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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tuberculosis at the baby home

Someone mentioned to me that my blogs are getting very heavy.  Each time they read them they feel my pain and sometimes they are just too much to read.  They wondered if many people might stop reading my weekly blog because of I am just making them too sad.   I hope that isn’t the case.  The Swazi people can’t just stop being hungry or sick because it makes them too sad, so I pray that you will continue to read, learn, pray and engage.  We are in a crisis that is only getting worse every day.

It’s winter here, which means its around 45F at night and 70F+ during the day, but we are all cold.  There is a darkness over the country right now that is not allowing light or warmth in to our bones or our lives.    We see fear in the eyes of our people, and it is heartbreaking.  Tears flow freely and there is not a day that I don’t shed more than my share.

As if the worst drought in recorded history wasn’t enough and starvation in every community around the country, we are starting to see the impact that hunger has on sickness.  When people are on anti-retrovirals for HIV/AIDS they must eat properly (including protein) for the medication to work.  They have no food.  As treatment starts to fail, there is an increase in opportunistic infections and diseases … like Tuberculosis.

This past week we learned that several of our Aunties, who live in the baby home and toddler home, tested positive for Tuberculosis.  We do not know yet whether it is drug-resistant or even multiple-drug resistant, but we pray that it is not.  They have been removed from the home for now, but not before they had the chance of infecting other caregivers and children.

Here is the thing.  Anyone and everyone who has been living in Swaziland has been exposed to TB.  They don’t even do the skin test in Swaziland that would show if a person had been exposed because we have all been exposed.  Having a health immune system helps the monster from getting in to our lungs or other organs.

This week I saw fear in the eyes of my own Supervisors as they wondered if they too had contracted this deadly disease.  Some people have active TB (obvious with coughing, weight loss and night sweats), but some have inactive TB.  A sputum test and/or chest X-Ray is how diagnosis is done here, but to make things worse, if a person is HIV positive, it is quite possible for them to have a negative sputum test (even when they have active TB) because their immune system is masking the TB.  A nightmare situation.

On Monday we will start testing the women and children who were most exposed to the infected Aunties.  Because it is impossible to get sputum from an infant, we will do an expensive blood test on everyone (including me) to see what our infection level is.  We pray that we have caught this beast before it has unleashed hell on our Children’s Campus, but even if we have, the battle is not over. 

Meanwhile we are taking further action in the three Chiefdoms surrounding us o see how we can help those in desperate need.  We have assigned a full time Community Support person to go out in the community and assess the situation, starting with the elderly and the orphan headed households.  We will start delivering food and helping where we can, as we can, next week, and this will be in partnership with the local Chiefs and the Community Health Motivators (see last week’s blog).

We have set up an account for Community Support.  If you would like to help us help those in need, please give generously today at this link.  If you would like to help us with the cost of the TB GOLD tests (approximately $36 US each) please click here. 

Links for Canadian donors are:  Community Support  and Emergency Medical Fund.

Thanks for your prayers for all concerned. I will provide an update on the test results in next week’s blog.

Live from Swaziland … praying for health and strength and His provision.


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