Last night at 4am I thought I heard mice or other creatures rummaging around in our living room. But it turned out that it was just Lacy and Hannah having a cheese sandwich party – they couldn’t sleep! So, naturally I joined them as who can pass up a cheese sandwich at 4am? But, I knew this was going to mean a LONG day today. We started the day at 7am and were finally done at 6pm, aka right now. The girls and Ty are all sleeping soundly already as I write this blog.
We started the day with a tour of one of my favorite places in Swaziland, Baylor Pediatric HIV clinic (Thank you Dr. Rachel!!) where I worked when I lived here in Swaziland many years ago. They recently received a World Health Organization grant to build a large tuberculosis clinic. In Swaziland 80% of HIV positive victims have – or have had – TB in their lifetime and it has manipulated into very dangerous multi & extreme drug resistant forms. But now they no longer have to send samples out to be tested, they can do it in house and can even determine ahead of time whether a patient has a resistant strain thereby foregoing wasting precious drugs and patients’ sometimes limited lives. Just last month Dr. Rachel said there were 2 TB drugs and 7 HIV drugs that were experiencing shortages throughout the country! In the meantime patients go without and typically end up developing resistance. A huge problem not uncommon in Africa.
I almost wept for joy before I knew it was too good to be true. Swaziland was able to apply for a 3rd line of ARVs. Right now when a patient like Mazwi has been on ARVs since birth, they usually have 5-8 years per line for the first two lines before they become resistant. This depends a lot on adherence (how well they take the drugs on time every day) and other biological factors like presence of opportunistic infections. If Mazwi were to become resistant to the 2nd line drug he is taking now, he’d simply die. Although there are over 23 other drugs in the states that could save him, in Swaziland he would eventually succumb to some infection - or even the common flu - and his immune system would perish. Dr Rachel told us today that they are able to apply to an outside organization for a 3rd line treatment for patients. I almost passed out with relief thinking Mazwi could have another 5-8 years, until I heard her say that only 1 Swazi patient has survived long enough to actually get it. The process of receiving it is quite long. The patients have to prove they are resistant to the other lines and that they will tolerate the new drug well. This process takes 3-4 months and in the meantime, the positive child, without treatment and already failing from resisting the other drugs is most likely to die. Dr Rachel said she’s seen it quite often but is hopeful that eventually 3rd line drugs will become readily available to Swaziland without this lengthy process.
Today we delivered, cooked, and served food to 630 eLangeni Primary school students (Thanks Mitali/FOODOM!). Monday school lunches are hard for me to witness. The kids are eager, wide-eyed, and often cruel pushing the smaller students out of line in front of them to get to the lunch faster. It’s an ugly experience when these kids who are typically the nicest and caring in the world become mean. But then you realize it’s because they haven’t eaten since school lunch on Friday and you realize that for some of them, this small amount of rice and beans is seen as the crucial bridge to energetic life from their long foodless weekend of walking dead. Once everyone was served, they seemed to immediately return to the loving, giving, amazing children I know them as. What a difference a little rice and beans make!!
Next Sizo our songbird took the girls on a tour of our eLangeni Secondary School while Ty and I delivered food to Mduduzi and Mbhami – our newest sponsored orphans (Thanks Mitali!). These are OVCs who were homeless but very talented in school!! Our highschool head teacher Edward found them, took them under his wing, gave them a place to sleep at the school and asked our assistance to help with their school fees. These kids are absolutely incredible. They sleep together on a classroom floor without complaint as they said they have electricity to study at night. I asked the boys if they needed anything else and the younger one replied that he would like some colored pencils or paints as he loves art (Kait, I cannot wait for you to meet him in May – he’s so great!).
Tomorrow is another long day starting early in the morning. We’ll be spending the day in Malindza with our 3 highschool girls and our one new Malindza Village boy. I haven’t met the boy, Mpilo, yet and I cannot wait to do so! His parents died a few years ago and since then he’s been a dropout because he’s had no one to pay for his fees. He is finishing high school this year thanks to GHFP donors and was so excited to return for his final year. I look at these kids and marvel at how resilient they are. None are bitter. I’ve never heard “why me?”. They are simply kids working hard to make their footprint in this world. And in the meantime they have left indelible footprints on my heart.
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