The Wana Duma/Milgis Medical Fund, like Wana Duma Children's Project, began with a "simple act of kindness". Going back to 2003 on a safari with Helen Douglas-Dufrense (Milgis Trust) in the Northern Frontier of Kenya, we came across a child in need of surgery so she could walk.
The next year it was a warrior who had lost a leg and needed a prosthetic limb. Samburu walk. They can (and DO) walk for miles and miles in the remote bush each day. That is their way of life. There are no cars or bikes to get around. There are no typical neighborhoods or infrastructure we think of in the west. The loss of a leg often equals the loss of the will to live.
From there, each year brought with it a different need, another emergency. The need is simply too great to say “no”.
I sit under the Samburu night sky, with a sweet fire glowing, a glass of red wine by my side. Life appears to be so perfect and yet we are surrounded by so. much. pain.
Tonight, I'm reflecting on when we "officially" started the Medical Fund...It was here in Ngirinit (where the previous stories have been written) 4 years ago. I was fortunate to attend a Samburu wedding of a Warrior, soon to be an Elder. I had watched this man grow up from the time he was a young teenager just before joining his age mates in the moran warrior class. It was a fantastic event and I was honored to be able to attend.
Helen, Pete and I were on our way back to the airstrip to fly back to camp when the husband of a young wife begged us to stop and help. He said she was paralyzed from a fall outside their hut. In reality she had ruptured a couple disks. We left her in as much comfort as we could and promise of getting her to a hospital immediately for treatment. In this remote region a trip to the hospital is only possible by small private plane or a 12+ hour drive over bumpy bush roads. These options are far from ideal and often WAY too expensive for those whose wealth is measured in cattle not money.
We no sooner walked out of her compound after getting her settled then another neighbor came rushing over asking us to come check his wife with enlarged neck. This growth turned out to be thyroid cancer. Both of these ladies are doing great now and back to their normal Samburu way of life. Sadly, during this last trip to the area we were overwhelmed with new cases to be able to go greet them.
Helen organizes all transport and medical treatment to get these people out of this remote area to treatment sites. I help with the funds needed for treatment and costs associated with transport including stays in the hospital.
From these two initial cases many more have followed. Medera-derafoot (a fungal/bacterial disease mostly isolated in this area) manifests like gangrene. To stop the bacteria, the foot, leg or hand needs to be removed. Prosthetic limbs are a life changer for the very active Samburu!
Thyroid cancer or goiters also seem to hit this area hard. Other cases of tumors and facial deformities, serious burns and snakebites all need attention. It comes down to quality of life. Witnessing ways you can save someone’s life or, at the very least, make it more bearable is incredibly satisfying.
Even when I'm just staying up in Helen's camp on the hill, the word gets out quickly and they start to line up. Many we can help with simple over the counter ointments and drops that ease their discomfort. Anything more serious is sent to clinic or hospital miles away.
Now the burden has become too much for us to carry by ourselves. I am now reaching out to those interested in assisting with our medical program. You are needed now more than ever. Photos and stories are available, some posted with this blog. We have a young child with eye cancer facing many surgeries ahead of her. A young boy, whose genitals failed to form outside his body, is living with open sores in a very unsanitary environment. Sweet Lucy who was born with her bladder outside her body is now ready for her second surgery.
Really the list is endless and the need is great.