World AIDS Day 2008: Brendan Bannon blog - Day Five

DAY FIVE: 11,622 STORIES

Until today, single themes or powerful stories emerged organically giving me something to explore, photograph and write about. This day was different and I was left with several scattered moments that revealed to me the scope of what is happening here in Homa Bay.

Glimpse 1

I visited Pamela, the head nurse, who sits at a large table in a big room, lined chest high with filing cabinets. As we were talking, people pulled out and returned stacks of files and I became curious. The cabinets were numbered and the numbers climbed from left to right in a circle around the room.

The last number is saw was 11,622.

"There are more files in another room," she told me.

"11,622 human stories," I thought.

"These are the lucky ones," said Pamela. "They can come in for treatment. There are so many more out there in rural areas that don't ever make it here."

Glimpse 2

Earlier in the day, Dr. Eric Aghan, the MSF doctor brought me to see Henry. On Monday we saw him unconscious, comatose from meningitis.

Everyone was afraid and half expected that he would die. He had tubes in his nose and hand.

"Here, when the family sees the tubes go in it's like watching the child being taken to St. Peter's Gate," Dr. Aghan told me.

Yesterday, Henry showed strong signs of recovery and Dr. Wanjala, who works for the the Ministry of Health, removed the tubes. "The patient does his part, we do ours and God does his," he told me.

The boys mother found Dr. Aghan on the ward and called him over. "She said, "Look Henry can eat on his own again!" And when she said it, she was smiling all the way through. "When parents see a child turn back from death, they are very happy- it is a remarkable thing that," she said.

"Without proper care, and if you are in a place where treatment is not available, you would not be looking at a three year old child- you would be looking at another statistic."

"There is no better way to thank the strangers who help MSF here than to show them a child that is still alive," said Dr. Aghan. "People have hope not only for living but for living useful lives; going to school, farming, raising families, working. As doctors we have a way toward happiness. We can properly treat our patients and help our colleagues."

The work continues. In Henry's old bed there are two new patients hooked up to feeding tubes.

Glimpse 3

In the maternity ward, Azel was sleeping in the incubator. She was born 17 days ago to Dorothy, 26 and HIV positive.

When Azel was born, she weighed 1.92 kg.Now She is eating and gaining weight.

Dorothy found out that she was HIV positive when she was three months pregnant.
She told her husband after a few days.

"He accepted the news. He told me it was normal. I told him to go and get tested. He didn't bother."

The MSF doctors told me that when a mother is HIV positive the child will not necessarily contract the virus. The district hospital has a better than average record at preventing transmission, but Dorothy will not know for sure wether the baby has the virus for another 18 months.