Jan 28, 2007

From Marina in West Pokot...

On Friday, a boy died in our vehicle. Twelve, thirteen, who knows, he had been a dark mass at the other end of the field when we arrived in Serewo, a town not far from the bottom of the escarpment. Please, his father had begged, our child is sick, can you take us to the hospital. Of course, of course, but where is he? He pointed to the body covered in a black sheet. A lump.

Epilepsy, they said as they lifted him into the vehicle. The boy’s eyes were half-closed. The whites were showing. The circular mark of a serious blow to his forehead distorted his face, dripping with the crusty remnants of a local herb tincture. He reeked of stale urine.

Moments later, the nurse of the local dispensary asked if we might have room for a 3-year old girl, one he had diagnosed with malaria, but was not responding to the infusions he provided. She is restless, he said. When I saw her thin, anemic face, and the bloody IV line taped to a piece of carton around her wrist, I could hardly blame her.

With only the escarpment to climb before reaching Makutano, we began our journey – but the road reparations made it difficult. Even in 4 wheel drive, the landcruiser spun in place, its wheels caught in the sand. At one point, near the top, the road had been remade into a severely sloped maram track. A truck came the other way, and Eunice steered left, into the sandy slope. So tilted, I was sure the landcruiser would simply fall onto its left side. We got out and Eunice spun the vehicle around and through the sand back into the hard track of the road.

All the while, since I’d been gone a scant 24 hours, and I was just returning to network area, I listened anxiously to the local mechanic tell me that our other vehicle had almost had a serious accident the day before, how even he was shocked to see that the left front wheel had all but come off the vehicle, how could this happen…

He’s dead, Evelyn said. I hung up on the mechanic, mid-sentence, and turned to find the epileptic boy lying as he had been lying since he had been lifted into the vehicle. Only this time, he wasn’t breathing.

The father requested that we drive them to their house instead of the hospital. Of course, of course, but where is it? He guided Eunice down some dirt tracks, not far from where we were – and because the final stretch was over a cornfield, we stopped on the road, and he and the other father lifted the boy from the vehicle, each carrying two limbs. He was heavy. The boy’s head hung backwards, slack. They lifted him into the field and under some shade. The boy’s father turned to answer some queries from a pregnant neighbor; and as she looked at the boy, he walked off to his compound to find other family members who might assist in carrying the boy the rest of the way. Again, the boy was a lump in the field.

Eunice reversed and we returned to the hospital. The 3-year old girl and her family descended and went to check-in (no easy feat on a Friday afternoon). I returned the mechanic’s phone call.

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