As I mentioned in my previous blog, the Hewa tribe is a very medically underserved community. A missionary nurse is the only trained healthcare provider in Yififiki. The nearest aid post is a 2 day walk, and the nearest hospital a few more than that. Since our team consisted of three doctors, a nurse, and a community health worker, we couldn't very well visit the Hewa and without holding some sort of medical clinic.
Every afternoon when we finished up with the VBA training, Susan and I would go around the corner to the two-room medical clinic that was on the back side of the school. Well, one room was the clinic and the other served as a pharmacy/store room. Susan already knew many of the patients who came to see me, so she was able to provide a little history for their illness. I would ask some additional questions in Pidgin and she translated to and from the Hewa language. My doctor bag contained a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, pulseoximeter, an otoscope and ophthalmoscope. But my most important tools were my ears, hands, and heart!!!
I saw quite a few kiddos with fevers (probably malaria), colds, and very bad ear infections. Untreated otitis is a common cause of deafness among children in the bush. There was a girl with asthma, a woman with pneumonia, and an old papa with COPD. Tobacco and smoke from cook fires contribute to the high number of respiratory illnesses. Musculoskeletal and abdominal pain were also common complaints. And two pregnant women came just for a check-up with the OB doctor!
The most impressive patient that I took care of was a man who had a bad infection in his face. It had probably started as a simple tooth infection. But without access to a dentist or a doctor or medicines, it turned into an abscess that infected the bone and ate a hole into the side of his cheek. We started him on two of the strongest antibiotics that we had available. He was already improving by the time we left a couple of days later!
There were only a few medicines in the pharmacy: amoxicillin, bactrim, CMP, antibiotic eye ointment, tylenol, iron, albendazole, and antimalarials. Yep, that is just about it. Some of meds were supplied by an NGO and a few more were purchased by the Kopfs. We added prednisone, cipro, misoprostol, and ibuprofen to the selection. There was a chalk board on the wall where Susan keeps track of her patients and what exactly they are taking. The Hewa people are not accustomed to medicine and often fail to take as directed. This is a big problem, especially when there is an infection that needs antibiotics. Susan has them come to clinic every day to pick up their supply for that day. That way she can make sure that they complete their treatment.
The biggest medical need in Hewa is actually dental--cavities, broken or rotting teeth, infections. When plans were being made for the trip, Jonathan asked if we might be able to bring along a dentist. Well how about an OB/Gyn who knows how to pull teeth? Allan had learned this very important skill from an oral surgeon in Phoenix. He and his lovely assistant Teresa set up a dental clinic in the bottom of the Kopfs' house. Check out that dental chair! They pulled more than 30 teeth, and even had some repeat customers. This little guy Jius was one of them. What an amazing ministry!