According to the WHO, Papua New Guinea suffers from a critical shortage of human resources for health. The most recent estimates of health worker densities reflect 0.7 physicians per 10,000 in PNG. In Germany that would be 42.5 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants and in the USA 26.12 doctors per 10,000.
With zero medical care (neither doctors nor nurses) in our language group of maybe 1,000 people, it is the most natural thing for some Kovol people to come to ‘white people’ for help (if they are there). They do not know that Gerdine and I have some medical background. What shall we do? We are not here to start a clinic. We are here to bring them the gospel in their own language, so they understand about the only way to receive eternal life with God. But we can’t ignore them asking for help either. So, we try to find a line between where we help and where they themselves have to hike to town for medical care. This is a 2-3-day hike for them. We’ve told people that we’re ready to see sick people on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, and we’ve decided on treating a few of the more serious illnesses out here. But we can’t do it all. It is really wearing us out already to have 2 days a week, where we offer advice for medical care and maybe medicine for the really critical/ life-threatening cases.
One week ago, Kolom came, an almost 2 year old boy. There are no words to describe what we saw and even pictures don’t do justice to the reality. A baby who was starving to death crying quietly in agony, on the doorsteps to death.
As soon as I left him, I started crying. This is not fair. This should not be happening. Honestly, I was sobbing for days, even in front of this family. I just could not stop crying, even after my son asked for prayers for “his mommy to stop crying”. This just broke my heart like no other medical case here in Kovol. He looked like he had HIV or TB or something else serious going on. But we have no testing here. We contacted our doctor for advice, and people around the world for prayers. What shall we do with Kolom? Should we help or are we going to prolong his suffering? We decided to get him to a better place and maybe find out what is happening to his tiny body, since his parents came for help and still had hope.
The parents told us that since right after his birth, he was cachectic. (Having cachexia, physical wasting with loss of weight and muscle mass due to disease.) Then he kept getting lots of infections and had diarrhea most of the time. He never walked or talked. In between sicknesses, he managed to sit at times and ate by himself. The last time he was ‘kind of ok’ was a month ago.
We started him on rehydration drinks, several medicines and cleared his mouth of the oral thrush that covered his whole mouth and lips. Every day we kept getting advice from our doctor on how to help Kolom. There was an opening for taking him to town to a hospital, but for some reason that we don’t know, it didn’t work out for them. We had arranged the flight but the morning of the parents informed us they wouldn’t be going.
Four or five days into treatment and rehydration, Kolom’s cheeks became a little bit fuller and he started kicking his legs. He only cried when he saw us white people =). I can take that. Yesterday (Monday), we sent them home to their village with antibiotics and lots of advice. But we do not know, will he make it? What makes him sick? We really would like to know though if it is HIV, since it would affect other lives also.
So, when the helicopter comes in two weeks’ time to take us out for a break, we should get some supplies for testing and drawing blood as well.
My prayer is, that God will use all this for good and for HIS glory. We would like to see a miracle in Kolom being healed, accepting Christ one day and being part of the church in Kovol. But if not, I pray that his suffering ends soon.