Our experience thus far in Malawi has been a rewarding one, however we have learned many lessons and faced hardships along the way. A patient we have been working with closely is facing a progressive neurological condition that has left her unable to live independently and take care of her family. The first encounter we had with her she appeared to be very sick and sad about being in the hospital, away from her home and family. Each day we accomplish more and more with her and the joy she expresses through each task completed is very rewarding for us. Each patient in the hospital is required to have a caregiver with them to take care of daily necessities such as bathing and cooking. Since many of these patients share rooms with one another, that space is turned into a small community consisting of the patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers all with the common goal of getting their family member home.
Yesterday started off as a challenging day as we all were exposed to the reality of severe malnutrition and it’s effect on a child and her family. Malnutrition is a reality in Malawi faced by many people in the community so much that in the pediatric ward there is a section dedicated to malnutrition. This ward focuses on putting the children on a feeding plan and getting them back to their optimal nutritional level. One of the aspects that we found was most challenging is the length of time it takes before a child is admitted to the hospital whether it be a lack of resources or a gap in understanding. It is obvious that all of the mothers love their children and their condition is not a reflection of their inability to provide proper nutrition.
Despite the many challenges faced in this Malawian community, the people and the culture here is so positive that they not only bring joy to themselves but all of the people around them including us. Pictured below are some of the patient’s caregivers, who enjoyed teaching us some of the common greetings. It is refreshing to hear laughter knowing how much these families go through on a daily basis.