Saturday, February 2, 2013

HI my name is Bronwyn, and I get what I want

Bronwyn has crazy powers of persuasion. Credit it to her baby blue eyes, three toothed grin or the porcelain white skin – whatever the reason, when Bronwyn’s around, she gets whatever she wants, and by extension, so does the parent holding her. We’ve only used her powers a few times…

The ART clinic (Anti-Retroviral Therapy clinic) at Mansa General Hospital disperses all medicines to people with HIV in Mansa District. The lines are always way too long and the doctors, nurses and admin staff have a way of making people feel like they are an inconvenience. We have been lobbying for years to have a rural ART clinic placed in the Fimpulu area, but bureaucracy, lack of funding and other unknown factors have made it a difficult process.
There are also a lot of rules at the hospital that make things difficult for people traveling into town from rural areas. They only disperse medicine on certain days at certain times. They only see certain kinds of patients at certain hours… And as the ones trying to coordinate and organize 175 people (from our village alone!) to get in to see doctors and get medicine in a timely fashion, dealing with the (seemingly) arbitrary logistics can be frustrating. On many occasions, our people will come out of the hospital and I’ll ask them, “how did it go?” and they’ll tell me that the doctor told them to come back tomorrow because he only sees coughing people on Thursdays, or something like that. Each and every time, I’ll go back into the hospital with that person, explain the situation and how returning the next day is not only a waste of time and fuel, but probably not necessary. Usually it takes a little bargaining, once or twice it has taken actual crying on my part. But for people on ARV medicines, timeliness matters. Adherence matters. Being treated with dignity and respect matters. I do what I can.

But let me just say that this work of advocacy is SO MUCH EASIER WITH A WHITE BABY! It kind of makes me roll my eyes, but it is what it is and I use it to the advantage of the vulnerable ones around me.

ART clinic photo shoot pic 1

The other day a neighbor couple of ours came to visit and tell me their problem. They had been going into the hospital with us every week for the past six weeks to try to open their file – a necessary process for receiving ARV medicines. They weren’t sure why, but the ART clinic was refusing to complete the process, saying that they were lacking information from their hospital where they had started taking the medicines. They had been told to return to that town and get their complete files and then come back to Mansa and finish the process. I looked at the paperwork that the first hospital had sent them with and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what additional information was needed. “I think they are just giving you the run around” I told these friends. They shrugged their shoulders and said that it seemed impossible, and that they wanted to come and work at the farm to raise the money to go to Kasama and collect the paperwork. “You want to work for a month and a half to raise the funds needed to travel 1,600 kilometers to collect paperwork that is not necessary? This is nuts. Why don’t I try to help you.” They questioned whether I would be able to do anything considering the strict rules of the office they had been dealing with. I told them not to worry, that I would go in with them, and that we would take Bronwyn. The couple just sort of looked at me as if to say, “uh, ok.”

ART clinic photo shoot pic 2

The next day we traveled together to Mansa. I walked into the appropriate office with Bronwyn in my arms and our neighbors right behind me. “How’s our baby today!” the office staff smiled and clapped. Bronwyn went to playing with one of them at the computer and I talked to the others. “Our friends here are trying to open some files, but there seems to be a hang up. Can you help?” With Bronwyn cooing and playing and catching everyone’s attention, the ladies looked at her, looked at me and simply said, “Let’s take care of it right now, shall we?” They pulled out a marker, a fresh file folder, asked our friends some questions and the process was completed. I wanted to ask why my request had been granted so quickly whereas the people next to me had been denied for six weeks straight, but I decided not to push my luck. The couple was extremely grateful, thanked me, thanked Bronwyn, got their meds and all was good.

ART clinic photo shoot pic 3

Part of me feels like it really isn’t right – the fact that my skin color and especially the cuteness of my baby gets us whatever we want while other people have to fight for justice. I’m thankful that my child is a Micah 6:8 baby, and I pray that this early heritage grows her into a powerful Micah 6:8 woman! 

ART clinic photo shoot pic 4

And in the mean time, I'm glad these people love her! 

ART clinic photo shoot group shot... they look like they work for a modeling agency, right?

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