April showers, bring May flowers has never been a more appropriate saying than to describe today. When our Kenyan guides talked about there only being two seasons (the wet and the dry), I wasn’t quite expecting a torrential downpour through the night into the next morning. Holy moly.
Due to the rain, we ended up leaving for the clinic a bit late and it was a slow start to the morning because who really wants to be out in a terrible rainstorm? We did have a small group of people that came to see us in the morning, including this poor boy who was tattered and using a plastic bag as a raincoat. Sabrina got right on finding him some better clothes, and we thankfully were able to pull off a complete transformation. In this case a hat, new tshirts and sweater was all it took!
Vicki and I were given the opportunity to go with Johnstone for a jiggers home visit. What we didn’t realize until we arrived was that we were running a jiggers treatment for an entire community. We were welcomed by the community and said mrembe in return, and then brought everyone needing treatment outside for Johnstone to sort out the severity of the cases.
Then, those needing treatment washed their feet with soap and water, and then got into a bucket filled with the potassium permanganate solution to kill the jiggers and eggs.
Most of the kids were stoic, but a few absolutely bawled. Jiggers used to have to be picked out with a sharp blade, which was quite painful for the host. I think a lot of them still had this idea in their head. Thankfully, this new treatment with the solution is completely pain free. After about 10-15 minutes in the solution, the infected area (typically the feet or hands) are left to dry, and then Vaseline is applied to soften the skin.
Part of what CNFA has done is work to purchase special jigger shoes. These shoes are highly durable, and last up to 6 years. They are adjustable as well, to allow the child to continue wearing them as their foot grows. Each pair costs approximately $20, and we were able to bring 50 pairs over for this mission. Our hope is that next year we can bring even more so that we can continue putting shoes on all the children in need!
Part of these community outreach visits are in home follow up, to see if the homes are being properly cared for to prevent jiggers from spreading or returning. This is done by frequent sweeping to eliminate dust (more dust=more jiggers) and using chemical disinfectants to keep the home clean. On our way to visit an elderly couple in the community, we ran into them walking back to their home. The woman was so weak that she could barely walk, to the point where Vicki and I ended up almost carrying her to her home.
Her husband told us that she is weak because they had not eaten today, and may have only eaten once that week. We ended up spraying the house with a chemical mixture, as well as a bug killer, and provided them with supplies to continue this. The community outreach workers did some health teaching and education on jigger prevention, and would be back the next week for follow up. We also left some water, and instructions for the husband to get her drinking.
Another house we visited was so run down that there were holes in the roof. The elderly woman had just lost her husband two months prior to jiggers “in the spine”. If left untreated, jiggers can often prevent secondary infections, sepsis and death, and we were told this is what probably happened to the woman’s husband. Her bed was a wooden couch with two cushions.
Again, we sprayed chemicals over all of the floors, gave her a bottle for upkeep and provided education on how to use the chemicals and prevent re-infection with jiggers.
This was rural Kenya: dirt roads, mud houses and rags. Never had I seen so many people living with so little. Yet, people so grateful to be alive and so inclusive to strangers coming in to their communities. It was devastating and inspiring. We are trying so hard to make a difference.