there are just so many. But the moms still go to just as great lengths, if not far more so, then in my parenting gig.

“This place gave me the courage and the strength,” she says, and she grins at her baby girl shrieking in her lap.

And I look at the little smile that mirrors hers so exactly, and I’m glad. I’m so, so glad.

Daily Action: Today we visited health clinics that receive direct funding from the United States. Sign our petition asking Congress not to cut funding for these effective programs that are saving lives. Then ask 5 friends to do the same: http://act.one.org/sign/protect_fy2012/?rc=onemomspartne

 

Disclosure: I am in Kenya with ONE.org, a non-profit advocacy group funded by its board and foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. My editorial statements, opinions, and policies are entirely my own.

 
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Comments (5)

  1. Pat Reed Tuesday - 26 / 07 / 2011 Reply
    You are telling the story. I look forward to the next chapter.
    • RockandRollMama Wednesday - 27 / 07 / 2011 Reply
      Thank you, Mama! Were your ears burning tonight? Cause i was telling our team I have a really great mom.:) Love you, and am up writing the chapter as we speak.:) (specially since we're posting by 8 am every morning.:) See you soon! Love, your Kid:)
  2. Sue A Wednesday - 27 / 07 / 2011 Reply
    What an interesting story and what a great opportunity to have a hand in giving an important message. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is one of the opportunistic infections acquired with HIV/AIDS patients during the course of the disease. It is great to know that the U.S. has extended it's studies to these patient's as well. I admire the mother in this story continuing to do what she needs to do for her child regardless of her families and her own illness. Equally impressive is the doctor facing the epidemiological challenge of these patients. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work! Sue
  3. Meghna Thursday - 28 / 07 / 2011 Reply
    Hi! On your first blog above, the correct figure for maternal mortality in this area is 6 per 1000 live births. In other words, for every 1000 births, 6 women die from childbirth. A woman has an average of 5-6 children in this area. It was great meeting you! Best regards.
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