What a week it’s been. Full of challenges, new experiences, both expected and unexpected. It’s hard to figure out how to share with you how things have been going (tough, challenging, incredible, devastating) but that’ll have to wait for now! We’ve seen over 650 patients since we opened our doors March 10th, and our patient counts are consistently increasing week to week. We’re working to bring in more staff in an effort to match the incredible demand our patients are putting on our services.
But today’s story is about Anesie.
We’ve been taking care of her for over two weeks now. Anesie’s wounds are some of the most horrific I’ve ever encountered, yet I count her heart and spirit among the most beautiful things I’ve had the privilege to experience in my life.
Just to warn you, the photos we’ll share with you are graphic in nature, and depict the reality of healthcare and the challenges we face here in Burundi. I’m really sorry to offend or upset any of you. We’ve posted them with Anesie’s permission.
Anesie is 56 years old, a mother and grandmother, currently living close to our clinic here in Gitega. She has given birth to seven children, the youngest of which died three years ago at the age of 4, due to malaria. (If you do that math, it demonstrates the intense need for our family planning program to begin!)
Her surviving children range from 33 to 10 years old. Her husband’s name is Frederic.
In 2000, Anesie was diagnosed with epilepsy, which causes seizures. She had been able to live a mostly normal life with regular treatment and pills, until a terrible accident this past October, 2013.
On that day, her two youngest were playing next door while she tended the fire for the evening meal. When the children noticed smoke and the smell of cooking meat, they ran back to the house to see what their mother was cooking. They found their mother face down in the fire, unconscious after an epileptic seizure.
The children shouted for help, and the neighbours helped to rush her to a small clinic in the local area. When she arrived to the clinic, the only treatment they provided was a phone call to the government hospital, requesting an ambulance. Hours later, she was driven to Kibimba hospital (about 45 minute drive away from where we are), where she stayed from October until just a few weeks ago.
Anesie suffered devastating 3rd and 4th degree burns to her face and forehead, and yet no surgical options were available to her. Simple daily wound cleansing and antibiotics. The hospital released her after determining there was nothing else they could do.
She then visited a priest located in Gitega for treatment. He made a paste, of what we can only guess was made out of honeycomb, dirt, and possibly even feces, and covered her wounds with it. He prayed over her for healing and told her to come back to him in a few days, and gave her unnamed “medicines” for treatment. When Anesie presented back to him with pus pouring out through the paste and down her face, he must have realized he was out of his depth. He put her in his car, and literally dropped her off at our health center gate, driving away before anyone could identify him. By the family’s account, this priest was a white missionary working in the center of town.
After we bandaged her up and gave antibiotics, we drove her to the hospital that evening, not knowing how else we could help her. The government hospital declined to take her, as she did not have enough money up front for her care. Neither did they have the correct medications for her, and many of the hospital staff crowded around us to take a look, and even laugh. Nadine made the decision to take her to her home and instead treat her daily at Shammah. Even if she had been able to pay for the hospital stay, she would have received poor care, and probably would have come out with more infection than she entered with. When we told her our plan to treat her at our health center, she almost jumped off of her bed with shouts of joy.
So we’ve done what we can for Anesie. It took us hours to cleanse the wound of all the mixture that was applied to it, and we began aggressive treatment with antibiotics along with daily dressing changes.
Anesie is an active and loving mother, with two children under the age of 14 to care for still. We have been touched by her affinity for laughter, and her ability to recognize us by our voices when we come to greet her. Over the course of the last two weeks, she’s become a little part of the family here at Shammah Health Center. We’ve seen her infection resolve, her tissues come back to life, and sight beginning to return in her right eye. After careful thought and prayer, we’ve decided Anesie will be the first patient we ever work to fundraise for here at Shammah.
Working with a group of American Doctors who’ve moved to Burundi permanently, we’ve been able to formulate a care plan for Anesie, so we can help her to return to being a loving mother and wife. She and her family have been diligent and faithful in helping to cover her costs as we’ve treated her, but now we need your help to continue this amazing work.
Incredibly, Anesie’s care can continue right here in Burundi, at Kibuye Hospital, where the American doctors work. John, an Ophthalmologist, and Jason an experienced surgeon, will be handling her operations. This coming Tuesday, April 22nd, Anesie will have a series of operations designed to save her right eye and potentially restore some of her sight, prevent further damage to her left eye (the cornea is gone, no hope of restoring sight in it), and perform a procedure on her exposed skull to encourage tissue granulation (growth), so that the site will be able to accept a skin graft. It is our hope and all of our prayers that these procedures will allow Anesie to return to a life where the constant fear of infection and sickness is a thing of the past.
We have partnered with these incredible people to save Anesie. To do this, we are estimating a cost of $2000 USD. This includes the cost of her procedures, what will most likely be more than two months of hospitalization at Kibuye, as well as a budget for a high-protein diet for her, to promote health and recovery. In an effort to save her sight, Kibuye hospital has opted to have her undergo the procedure as soon as possible, in the hopes that we can make restitution as time goes on.
Many of you have asked how you can help in the past, how you can make a difference. Here’s your opportunity. We are going to continue to update you with photos and the progress we make with Anesie. Please pray for this special woman. We’ve gotten used to having her around her the past two weeks, and we’ll miss the sound of her laughter once we transfer her to Kibuye.
Please contact us at email@example.com in order to let us know you’ve made, or want to make, a contribution to her care. We’ll also let you know when we’ve reached our goal. If we exceed it, money that you’ve donated will be kept as part of our benevolent fund, so that in the future, when we meet the next “Anesie,” we’ll be able to do what we can, with what we have.
Thank you for your prayers, your messages of support, and your comments and shares. It blesses Nadine and I, and we read each and every message you send, even if we don’t get the opportunity to respond to it directly. Please keep on showing us love, it helps keep us going as we reach the end of a busy and hectic week like this one.
God bless you so much.
Lots of love from Burundi,