Very very fine despite the thing – A patient encounter
“When are you going to find a cure for this thing?” the mother asked softly, leaning forward. Her elbows came to rest on the fabric of her traditional red, white and black skirt, patterned with images of Swazi shields and King Mswati III’s.
The word “thing” is actually quite fitting, I thought. An appropriately nebulous term, a vague, generic word that could refer to any‘thing’, especially those one of those things that one hesitates to actually name, one of those taboo-laden nouns that sound and feel better when muttered euphemistically.
In Swaziland, the thing is often spoken of in nicknames and whispers, and the whisperers are nearly always terrified.
They are terrified because they believe that it is deadly, cure-less.
“I have no idea whether we are going to find a cure for this thing any time soon,” I confessed. “But, there is good treatment...today.”
“I know!,” the mother proclaimed. “When you were not here, I thought I would lose my child.” Her eyes glimmered and then lifted from their downward gaze and met mine. “Now with the clinic she is fine. Very very fine.”
I looked at the child sitting in the chair next to the shiny-eyed, beaming mom.
She looked fine indeed, no longer skeletal, dull-eyed, with a mouth full of cottony thrush, no longer how she was before the thing had been outwitted by an combination antiretroviral pill taken twice daily.
Her gray and maroon school uniform was clean and carefully pressed, her chin upright.
She had a smiley face sticker on her forehead, the preferred place for colorful adhesives after having blood drawn here in Swaziland.
“Let’s keep you healthy until the cure exists," I suggested to the child.
“Yes, doc, let’s do it,” the mother chimed.
“Don’t miss any doses, ‘kay?” I said to the young girl.
“I will not.”
“She never does,” the mother said proudly, beaming again.
Labels: Patient encounters