Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bairo Pite Clinic

Timor is a very humbling place. The people are so beautiful and friendly. The weather is sticky (its wet season), and unforgivable. The food is amazing. After walking around Dili for a day, being showered with 'Malay! Malay! Mister! Foto!', you kind of feel like escaping the heat and humidity with a shower. There is something wrong with the pipes at the moment, and the water pressure is close to nil. The water is cold at night. And you think to yourself... 'Shit'. Then you think 'about 50 metres from where I will sleep tonight is a cemetery where half the residents are children. Almost half the kids in the country are malnourished. A wage of $5USD a day is pretty reasonable'. Then you think 'this shower is pretty much awesome'.

Over the past few days, I have been at the Bairo Pite Clinic. It is run by Dr Daniel Murphey, or as he is famously known in Dili (and around the world), Dr Dan. Dr Dan has been in Timor-Leste since it was occupied by Indonesia in 1998. He set up his clinic in an abandoned Indonesian clinic catering to the needs of the Indonesian military. Initially, his patients consisted of a daily tide of gunshot wounds with modern high velocity weapons. These weapons would destroy the flesh around the penetrated area, leaving limbs shattered, and people as amputees.

Times have now changed, and Dr Dan cares for an array of tropical diseases, and what he calls 'general human disease'. He shrugs off what he has done as and is a man of action who does not let bureaucracy or administration get in the way of his work. Everything is donated from around the world. His carpark has an ambulance donated by Red Crescent Kuwait. His medications are sourced from obscure, grey, sources.

Meeting his patients was quiet difficult. I followed Dr Dan on his daily visit of the wards in his hospital. The buildings often have cracked, peeling walls filled with donated beds (not necessarily of the hospital variety, but whatever he can get his hands on). The first patient who I had met was a lady who was pregnant (with what I would later be told were twins). Her husband sat by her bed, as she listened to Doctor Dan (Who is fluent in Tetun). I asked him if she was just suffering from malnutrition (her arms looked quiet thin). He replied Rhumatic Fever, a disease which attacks the valves of the heart. Giving birth would place her at significant risk of death.

Today, a young lady saw that I had a camera and asked I come and take photos of her children. I willfully complied as she had explained in Tetun that she had given birth to twins. She picked up her children, propped them next to each other with a soft toy and some clothes. She looked like any new mother should. Proud as punch. I am not really a fan of the posed photos, however, I really didnt mind. She asked if she could have a copy, which I said I would bring on Monday. Dr Dan came in shortly after on his ward run and picked up the children, both of which he explained were a month old and not putting on any weight. He said that they had been treated for TB for almost a month now, indicating they were not suffering from the leading killer in Timor Leste. The next option, he said was HIV testing.

It is a fairly tragic place, and preventable disease associated with poverty is rampant. Thankfully people like Dr Dan are around.

Unfortunately I can't load any photos. The internet here is terrible. When I get home...

Mat - Out

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