Have you ever thought about the many kinds of choices we are faced with today? Hmmm? Let’s mention a few…
Well for a start there are career choices – what occupation are we going to pursue? What courses are available? Which university or college should we go to? Then there are everyday home choices – what are we going to eat today for dinner (we had chicken yesterday….mmmm…fish might be nice today and then beef tomorrow). When we’re at the grocers we have shopping choices – what pasta sauce should I buy? What brand of milk? Low fat? No fat? 2% fat? And what about peanut butter – smooth or crunchy?
The choices seem never ending – What doctor should I see? What kind of car do I want? What size TV? LED? Plasma? Mac or PC (no brainer Chris reckons)? Canon or Nikon camera? Coke or (cough, cough) Pepsi (again – no brainer)? What should I order from this menu? When I ponder all the choices in life that are available to us it is surprising that we make any decisions at all.
Even here in Swaziland we have been able to make many choices. Thank God for that because some choices have been really important, like the choice to quickly go to the pharmacy and buy some antiseptic and sterile wash after Chris was bitten by a friend’s dog on his stomach a few weeks ago.
Yep, you can betcha we were slightly concerned (ok Chris was really concerned) but after our good doctor friend Al examined Chris, his t-shirt and the dog’s vaccination records it was pronounced all good – phew. Nevertheless we both have started a course of tetanus shots for safety’s sake. That too was a choice because we chose and were able to pay for hospital registration to get the shots we required.
Then more recently Chris had the choice to take some doxycycline because after receiving a tick bite he came down with African Tick Bite Fever where he experienced headaches, neck aches, flu like symptoms and lymph pain. He’s all good now because he was able to access the meds he needed, eat healthy food and drink lots of clean fresh fluids.
These two incidents could have had serious results had we not had the finances to get them sorted out.
Walk with me now through what I experienced this last week… I was visiting another old gogo (grandmother) whose house is very dilapidated and found her looking after her neighbour’s 9 month old baby. This little girl was so distressed with pus sores all over the back of her head and neck.
We spoke to the mother the next day and found out that she didn’t have the money to go to the hospital. In fact she barely has enough to feed her family.
The challenge of extreme poverty lies in the lack of choices and opportunities. She is like any other mother around the world who wants to see her children educated, healthy and happy.
People living on less than a dollar a day have to choose between food, transport, medical, educ
ation, housing, clothing. Sometimes it’s one or the other.
So the mother had to make a decision. Does she use the little pay she has for food so her family don’t go hungry and hope that her sick child will get better on her own? Or does she allow her family to starve and go to the hospital paying E20 ($2.50) for registration (not taking into account any other money needed for medication, etc.)?
Today Operation Hope had the opportunity and was able to assist. We picked up the mum and baby and took her to the hospital. We found out that the mum was HIV positive but was still breastfeeding and not on any ARVs (anti retroviral therapy). The baby was given tests – thank God she was clear of HIV but was diagnosed with impetigo. Both were hospitalised and will now receive the drugs they need thanks to Operation Hope’s generous donors.
The mother’s dilemma is ‘maybe breastfeeding is harming my baby but I have no food to give her so at least I can give her my milk’. The choices she faces daily is more than I even attempt to imagine.
Had this mother not been able to access a doctor, receive the medications and counselling they needed, it’s highly likely they would both die leaving behind two small children to fend for themselves.
People who live in extreme poverty are people just the same as us…mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They work hard, have hopes and dreams, concerns and challenges just as we do. They want to educate, trade and work their way to a better life.
But sometimes the choices and opportunities are simply not there for them to make. That’s where we (you and I) get the honour of joining together to make real life changing differences in people’s lives.
Today I am glad and thankful that we had the opportunity (and then the choice) to respond to this mother’s situation.
Chris is also thankful… if he had a tail he’d wag it. Woof! Woof!