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Monday, 01 May 2006

Volunteering in Lesotho - Page 4

Written by Devon Rossetto
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The early morning sun shines brightly; I hang my wet clothes to dry on the clothesline, hoping it will not rain before I come back for lunch. Ever since the water pump has broken and there has been no running water, simple chores like washing clothes takes infinitely more time. As Tarra, a visiting PhD student said to me, “you haven’t been to Africa until you’ve experienced the joy of bucket showers”. I wonder if my experience is even more enriched since our bucket showers come from our rainwater tank, which was also the home for a colony of small red worms that found their way into the buckets and thus, in our showers.

 

 

 

As a medical student in Boston, I had taken care of two patients who had died. One was a man on the oncology ward with acute leukemia. The other was a young man who died on the operating table after a motor vehicle crash. These are defining moments in my training, coming face to face, for the first time, with the limitations of my future profession. The faces of those patients and their families are etched into my brain. Here it is different. There are too many patients dying for me to remember them all.


Some images are clear; a mother wailing after her 3 month old baby died from bronchiolitis. I can still see hear the screaming of a one month old with meningitis, his anterior fontanelle (the soft spot on the baby’s head), was bulging and his pupils were asymmetric, both signs that the infection have spread too much around his brain and that the pressure caused the brain to herniate through the skull. The seven year old orphan, a 24 pound skeleton who is too weak to move, is dying of AIDS. These images run through my mind constantly. What else might I have done to help them? These faces keep me up at night; poring through books on infectious diseases, hoping I might find the magic cure to bring them back and give them a chance to live their lives in this beautiful country. It is not fair. Once again, I fight back tears as I leave the hospital.

image
village children
Night comes quickly. I open the back door to collect water for cooking the night’s meal of noodles and vegetables. I squat by the tap and as the bucket is filling with water and worms, I look up: the night sky is brilliantly lit up by a million stars. The Milky Way snakes softly across the sky, a sight that reminds me of childhood camping trips. The sight is so still, so perfect. I say a silent prayer for my patients sleeping in their hospital beds. For one moment, I feel at peace here in Africa.

 

©Devon Rossetto

 

 

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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