This morning we convoyed over to the new clinic. Things are starting to kick into high gear. We are getting close to the big grand opening. Half of the the morning was spent moving stuff into exam rooms and the other half was spent meeting with the key staff. I have a new found appreciation for the weight of an autoclave. We are trying hard to encourage the new staff to take ownership of their clinic. We want them to start moving into their offices and to start rearranging the stuff the way they want it.
After we got back to Phoenix I went out again and went on a Humanitarian Assistance (HA) mission. We visited the Allahoddin orphanage. Before I describe the orphanage experience I have to mention the trip there. We road with a bunch of Army guys from Alpha Company. I was in the vehicle that they affectionately named, "The Beast." The entire way there they blared a loud and annoying siren. Normally when we convoy somewhere we somewhat blend into the traffic and, for the most, pass by unnoticed. This time everyone made a point of starring at us. There was this weird moment when we were stopped in a crowded market place. There I was wearing my big ski goggles and kevlar helmet peering out of this small, thick, bullet proof window from this heavily armored HUMVEE with a loud and annoying siren blaring. You could just tell that the people that were looking back at me had this strange expression like I was something very foreign to them. I felt like I was a space alien flying in in my little space craft looking out of my window starring at all of the humans. The humans were looking back at me with a strange expression because they had never seen a green alien with a third eye in the middle of his forehead. This was really the first time I felt this way mainly because we were drawing so much attention to our convoy. I am not criticizing the siren, it was actually very effective in moving traffic away, I just have not had that particular experience yet.
The first thing I saw when I pulled into the orphanage was the well that the U.S. installed during one of their previous HA visits. We actually have done a lot for this particular orphanage on previous missions such as painting the exterior of the building and rewiring the building for electricity. When we got there we unloaded all of our supplies. We brought with us a 5-ton truck full of toys, cloths, and blankets. All of the children came out of their dorms and lined up patently in 5 rows. I opened up a bag of jolly ranchers and handed one out to each of the children one by one. We were both studying each others face. We couldn't communicate very well but we were able to exchange smiles and laughs.
I was fascinated because they all had similar skin lesions. A lot of them had very large scars over their faces and really chapped cheeks. I brought over the interpreter who is, of course, also a physician. I asked him about the skin lesions and he said that it was the after effects of having once had Leishmaniasis a disease that is transmitted by sand fleas. Leishmaniasis is something that is extremely rare in the U.S.. As a matter of fact, I have only read about it in books and here 25% of the children at this orphanage have been afflicted with it. The interpreter also said that the abrasions over their cheeks were due to dry skin. I asked him if it was eczema and he said, no, just dry skin. We need to work on getting them some moisturizers.
Take a look at this little girl. No matter how hard I tried I could not get her to smile.
Doesn't it just break your heart. I posted a bunch of pics. There were so many incredible cute kids. I wanted to bring them all home with me. It is so much harder when you have kids yourself. I saw so many little girls that are my daughter's age. The cutest thing was watching them carry the blankets, jackets, and toys back to their rooms. They were so overloaded that they could hardly carry it all.
Today was probably one of my best days in Afghanistan. The quote up top is so true. I am going to try and do more community service when I get home. It truly brings a fulfillment that is unmatched by anything money can buy.
Thanks for reading.