Saturday, August 6, 2011

All kinds of Viruses

Bout 2 of sickness successfully conquered! And before you ask, no, it was not malaria. That much anticipated event is still to come. It did however feel much like malaria, or so I'm told. Last week I woke up one evening with sever body aches, weakness, light headedness, and a fever. I waited a couple of days hoping that it would just pass since from what I had heard, my symptoms weren't serious enough to be malaria. Finally though, at the urging of my American and Ugandan families, I agreed to go into the clinic to be tested on Monday. The finger prick to test for malaria wasn't too bad, but I must say if I never have to give another urine sample on this side of the world, I would be most content! Since apparently collecting in a bottle the size of your thumb wasn't challenge enough, I was also gifted with outhouse accomodations and slippery floors in which to accomplish my mission. However, that mission proved successful since it gave me my diagnosis: kidney infection. Apparently a virus had settled in my kidneys, so I was prescribed a full round of antibiotics with continuing ibuprofen for the fever. 2 days later, I was as right as rain!

Having recovered sufficiently from my own sickness, I ventured out to an outlying village with a medical team from the States to do a clinic. Together with a team of Ugandan doctors, nurses, and translators the team from Houston met with patients, handed out mosquito nets, dispensed medicine, and tested for HIV. While patients were being seen indoors, hundreds more waited outside for their turn. As they waited, the team preached and prayed for many many people seeking relief from even more than just physical needs.

The setting for the clinic: one of our village churches.
The 'exam rooms' are the gray tent booths lining the room.

A group of mothers waits to see a doctor

Dispensing medicine African style!

For the past 2 days, I helped a couple of Ugandan nurses test patient after patient for HIV. At least 1/2 of the people being tested were young mothers holding their babies close with one hand while extending their other hand for the dreaded prick. While in the States pricking fingers for a blood sample might be one of the most simple tasks, here in Africa it can be quite a challenge. Fingers here are rough and calloused. Young and old, men and women alike show the evidence of hard work in their hands. At times, I could perfectly visualize their daily lives digging in the fields, washing clothes, and cooking over charcol by just looking at those work-worn fingers. Those years of work made our challenge of collecting enough blood for a reliable result a challenge! Many many times a finger prick had to be abandoned in favor of a syringe just to collect enough blood.

Once the sample had been deposited on a testing kit, and a re-agent carefully applied, the patient was told to come back in 15 minutes for their results. Those that tested positive were gently asked to come back again the following day for a confirmation test. For those that were confirmed to be HIV positive, my friend Diana carefully broke the news and counselled them on options and keeping hope. Thankfully here in Uganda, it is possible to get ARV drugs for free as long as the person is willing to accept them. Unfortunately, many choose to live in denial fearing the cultural and personal repercussions of admitting they have HIV.

One of the happy test results card showing all patients negative for HIV

As you might imagine, looking into the faces of people fearfully waiting as if for a sentencing can be draining! My hope was that by offering them an encouraging smile and a gentle touch, their hearts would be strengthened and they might see the love of Jesus. Of course the happy, relieved smiles when pronounced ok also did my heart good! I was so grateful for this small opportunity to practically love these people, and meet with them in their pain and joy!

P.S. One funny thing I learned was that if someone says they have a virus, they always mean HIV. You can imagine the looks I got this past week when I was asked if I had malaria and I said, "I don't think so. I think it's just a virus and it'll go away pretty soon." Oh dear. Hopefully I don't have people now believing that these amazing muzungus can also miraculously recover from HIV in a couple days too! :)


  1. Oh Melanie....I hope to someday be right along-side of you giving out meds. That would be a dream come true!! I am so thankful that God could use you in a medical setting...I guess when u r a missionary God uses you in EVERY setting and circumstance! Glad u r feeling better. Love you---kim freeman <3

  2. thanks for sharing all of this. it's great to see what you're up to and to know the challenges you face in order for us to pray for you. love you and so proud of you, friend!!! -Lauren