Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hardship in a Beautiful Place

It can be jarring at times when you are surrounded by beauty at one moment and the next you see a terrible tragedy unfold. Such is the way life is here in Achham. Green mountains surround the hill top that the hospital sits upon, yet the realities of living in such a setting are difficult to deal with.

Today we awoke to a beautiful mist shrouding the hospital. As the sun rose it dissipated, leaving a lush green day in its wake. This morning we also arrived in the hospital to witness a young child dying. A five year old girl had pneumonia. In the 3 minutes she was off oxygen to go to the bathroom, she grew much sicker and succumbed to her illness. Her mother’s cries rang through the halls.

With the start of the monsoon season, the land has seemed to have gotten a new life. The grass that was once dead is now vibrant with color. There was no haze by mid-morning leaving incredible views of the surrounding hills, and down into the valley that holds Sanfe, a nearby town. You could just sit for hours and stare off into the distance.

Just after lunch a young boy who must not have been older than 9 years old came in. He was experiencing a loss of appetite and was having spasms whenever he would try to drink water. He also had tingling and pain in his arm, around the site of a bite wound. It turns out that about a month ago he was bitten by a rapid dog, along with his father, but neither of them sought treatment. Now, it looks like the young boy has rabies. Even in the United States, once a patient becomes symptomatic to rabies without prior vaccination, their chance of survival is almost zero. The doctors gave him the vaccine as a post exposure treatment which might help as the symptoms are only in early stages, but even so, while he still looks healthy now, he likely will not make it past the next couple weeks.

Then later in the afternoon as we were sitting in the office we heard yelling from outside. We ran out to look and saw the most incredible rainbow we had ever seen. It stretched in vivid color up from a dip in the hills and rose high into the sky. From a distance back, it would appear that the hospital sat at the bottom; that Bayalpata was the pot of gold at its base. Opposite of it, the entire Sanfe valley was ablaze with light from the sun, creating what seemed like a glowing mist filling the land. There weren’t words to adequately describe it

There is so much beauty here. Beauty in the scenery, and in tricks of the light. Beauty in the wedding of two staff members, and all of the staff’s incredible commitment to the hospital. Beauty in the resilience of the patients who walk for hours in the morning to get their treatments, and then walk hours back at night to go work in their fields. Beauty in the son who stays by her mother’s side as she struggles through MDR TB, and in the kid that pulled through from a case of Kala Azar.

But there is also hardship here in Achham. In the patients who we can’t help and who don’t make it back home.

This is a land of beauty that deserves beauty. That is why we do our work.

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