About a week into our visits, we were informed that there was an old woman who had been brought there from Kipsongo who was infested with jiggers. I went to visit her in her room, and discovered that she was a woman who I had treated at one of our previous mobile medical clinics. She was brought by her neighbor because of jiggers, but also because of severe malnourishment and dehydration. Her neighbor stayed with her at the clinic for about 12 days, and then left her there. No bill was ever paid, and Sarah is still there. It has now been about 5 weeks.
If she had been taken to the District Hospital in town, she never would have been treated without a payment. But because Freda (the Mother Teresa of Kenya) won't turn anyone away, and because Sarah has no family to come and get her, it seems that Sarah is now "living" at the clinic . . . for free.
When I first saw her, she was almost totally unresponsive. She was starving. She was dehydrated, and filled with infection from the jiggers. After a few weeks of mediocre care, she has vastly improved. (I say "mediocre" because this is Africa, where funds and resources are limited. There is limited food and medicine here, so her recovery has been very gradual).
She went from . . .
- Not being able to sit up in her wheelchair for more than about 30 minutes, to sitting for a few hours everyday in the sunshine on the lawn.
- Not talking much at all, to speaking very intelligently, and even pulling out several phrases in English. The first time she said, "no problem" in clear English, I just about fell off my chair. She is very smart and turns out, very funny.
- Infested with hundreds of jiggers, to as of yesterday jigger-free in her hands. We are going to work more on her feet this week.
- Eating and drinking almost nothing, to having several cups of tea per day, eating bread, "Plumpy Nut" (a peanut butter-based nutrition bar for malnourishment), and she started drinking Pedialyte that I was given from the States, to fight dehydration).
I will be the first to admit that I've never enjoyed spending extended periods of time with the elderly, except for my own Grandparents. It's not my gift. It doesn't excite me. A lot of times they smell like pee. Sometimes they have dementia and sometimes they cuss. Sometimes they eat flowers (ok this isn't normal, but in the 7th grade my youth group went to an old-folks home to visit and hand out flowers, and my old lady ended up eating the daisy I gave her, and then I got yelled at by the staff).
So normally I wouldn't choose to hang out with someone like Sarah, but this woman has totally captured my heart. She wasn't overly friendly to me at first, but now I think she likes me. She likes me so much that last week she asked me (in Swahili, which was translated for me) if I would take her home so that she could die at my house. I've caused her some pain as I've removed jiggers, and recently started to massage her very swollen feet and calves, but I think she knows now that I am there to help her.
I spoke with a friend who knows her from Kipsongo, and I was informed that she indeed has no family. She is a widow, and was living alone in a dirty mud hut with no sanitation, no food, and no clean water.
As much as a blessing it is for her to be at Freda's, it is a burden for the clinic. Freda would never "kick her out", but the deficit to have Sarah there is mounting everyday. Howie and I have been gifted with some extra funds for helping people, so we will apply some money to cover her bills and lessen the debt for Freda. If you'd like to help too, you can hit the "donate" button on this blog, and in the notes just write "for Sarah". We don't need a lot, but $20 from a few people would make a world of difference for this sweet widow.
I wish I would have taken some "before" pictures so you could see the difference, but here are a few pictures I took this past week.
Please pray that we can find another situation for Sarah, or that we will have the funds to be able to keep her at the clinic. I refuse to take her back to her mud hut to live alone. Freda said that if we take her back there, she will die within a month. God always provides, and I'm excited to see how he will provide for an old African widow with no family. He cares for even her.
This is the verse that has been brought to my mind in the last weeks as I've been with Sarah:
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding in unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall fun and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint."