Being naive is nice sometimes, isn’t it? I’ll be honest. I get a little bummed when I notice Max’s nappy bin is full. The responsibility to empty it now falls on me. No excuses (okay, maybe a few…); I’m now responsible for avoiding the stench and filth that will inevitably follow.
So often I wish I hadn’t noticed.
People are like that too, you know. Sometimes its a lot easier to go about our business then realise who is around us… who is hurting… who needs our help.
The story below spoke to me – about the individual, about value, about protecting the hurting and about being brave.
The woman you are about to read about has become a hero for me. Because sometimes it takes bravery to reveal who you are and allow others to reject you or embrace you.
This woman has been incredibly vulnerable and my hope in sharing this story with you is in hope that it may penetrate our naivity and stir us to action.
Because we need to hear what’s going on…
We took a 5 hour dingy ride away from Kapuna, where the YWAM Medical Ship was berthed, and arrived in Orokolo Bay (a little bit late mind you, due to our boat getting stuck in the mud but then again that didn’t really surprise me). The ride there was incredible, we went down some amazing water ways that we wouldn’t be able to take the ship down and I felt like I was in the middle of the Amazon.
The morning after we arrived we quickly set up and soon enough started seeing patients. Our very first patient in the Optometry clinic was a lady with a massive bandage over her eye. We sat her down and asked her what the problem was.
She didn’t speak English but her daughter who was with her said that she was hit in the eye 7 years ago. JP, the healthcare worker who was registering her had a puzzled look on her face and wondered why she would still have the bandage on after that long. After peeling away the dressing to have a look, her eyes widened as she saw the edge of a massive wound that closely resembled a flesh eating virus, and said ”Steph, take this lady to primary healthcare immediately.”
I walked her over and after finding out a bit of her history and looking at her medical records we determined she had developed a form of eye cancer.
The sad thing about this is in her medical records it showed that she travelled to Port Moresby 7 years ago (Which costs around 600 Kina and a days boat ride due to no road access from this village. In PNG, most people make less than $1/day so this may mean two years of wages) to get a lesion on her eye checked out.
The hospital dismissed it as nothing more than a sore and gave her some cream and sent her home. As the years went by the lesion got worse and her money ran out. The furthest she could get was to Kapuna, which is only 5 hours away. Kapuna, as advanced as it is for a hospital in the Gulf Province, doesn’t have the facilities to deal with this kind of disease so they once again, referred her to Port Moresby and as urgent as this problem was, she couldn’t afford to go to Port Moresby so she made her way back to her village.
Seven years later, the progression of this lesion is absolutly shocking. What could have been preventable, given proper care and better training in PNG’s biggest hospital, is now threatening her life.
First and foremost, my heart in showing this photo is not to gawk at her misfortune. So please, be respectful. When I asked to take her photo I told her what I will tell you.
“People need to know whats going on. If we get your story and your situation out there, it might help save people in the long run. I want to bring awareness to people in Australia about the lack of adequate healthcare in the Gulf.”
What bothers me most about this whole situation, is there was nothing we could do. and had we been there when it first happened, it could have been an easy fix, but it has now progressed beyond help. If there were proper roads, adequate facilities or even enough finances, this woman’s life could have been saved. Circumstance really does change a lot. And not every story we encountered has had a happy ending
Thank you so much to Stephanie… not only for writing this story and for the gorgeous pictures – but for sharing with ME what is going on. I needed to hear it.