Medical Care and Miracles in Africa

Medical care and Miracles


The The picture reflects the cry of South Sudan for peace.scent of death permeated the small hut as I entered, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I heard the whimpering of a child. My eyes followed the sound and I saw a two to three year old child, naked, skin and bones, crying, whimpering and stretching. A woman hovered near the child, trying to comfort, she was naked, and her breast dried up from feeding once too many times. I felt the moment, the ache, the pain, I sensed the hopelessness, the resignation to what was seemingly inevitable death for another nameless child in Southern Sudan.

I sat down near this dying child, feeling all kinds of emotions. Here I was inside of Southern Sudan, in the triangle of death, as it was called. Hunger, disease, war was just a way of life. A war that had lasted for 40 years, the Arabic North (Khartoum) wiping out the African South, as the world stood by. I was not standing by, I was right here, in the midst of it all and yet I felt so helpless. I had no more food with me, I was scheduled to fly out in a few hours, back to Logichokkio, where I could be safely back in my UN tent, take a shower, have a hot meal, drink a cold coke. It seemed so unfair, so futile, and so hopeless.

My hands moved toward the child. How does one show care and compassion at a time like this with nothing like medicine, a hospital, and a doctor nearby? What does one do, what can one do?

I simply put my hand on its quaking, dying body; the eyes of the mother met mine. I could hear the mother say "Do something-now, help my baby." In my natural self, I was simply Jon, another human being struggling with all the forces of life and death, pain, sickness as everyone around me. Yet, as my hand was on this child, another reality came to me, the reality of life eternal, of a God who was not simply in the distance, but moved withThis year experience Africa-Discover its Pearl - Uganda compassion to those who could not help themselves like this little child. This was not a time to discuss the why of suffering. This was a time to heal, to mend, to restore, to allow the creative life force of God to flow through this human vessel called Jon into this nameless child that represented thousands of other suffering children.

I felt foolish for even trying to believe that this dying child could recover from the state it was in. There was nothing but skin and bone, and yet how could I just walk away and avoid this moment in time that I was led to be a part of. Yes doubts flowed through me; yes I questioned whether anything would come of it. There was no time for cynicism, or a discussion on the validity of prayer, of the reality of miracles. I did not chant, I did not shout, I did not pray endlessly. I simply asked for a miracle on behalf of someone who could not ask for themselves, this dying baby.

Amazing how things work in our minds and the past flashes by us in such moments as this one. I was back at Harbor View Hospital in Seattle, standing at the side of a grieving father looking helplessly as his daughter was already dead but machines kept her body functioning for seven more days while the mother came home from overseas. An endless procession of people came in the room, praying on behalf of this teenage girl. One man in particular came in shouting commanding God to raise her up, he kept getting louder and louder, and in the end there was only the quiet pumping and noises coming from life support equipment and monitors.

I closed my eyes, speaking simple words; some might call it a prayer of faith. It was not a magic formula, an empty ritual; there was a presence in that hut. I asked to be a channel of healing, of life, of seeing a little child whole. My heart filled with love for this child whose name I did not know. My hands on this lifeless body were immaterial; there was divine presence here in this hut. I prayed for the creative power of God to be released through me. In my mind I saw the child whole, playing, running, skipping. I felt a flow of energy move through my body into the body of the child. I was simply thanking God for what he was doing. This was no magical incantation, but an ancient rite repeated once again, no matter what the background, no matter what our belief system all of us in moments such as these, when we can do nothing else, simply pray. My eyes opened, there seemed to be a light glow surrounding the child. The crying seized, the breathing turned to normal, and the body quieted, tears of thanks rolled down my eyes.

I had not done anything. I had simply reached out to a dying child and whispered a few words. Why was this child touched while others died? Was it my prayer? Was it coincidence? Or are there still moments where miracles exist in real life and not just on TV or in the movies. Am I a healer, the answer is no. I am simply a person who was available to make the divine love and compassion real to a child and mother who had suffered so much.

I uttered a prayer of thanks and sat there quietly for some time before going back out into the heat of the Sudanese sun. All around me there was pain, suffering, but inside of me there was and is the reality that divine love released through us can make a difference.

I took a quiet walk amongst the thorn-bushes that surrounded the camp; many thoughts passed through my mind. The thought of being that wounded healer who in spite of his own wounds could reach out to others. Not only had a child been given life, but this crusty man in mid-life saw the reality of divine life once again, not in dry theories but in life-changing power.

The words and sounds of the hymn Amazing Grace floated around in my head, song so ancient and so meaningful that transcends cultures, time, and even religion. "It is grace that has brought us thus far, and grace will lead us home

The plane came, I was able to get some food-supplies, which I dropped off at the hut with promise for more, the mother shook my hand. We looked into each otherís eyes, countless of words were exchanged without any needing to be spoken. I walked away, thankful, humbled, amazed at the graceful ways of God.


Medical Care African Style

Every time I drove in Africa, the thought of having an accident and needing emergency medical treatment was on my mind. I had seen enough roadside carnage, bodies simply by the side of the road, in most cases they were still uncovered after a hit and run accident. That is not to say that the driver was responsible for the accident he or she simply disappeared before some angry mob carried out their sense of justice. A small place - a great work.

If you did have an accident, the care that you might get would leave any Westerner cringing at the sight of needles that had obviously been used before, lack of medicine and bandages, doctorís on staff and whatever else one can imagine.

At Mulago Hospital a large sign greets the visitor, "Report anyone asking for a bribe." Well, try to get any decent care without a bribe. To begin there is a shortage of doctors in Africa since many of those who have graduated have been lured away by South Africa with a program that will make them a lot more money than they could in a place like Uganda where a doctors visit runs between three and five dollars.

If you go to the hospital at night, you are really out of luck. The first thing you have to do is to pay transport cost for the doctor to come, and an added incentive for him to get out of bed. Once he is at the hospital, there is the lack of equipment, the absence of medicine. (Most of it is stolen once it reaches the hospital and often sold at one of the private clinics owned by doctors. When one speaks of private clinic you have to envision a simple room with cement floor, a counter and maybe a curtain, there are of course better places, but for the average African they are rare.)

If you are admitted to the hospital, the story really begins. You better bring a mattress and bedding, toilet paper, have food brought by relatives, medicine has to be purchased and brought to the hospital, be ready to pay something extra for care. I have seen a man sleep on the springs of the bed with no sheets, mattress or anything else. He was lucky however; he was in a hospital.

If you go to a clinic, a doctorís office, be ready to bring your own needles if you are getting a shot, or want some blood-work done. Many times needles are re-used and in Africa that spells death. Many of my friends brought their own plasma with them in case of emergency and had a supply of needles, medicine and anything else that would make things a bit easier in case of emergency. The last time I went I needed two things, some malaria medicine and a check whether I did have malaria, which meant a blood test and an HIV test for a visa. In both cases I had to have blood drawn. The lab was simply a room with some equipment, the latest I was told, and a bench for people like me to await the results. While I was there a young woman was told she had HIV. There was no counseling and no privacy, she was simply told in front of the other awaiting results. She began to cry and my heart went out to her.

Life and death is part of an ancient cycle in Africa. Life expectancy is short by our standards and the casket makers are busy on Entebbe road in Kampala. All daylong one can see bicycles, trucks and cars taking away another casket, many of them are for children. That is why the African lives out the moment, the here and now. When death comes, there is a time of grief and life starts over again. Even in times of war, the African sees death not as we do, but as part of the cycle of life. While we are here we live to the fullest, not depending on the accumulation of things, but on the heart and soul to celebrate each moment.

If you want to buy medicine, you can do at the pharmaceutical stands from early morning until midnight. No, prescriptions needed. Tell the pharmacist what ails you and he or she will tell you whatís best. How do they know? Well, call it luck, or whatever since most of them have no pharmaceutical training of any kind, but go by their feelings, sell what is available, and whatever other reasons. Often medicine is counterfeit and simply some chemical cakes that are not helpful to the ailing patient, so it is best you buy a brand-name in a package, that is if you recognize the brand name since much of the medicine is made in another third world country.

The West sends medical aid to Africa, but often it is things that cannot be used like the time I visited the small clinic in a Nairobi slum. The place was a clinic run by a nurse, a school, an orphanage and a teaching center for people to use contraceptives in order to avoid AIDS. To begin with, I had to chuckle as Anne Owiti proudly showed me around. In her office where boxes and boxes of condoms made in Europe. Just in front of them was a table with a Bible and next to it a male sex organ made of wood to demonstrate how to use a condom. The contrasts were simply overwhelming, and I thought, "Only in Africa is this normal." IN the same place was a brand new refrigerator. I turned to Anne and said, "You do not have power, do you?" She laughed, "Maybe someday." I knew that soon the refrigerator would be in someoneís house. Yes, this was Africa, and the dear ladies from the European club never checked whether there was a way to plug in their nice, new refrigerator...jon


The clear head at the center changes everything.
There are no edges to my loving now.

I have heard it said there's a window that opens
from one mind to another.

But if there's no wall, there's no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.



Life in East AfricaWhat Life is like in East Africa

Informative pages on Life in East Africa-Get in touch with Life in East Africa.  From facts about Countries in East Africa to celebrating life in Africa

Uganda BackgroundUganda Country Information:  Some historic background and facts about Uganda.  Uganda's past and present are covered here and some country facts at a glance and insights into life in Uganda, East Africa.  You will also find some population figures here.

Uganda One Man's perspectiveUganda-One Man's Perspective:  The insight of a Westerner of Uganda, its everyday life, the people of Uganda and their joys and struggles.  This is my insights into life in Uganda and the things I have seen while here in Uganda.

Kenya One Man's PerspectiveKenya - One Man's Perspective:  Observations on Kenya from the perspective of a westerner.  Kenya was one of the countries of hope in Africa but the ethnic strive, the desire to rule, instead of serving the people of Kenya won out at the end of the day when after the election of 2007 the country exploded  in violence. Today there is a makeshift peace and a coalition government walking on thin ice.

Kenya Country InformationKenya - Country Information:  Facts about Kenya up to the present time.  Kenya is one of the few countries where things are manufactured on a large scale basis and shipped all over Africa.  It has a middle class but, poverty is still the rule of the day.

Kenya's Swahili CoastKenya's Swahili Coast:  Past and Present, A historical look at the Kenya coast called the Swahili coat with its rich history and background that just might surprise you. Find out what other people groups visited the coast from Kenya the Portuguese being late comers. 

Rwanda One Man's PerspectiveRwanda - One Man's Perspective:  Observations on Rwanda from a Westerners Perspective.  Rwanda is one of my favorite countries in East Africa.  Amazing place compared to some of the other countries.  There is little corruption compared to other countries and people of government must give a yearly account of their source of wealth if they have any.

South Sudan One Man's PerspectiveSouth Sudan - One Man's Perspective:  Observations on South Sudan a place that is enjoying some freedoms and peace, even if it may precarious and the upcoming election will determine a lot of things in regards to the freedom and liberties that South Sudan is not enjoying.

LRA-Child Soldiers-Background InformationThe LRA-Joseph Kony-Child Soldiers and Northern Uganda:  Pages on the LRA, the Child Soldiers, the war in Northern Uganda, Alice Lakwena and her influence on the LRA, Joseph Kony Biography, the story of Catherine Ajok who was held captive for 13 years by Kony, the amnesty program, the rebuilding of Northern Uganda since peace has returned.  For 20 some years Joseph Kony has greatly affected the quality of life in Northern Uganda, thank goodness for Uganda peace has returned.

Aids the African PlagueAids-The African Plague:  AIDS in the 1990's was like the black plague of Europe.  People were dying everywhere of the slimming disease.  Most every family had members die, businesses restricted as to how many funerals an employee could attend.  Thousands of children were orphaned.  It was simply unbelievable.

Aids - The African SolutionAids-The African Solution:  What Uganda has done to combat Aids?  Actually a lot with simple tools for the most par.  A-B-C meaning Abstention - Be Faithful and Condoms.  The fight against Aids is not over in Uganda, there has been a slight resurgence in new cases.

African Picture Galleries: Literally thousands of pictures from Africa including the children and women of Africa, life in Africa, Africa's scenery and wildlife, visits to a village in Africa, Rwanda Pictures, South Sudan pictures, Kenya Pictures, Uganda pictures.

Africa's ChildrenAfrica's Children: The joys, the sorrows, get in touch with the children of Africa.  Meet the children of Africa in stories, in pictures, in accounts of what life is like for an African Child.  Pages and pages of the accounts of children in Africa along with pictures. Meet children through the stories and pictures and you will be touched in heart.  Find out what life is like for Africa's Children

Women of AfricaAfrica's Women The women of Africa. There are pictures of everyday women. Stories of Human triumph and of simply daily life for a woman in Africa.  There is a resiliency and strength in the African woman birthed out of the daily trials she faces.  Focusing primarily on the women of Uganda but can be applied to other countries in Africa.

Life in a Kampala Neighborhood

Life in a Kampala Neighborhood:  An average neighborhood in Kampala.  The account is through the eyes of a westerner who lived there for some months.  It is unlikely that you will visit many places such as this, but it gives you an idea how many people live.  The very people who wait on your, clean your hotel room, drive you around, the people who make Kampala happen.

A day in a Ugandan VillageA day in a Ugandan Village:  A visit to the small village of Kitaisa an hour from Kampala.  You can see the pictures and read an account of the village.  Most Ugandans live in the village, there are no jobs besides working in a small shop, but most people grow their own vegetables and the surplus is sold.

Harambee - Pulling together African Style:  In East Africa, there is a Swahili word which is Harambee which translated means "pulling together".  Meaning a coming together of people in solving a problem as a community, a clan, a family.

It takes a villageIt takes a Village:  In African villages people need to work together, for alone they cannot make it.  You need water, you come together with us and build a well.  You need a school, you build it together and when it comes to a village, yes, in Africa it takes a village to raise a child.

Keeping Time in AfricaKeeping Time in Africa: When will we get there?  Soon.  How much longer, not long.  What are you doing?  I am waiting.  When will it come?  I do not know, but I am waiting.  Time is different than in the west, it more relational rather than task orientated.

BargainingBargaining in Uganda:  The bargaining ritual, if you are not with a tour group you have to bargain for a lot of things from transportation to souvenirs.  Enjoy the ancient ritual and bring a sense of humor, it is actually a lot of fun.

Every Ugandan has a CellphoneEvery Ugandan has a Cell phone - But...  The use of the mobile phone is changing African Society...there are now five mobile phone providers in Uganda.  In the capital of Kampala everyone seems to have a phone, but no airtime.  This is a humorous look at the use of cell phones in Uganda.

2nd hand clothing in UgandaDead White Manís Clothing Get a Second Life in Africa: In East African countries such as Uganda the second hand clothing market is simply huge.  Most people cannot afford new clothing prices since they do not make a lot of money, so it is used clothing from Owino market, or from door to door vendor.  Come to Kampala and you can see smartly dressed people, and yes, mostly from second hand clothing that gets a second chance in Africa. Find out as to how most people in East Africa find their clothing.

The WabenzisThe Wabenzis:  You find them all over East Africa, the fanciest Mercedes Benz, flashy clothes, fantastic watch, a cell phone to die for.  They are newly rich of East Africa.  Often their gains are at expenses of others and they forget their roots rather quickly.

Living with death and celebrating LifeLiving with death and celebrating life in Africa:  Life in Africa is rather short compared to the west.  There is this celebration of the moment that takes nothing for granted but one celebrates the now in East Africa.

The African Entrepreneurial Spirit is alive and well.The African Entrepreneurial Spirit is alive and well:   In Kenya, Uganda, there are entrepreneurs starting up.  Here is a unique one in Kenya.  A story to make you smile at the innovation of the people involved.

Food - African - Western ThoughtsFood - African and Western Thoughts:  Thoughts on food looking both at the African ways and Western ways.  Most East Africans are thin until they gain wealth and can afford rich foods, while rich Westerners do everything to be thin.

African Insights NewslettersAfrican Insights Blog - Monthly Newsletter:  Receive Monthly Newsletter from African Insights covering various topics concerning Africa with the focus on East and Central Africa.  Free newsletter from a westerners perspective regarding life and issues that affect Africa and that you will find interesting.

Uganda SafarisUganda Safaris:  Uganda is one of the best places in Africa to go on Safaris.  A small country and yet bio-diverse in nature, almost twice the species of birds found in the USA yet Uganda is the size of Oregon. Game parks, lodging from budget to luxury, jungle, open savannahs, mountains, volcanoes...simply awesome and off the beaten tourist track. One day, three day and 5 day or longer safaris with Kabiza Wilderness Safaris.



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Medical Care and Miracles in Africa

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