Monday, February 22, 2010

Leaving the OPD building and meeting Paul

In order for patients to get into the OPD building, they have to have gone through the "line." They have stood in line, paid their fees, been screened by a nurse, and let into the waiting area only when there turn is about up. The OPD building is somewhat of a safehouse (not that we are in danger) amidst the crowds of people who come to be seen everyday. Leaving the OPD building during the day isn't often as simple as it should be. The pharmacy is not 10 feet from the side entrance of the OPD building, but it is also where lots of people are waiting. Some are waiting to pay their fees for blood tests or xrays, some are waiting for meds from the pharmacy, some are waiting on family members who are being seen, and some are just waiting and watching and doing nothing. Although just waiting, they often would like you to help them or write another medicine for a family member who isn't there, or someone who didn't pay the fees, etc.
This morning when I went to the pharmacy to find a medicine, a man quickly came up to me and started talking to me. At times I am able to just keep walking and avoid these sideline consultations, but he had me cornered. He started asking me about his son who broke his arm and needed care. I wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying, nor did I want to really know since I was in the middle of doing something else, so I asked for his scalebook (clinic book with the pt's medical information in it). The scalebook is the way for me to know what has happened to him today, who he has seen and what has been ordered. His scalebook was empty, he hadn't been in the line, hadn't paid any fees, and hadn't been seen by a nurse. He was asking me if he could just pay money so I would see his son now and he wouldn't have to wait - sorry. As I handed him back his scalebook, I told him he needed to go through the line like everyone else and I made a quick dash to get back inside the OPD building.
Before I got inside, I noticed a man who looked familiar, but I wasn't really sure who he was. I have seen a lot of patients since I first came here and can't recognize most of them, or tell you their names, but there are some I do know and recognize. As I was looking at him trying to figure out who he was, it was obvious that he recognized me and my eye contact with him gave him the invitation he needed to approach me. I quickly opened his scalebook to
help me know who he was and then it all came back to me. Despite having just told the last guy they needed to go through the line, I quickly ushered Paul into the clinic (justifying this by knowing that he has paid the 200K chemo fee, so he doesn't pay fees anymore).
Paul had gained about 10 lbs since I had seen him 7 months previously. He has lymphoma that was diagnosed in Port Moresby and treated with chemo a few yrs ago. He is from our area and so he came to us after he started to have recurring symptoms. I started treating him with chemo about 1.5 yrs ago. The cancer is in his chest and thus he has suffered from severe chest pain and difficulty breathing. It had been so long since I had seen him, I had written him off as having died (we often don't know that patient die, but just assume so when they don't come back for followups). But he wasn't dead, he was very much alive and had been doing well until only 2 wks ago when he started to have some swelling and difficulty breathing. We talked some and he said he wanted to be treated again. What a joy to see him and to know that God had been watching out for him for these past 7 months without medicines. I guy I thought had died, is very much alive and wants to keep living and fighting - Praise God.