I want this blog to be informative and educational. I try to have pictures of all that we do or experience. However, there are some sad things. There are things that I will not ever have pictures of. Most of these concerns are health related - medical or dental.
We have already discussed some of the dental issues. The people rarely brush their teeth. They are badly in need of professional cleanings. If a tooth hurts long enough, they go to the hospital and have it pulled. Many of the people are missing multiple teeth. It is very sad when they are children and young people. There are young missionaries that need to have as many as ten teeth pulled before they go on their missions, These we have personally witnessed. There is no preventative dentistry and very little corrective dentistry. There are some well trained dentists and even some orthodontists here. However, the native people that can access these professionals are very few.
For medical needs, everyone goes to the hospital. It is much like the poor at home that use the emergency room as their primary care. The hospital is not much more than a very poorly run and poorly equipped medical center. Nothing is sterile or even clean. People line up and may be there all day long waiting. There is no one in all of Vanuatu that can culture anything. There are only a few labs that do blood work. Maternity care is practically nonexistent. Even newborns go to an impersonal medical center. They are weighed and registered. That is about all.
A few examples that we have been involved in:
Fredline - she was working at one of the very nice resorts here. She had to deliver an order of strawberries and champagne to a guest room after dark. There was a ditch in the grass that she did not see. She fell and twisted her knee badly. The resort got her to the hospital. There she waited all night. When the doctor saw her, he told her to stay off of her leg and wrapped it with what looked like used gauze. That's right - it probably wasn't even new. Then he sent her home. Home was a long ways away. Thank goodness she was able to call someone to come and get her. We found out about this two days later. We went to see her. We immediately went to the French pharmacy in town to see about elastic bandages or a knee brace. We bought them and took them to Fredline and showed her how to use them. We reinforced the idea that she must stay off of her leg. This is all easier said than done. Remember they do not have indoor plumbing - only outhouses. Several days later she returned to the hospital. They were glad she had the knee brace, but they did not have any to provide for patients that need them. Oh, we also got Fredline an icepack to help with the swelling. Of course, this was only temporary help.
Leku - Leku was expecting her fifth child. She never did go to a doctor. Again, there are some good doctors here but only for the affluent or the expats (those from elsewhere). Leku is a Fijian married to a Ni-Van. She is a fairly large woman and was very large when pregnant. The day the baby was due she was at work and didn't feel very well. A co-worker took her to the hospital. The doctor could not hear a heart beat from the baby. Leku delivered a stillborn baby that day. Apparently, she had not felt the baby moving for about a week. And - the baby was very large - over 10 pounds. I would guess there was some gestational diabetes involved. Anyway, they buried the baby the next day after a short service at home. This is all too common and probably did not need to happen.
By the way, the doctors at the hospital are almost all Chinese. They are sent here on a yearly rotation by the Chinese government.
Now, about some of the really sad things we see. Many of the children have lazy eyes. It is so unnecessary for these children to have this focusing problem their entire lives. This would be caught by any pediatrician and taken care of at home. There are also many people missing limbs. Because of a diet high in white rice, there is a great deal of diabetes. The diabetes goes untreated for the most part. Just like with the dental, no preventative measures, just amputations.
I know that this is so much more negative than usual. I am sorry for that. We do love these good people and wish that life was better for them!!!!!