Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Disease in Nicaragua

Wow!  As if the poorest countries in the middle of the earth don’t have enough with which to deal, NOW we have chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye)!  Chikungunya is another mosquito-borne virus that showed up in Tanzania in 1952.

The virus is carried by the mosquitoes that come out during the daytime like the dengue virus carrying mosquitoes.  It is often confused with dengue.  The main symptoms are fever and joint pain that can last for as long as 12 months though that is unusual.  Sometimes the joint pain can be severe.  Other symptoms that might accompany the virus are vomiting, diarrhea and rash.

“Doblarse por el dolor” or “bent by pain” is a common description of the disease.  In August there were 5,000 documented cases in Nicaragua.  I suspect that has increased.  The virus is certainly in Ciudad Sandino. Many of our staff have had it including Pat, Becca and her two girls. 

The symptoms can last from 2-12 days and there is no treatment, only easing the symptoms.  The only prevention is to avoid getting bitten by the little pesky mosquito (bug spray), though researchers are close to finding a vaccine.

The Ministry of Health is trying to contain the virus through spraying in communities.  Our clinic is treating the symptoms of many patients.  Unfortunately for many, they return with recurring joint pain for several months and this takes additional resources to buy medication.  Sometimes the joint pain is severe enough that people cannot work.

Chikungunya is not by-and-large a seriously dangerous disease, though if someone who is weak or has a compromised immune system, it is deadly.  It is considered a tropical disease that many doctors in the U.S. or Europe know little about, BUT with climate change is spreading north…there are cases in Northern Italy, France and in the United States.  Chikungunya came to the Americas through travel from the Caribbean.

Chikungunya is just another example of how it is crucial that we work globally to limit climate change and to treat diseases together, develop vaccines, and care about the sick in the poorer nations. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.” -- Kathleen

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

While You Were Away

While Mike and I have been away, those of the international staff left behind have been stressed and greatly over-worked.
Here in the States, Mike continues to work hard.  He has been on the phone, Skype, and email a great deal talking to buyers and coordinating the agricultural component of the CDCA.  Unfortunately we thought we were only going to be in the States 5 days, so much of the information that he needs is still in Nicaragua. 

Becca is busy with her commitments with Las Lobas, social media, fundraising, showing other groups around, getting ready for her October speaking tour in Oregon and Washington etc., but without us she is now also busy running to and fro with  the organic cooperative COPROEXNIC, getting answers for Mike, helping to organize the two large medical brigades coming that I usually do, and all the bits and pieces that Mike does.
 Sarah who maintains the data base, keeps all the records of donations, runs lots of errands, works to keep the computers up and running, fundraising, etc,. was also gone on her speaking tour in Texas leaving the office more stressed.  She filled out the 990 form, a mammoth job, without our usual help running interference so that she could concentrate.

Kathy, who keeps the books takes care of Nicaraguan government and legal aspects of the work, has not had Sarah in the office working beside her.  Pat has been doing vision checks all by herself without Becca to help her, plus her usual therapy work, and she's also now helping the clinic staff with daily problems that arise.  Both have assumed more of the day-to-day running of the cooking and other household chores. 
Daniel, the volunteer coordinator, is doing government permission paperwork for those medical brigades I mentioned and on top of that is also coordinating auto leasing, obtaining better internet for cheaper, and helping to fix computer glitches.  Claudia is our legal representative while Mike is away.
And though they are missing us, they could not handle it all without the national staffJosefa runs the clinic like clockwork.  Since we have been away she has hired and oriented two new clinic staff members (an ob/gyn and a lab technician).  She has taken over reporting to ORPHANetwork as well as other tasks that I did.  With her, the clinic staff will be ready for the two medical brigades and their work will run smoothly. 
Construction and maintenance is a breeze with Rogelio and his crew, but Rogelio was off work for a week after cataract surgery.  Rogelio is a font of knowledge of where to locate what is needed and will search far and wide for the best price, he was greatly missed during his sick leave.

Diana and her crew manage all the hosting details: menus, supplies, cleaning, preparing food, etc.  With them, hosting delegations with fewer people is doable, even without us…not preferable, but doable.
César, the project’s director, continues the work of COPROEXNIC, community development, and problem-solving.

We are anxious to come home and work side-by-side with amazing people.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Burying Children

On September the 12th, my sweet, dear brother died at the age of 58 from cancer.  His death follows about 5 weeks after my father died which followed 3 weeks after all of the family worried sick about me.

My family is brokenhearted.
  There is an under current of sadness always moving just beneath the surface while we get along with day-to-day chores.  My mother is strong and at the same time devastated from having lost her son so soon after losing her husband of almost 62 years.

Losing both my father and brother close together has been really difficult for me as well…but at the same time I am thankful that I have had my family intact because most of the people with whom we work have not had that luxury.

I am 61 years old and am fortunate, blessed.  Until seven weeks ago I had both parents and my two brothers.  My husband and all the children are alive and healthy.

This is not true for most Nicaraguans.  Here are a few examples:

Doña Conchita has lost children, her husband, and a grandchild.

Rogelio in his early 50s, just a few weeks ago buried his mother.  Last Christmas he buried his father. Since we have known him, he has also buried four of his brothers.

Also in the last month, Pedro at a similar age buried his brother.  Two years ago he buried his son.  

People comfort Mama by saying “No parent should out-live their children.”  I agree.  I cannot imagine burying one of ours, yet, parents do outlive their children all over the world.
Almost 10 million children worldwide die before age 5 die each year from preventable and treatable diseases.   This number does not include children who die from accidents, abuse, wars, armed conflicts, guns, or non-treatable diseases like cancer.   
All these children had mamas and daddies who had to bury their little ones. 
Watching my brother waste away at such a rapid rate, I realized once again that life is precarious for all of us…especially the world’s poor.  I also reclaimed that life is precious…extremely precious…and with that knowledge comes the responsibility to treasure life and, as much as possible, try to prevent more parents having to bury their children.