For about three months, I've been trying to find adequate treatment for a student's severe case of osteomyelitis. In fact, my last posting was about my student, Joseph.
It has so far been a frustrating endeavor trying to find proper treatment for Joseph. Doctors often don't have the materials or expertise to treat difficult illnesses and even with an appointment, patients often wait hours to be seen by a medical professional.
After all of this time, Joseph's femur is still riddled with infection, pus is still leaking from a bone-deep wound in his leg, and the future of Joseph's life and leg is still uncertain. In x-rays of Joseph's femur, one can see a small bone spur or bone fragment. Today, doctors used a hammer to remove this fragment from Joseph's leg while he remained fully conscious.
Death and disease are common and accepted facts of life in Rwanda. I once witnessed a man dying under the wheels of another bus while on my way to visit the capital city. There was no flurry of activity, no people fluttering about trying to offer assistance or even expressing grief over the loss of a human life. Instead, a small crowd gathered around and watched, expressionless, as the stricken man's death convulsions ebbed into motionlessness. My bus driver stopped our vehicle briefly to converse with the driver of the bus that had hit the victim. I imagine that he was thinking of the other bus driver when he slowly shook his head and chuckled as we drove on. It was as if he was thinking, "Man, you really effed up!" For me, the experience of witnessing that death sheds light on the doctors' attitudes toward Joseph's illness.
In my mind, the doctors seem too ready to acquiesce defeat in this medical matter. They seem resigned to letting the infection run its course, even if that means that my student loses his leg. Tonight, Joseph is lying in a crowded hospital ward with a fellow student acting as attendant since there are no nurses to care for Joseph. In his backpack is the bone fragment that the doctor needed a hammer to remove. It is still covered in blood and bacteria and wrapped in a paper towel.
I'm sitting at my computer trying to figure out how to help a young man who has impressed me with his intelligence, sweetness, and humor, even during difficult times. I'm preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. As my students like to say, "This is Africa."