Yesterday as I drove through a neighboring village on my way home from Milot hospital, Brother Borell flagged me down with a finger wag and a nod, which I was to understand, meant “stop”.
After the usual pleasantries and inquiries about family and children and the wellness of them all, he says, “Sister Christina, my brother’s son, Grey, is very sick. He has high fever and pain in his bones. It’s the virus. We don’t know what to do.”
Litzner, aka “Gris” (Grey, in Creole) is a young boy in our community of Lagossette. He is the son of a poor farmer who works the ground next to our compound, and whose wife who works in the laundry pavilion here at COTP.
While you might notice his labored walk and awkward crutch use as his palsied body moves along the dusty roadside on his way to school, you are more likely to take note of his flashy smile and cheeky spirit. If he has limitation from his crippled form he’s not about to admit it in his face. He is full of life despite his daily struggle against the movements of his own body. But as I step through the open doorway of his stick woven house, none of that life is observable as he lays on a simple, clean, reed mat on the ground. His eyes are open but dulled with pain. His forehead glistens with the sweat of his fever, and his parents wear the tired worry in their shoulders and brows of those who love but have nothing else to give. He appears to have Chikungunya, the mosquito-borne virus hitting Haiti and the Dominican hard right now. He father says he has already been sick for a couple of days and they do not know what to do to help him. They cannot afford to seek medical care. They cannot afford a bottle of Tylenol to help ease the pain and fever he suffers from. They cannot afford to build a house to better shelter him, so they pray and apply the traditionally known leaves and herbs to try to alleviate his illness.
There is not much more I can do for them, but I listen, and pray, and then I take his mom back to my place and give her some acetaminophen in a little bag with careful instructions for how to take them and not to take more than instructed. They are so grateful for this small thing that I feel ashamed not to do something more. A dollar’s worth of off-brand Tylenol and sympathy… that is all I have to give right now.
Almost every day I hear similar accounts from friends and people I know from our village or towns nearby. A family member is sick with “virus Chikungunya” — a father, a wife, a child. And I pass out my little oval tablets from the big bottle that never seems to run dry. When life is already hard in this place, I want to do something to show those around me that I care about their added burden. Perhaps the bottle of Tylenol is just a good reminder for me of Mother Theresa’s God-filled words to “do small things with great love”.
According to the CDC, Chikungunya began in West Africa in 1952 and has sickened people worldwide since then. Only recently has it made it’s way to the Caribbean and not to Haiti and the Dominican Republic until 2013. For most people symptoms develop 3-7 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Primary symptoms are high fever (102 F) and joint pain for 3-7 days. Other possible symptoms are headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash. In some people, joint pain can continue for months to a year. People at risk for more severe illness are those who compromised health, underlying health conditions the very young, and the older adults (over 65).
Here at COTP increased groundskeeping including mowing and restructuring drainage as well as spraying of the grounds is being done to help prevent exposure to the virus. Even so 3 people on the compound have gotten it thus far.
If you would be willings, I would appreciate prayer for our community and compound and that God would be glorified even for those who afflicted with this rough disease.
Written by, Christina Vander Pol
Check out her blog here – Provoked