Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Season

We have just returned from a short "get-away vacation" in South Africa. It was good for both of us, although the last two days were spent shopping for the hospital, and then returning through the border post at Beit Bridge. It is always such a stress for me, because one has to "bribe" your way through, and then you always worry about being stopped and in trouble because of the bribes. Still, it seems to be "a way of life now" and so one has to accept it. I also worry about carrying a lot of money, which is necessary to be able to have the funds to get the necessary supplies in Zimbabwe. One hears about being robbed while on the road, so I am always very thankful when we finally reach our home at the hospital.

Easter is such a time of HOPE for all of us, and especially all of us in Zimbabwe. The "Unity Government" has now been functional for about two months, and we do see gradual but certain progress. There are also many roadblocks being put up by "those in power," but the hope is that they will gradually lose their power and the people who really want to see progress will prevail. Our staff are fairly well satisfied with salaries of US $100 per month for each and every one of them, and then an additional amount which is dependent on their position. That amount ranges between US $30 for the lowest paid to about $550 for the doctors. It is at least a start, and the Finance Minister has vowed that the country would "live within its' means." They actually do not have much choice, since the Zimbabwe currency has now been declared "void for one year." Since the government cannot print currency, they have to live with what they obtain in taxes in US dollars or South African Rand, OR with what they get in donations. Supplies in stores are gradually increasing, and the prices are slowly decreasing since the first of January. The first time in ten years (or maybe forever) that there has been "negative inflation." I read that inflation for 2008 was 6.5 QuinDecillion NovembDecillion percent -- that is a 65 followed by 107 zeros! It is impossible to describe what that means in everyday living.

Returning to see patients on the Women's Ward is therapeutic for me! It gets me back to "reality." Only 20 women today, but they were all new to me, so it took quite a while. Lots of really sick women; still many with HIV related illnesses. I am hopeful that in the next two years, we will be able to start nearly ALL of the HIV people on Anti-Retroviral Treatment, who meet the criteria for treatment. This should greatly reduce the number of severely ill HIV patients in the hospital. It has already had a huge impact, in that the number of in-patients has decreased from an average of about 120 to 140 patients per day, to under 75 patients per day. One of the patients today had an x-ray which showed a partially collapsed lung and some fluid. She is HIV negative, and I had her in the hospital a bit over a month ago, with what appeared to be TB. However, now she is more ill, and has this very abnormal x-ray. I took her to the small operating room, and put a chest tube into her left chest, and got pus plus lots of air. I think she most likely now has a very chronic condition that is most likely NOT going to get better with the chest tube. I am hoping that some strong antibiotics will make a difference.

Hope, Faith, Prayers is what we all need, so please do keep all of us in Zimbabwe in your prayers.

God Bless.