you know that girl, the one with her hair tied back in a sash, carefree sitting in the passenger seat of a Cadillac or some sort of convertible with the top down, hair flowing in the breeze, sash swaying, arms extended as if embracing the world around her flying down the highway in style. I was that girl today. Or I felt to be. A few minor adjustments to the picture,- I was on a motorbike riding with the wind on my back, across sand dunes and passing camels, warriors and cows. The birds were flying over head making shadows on the ground in front of us, countless dik dik (deer, the size of a lapdog) skirting across the path playing chicken so it seemed with the bike. The endless terrain ahead varied from hard packed earth to rocky gravel and silky sand that drew us in like a seasoned salesman; the thorn bushes brushing against my feet as we wound into the maze of the bush. It was my first motorbike experience and I was determined not to fall off. Fearing cultural inpropriety I tried not to cling too tightly to Mzee Isaya as he expertly wound his way down the little footpaths through the wild. Upon our arrival, my legs so tired and shaking badly, I feared I would fall over right there in front of the entire village. I don’t think anyone noticed that I wobbled for a minute like a Barbara papa doll before I found my grounding.
The chief of Longerin was anxious to see me. He had called and requested some medical assistance for a boy of his village. Longerin is a place that we have tried to do some medical outreach. It is about 20km, or a 3 – 4 hour fast paced walk from Kurungu. At times it is often a target for Turkana animal raids. I can not recall if I had met the chief before on previous visits, but he was friendly and took us urgently to the place of the boy, Marasaio.
Marasaio (meaning “colourful beads”) was sitting at the door of his hut. He sat on top of a well used animal hyde and rested his head on a stone for a pillow. His mama sat quietly in another area of the house, hidden behind the cooking fire, two little children and an infant surrounding her, other curious onlookers peeking through the chinks in the mud walled hut. The village concern for this young boy was moving. Morani’s stood beside the house as the chief and I entered. What looked to be the form of a 9 year old boy, was a boy said to be 15 years old, previously healthy 3 weeks ago. His wasted and emaciated form lying now listless, the only sound to be the sad song of his crying, marking the agony of the last few weeks. Marasaio is a shepherd, usually, the oldest of this tribe of four children to a widowed mother who looked no older than 30. He sat up, his arms wobbling under the weight of his effort. He was all bones, joints and angles. His eyes appeared like saucers on the frame of a face which had lost too much weight.
I speed ahead in the story to where I am today…. sitting now in Kijabe, Kenya, after a daunting day in Kurungu. It was close to 10pm when I arrived, it is hard to describe the frenetic day up until the plane came to pick me, Jesse, Marasaio and the chief to travel to the hospital. How can so many things be contained in a few hours, I was packing, giving last minute home school instructions, providing Jay a refresher on the pantry, greeting those who had come to see us off…. As a family, we made a trip into South Horr and past the mountain village to find Saidimo’s place. We saw him a ways off, having to park and then walk through thorny cactus and acacia bush into the mynyatta. He was standing resting on his crutch, looking up and smiling wide. We had wanted to greet Saidimo since his return from hospital nearly 2 months earlier. He looked healthy and strong although still needing a bit of assistance from his crutch. We stayed, visited and prayed with him, thanking God for his recovery. We were also very happy to present a sponsorship for secondary school from the Samburu Educaton Fund. This boy, after having missed nearly a full year of school placed as a top student in the grade eight exams. We heard about his dedication, practicing his studies with the nurses and workers at the hospital during his recovery, in hopes that he could finish school well. What a blessing it was to see this young boy who now has as it seems a second chance at the life ahead for him.
Such a transition from that scene, to the next in picking up the small form of Marasaio, lifted in a blanket to fit in the car. I am not sure how many people piled in the car thereafter but the trip back to Kurungu was a slow crawl being careful not to hit too many bumps, each motion eliciting a cry of pain.
A last minute change of flight plan has us racing, with patients, parcels and a drum of fuel in tow to the airstrip in Sedar (1/2 hour away). The plane was trying to beat a sunset landing and we needed to hurry! It took about 20 minutes to refuel the plane which is always fascinating to watch. The churn of the pump to allow the gas to flow into the wings, measuring, calculating, unpacking, packing and placing passengers and we were off, flying over the vast North, the beauty of mountain waterfalls and low green planes where the clouds are but shifting shadows. 2 hours in the air and we arrive at Wilson Airport, Jesse having conveniently missed all but the take off and landing, sleeping peacefully as the whir of the engine and the motion of the air had lulled him to sleep.
I step off the plane, dreading the next few hours…. I have a sleepy baby, a pack and play crib, a duffle bag and a back pack, the chief, and Marasaio who is unable to sit, stand or walk. We find a luggage trolley and gently place him inside so we can get off the airstrip and find a taxi that can take us into Kijabe at now, nearing 630 at night. After some negotiation we find a taxi who is able to take us. Marasaio is gently placed into the van, but every movement seems to aggravate the pain and he cries and covers his head with his cloth. Naked, cold and afraid, I cannot imagine what he is experiencing. “Pole” is the only word I can offer (sorry) for all the bumps and the long road that lies ahead until we can finally allow him to rest for the night. It is nearly 2 hours to Kijabe with traffic. There are no beds at the hospital and so we go directly to the Kijabe hotel. It is cold, the wind howling, the night guards wearing thick coats, scarves and belladona’s to cover their faces in the crisp air. The chief gets out of the car and stretches his long legs investigating the place where he will spend the night. After paying the rate we carry the boy to a bed, I give some more pain medication and instructions to the chief with regards to the sleeping quarters. My arms ache from the weight of Jesse and the fullness of the day finally hits. A welcome pick up from a kijabe friend brings me to a warm home to rest, and it does not take too long before sleep comes.
I will spare you the details of the next day and the task of getting admitted to the hospital. Let’s just say, the next person who complains to me again about the Canadian Healthcare system, will have a new “perspective” shared with them. The biggest challenge of the day was trying to get Marasaio from the Kijabe hotel to the hospital. I had no car, Jesse in tow and a boy who can not walk. So, I figure the next best thing was to find a wheelchair, except, they do not work so well on gravel and mud or potholes where you could possibly measure changes in altitude. Convincing the hospital security guard that I am not “pinching” the chair for personal purposes, I borrow hospital property, walk up the hill to the hotel with Jesse quite ecstatic about his new ride. We have to park the chair outside the gate, as it fails to respond to the small gravel driveway. Running into the hotel I gather Marasaio up in his blanket and carry him to the wheelchair with Jesse wailing behind me the injustice of it all that mommy is carrying someone else. The ride down the hill was full of bumps and agony and chasing after a toddler who realizes with mommy occupied he can run wherever strikes his fancy. By late afternoon, I leave Chief Lengalte and Marasaio in the capable hands of Dr. Mara who has assessed the xray’s noting that there is little of the hip joint left after such a prolonged (3 week) infection. Marasaio is admitted to pediatrics, needing nutritional feeding for a few days before consideration of surgery. With all that has gone on, I look over to the little boy, probably around 10, with a gangly smile, and a weak outstretched hand intended for Jesse as he plays, “cool cars” on the rail of the hospital bed. He is weak, tired and in excruciating pain, but he does not seem to complain. Before the flight I sewed (yes, a very dangerous event for one who failed home-economics class) a little blue pillow to support Marasaio’s head on the flight, – I wrote on the seem, “The Lord is my Shepherd”, thinking it suited this shepherd boy to know that there is One who cares and looks after him.
Well, we are finally back online after weeks without any contact with the outside world! Boy we are helpless without email and internet! Apologies for the delay,- family updates to come :)