AEP extends reach to health care

If you think the health care system in the United States is difficult to navigate, give Zambia’s a try sometime. As you know, the African Education Program provides scholarships and vocational opportunities, and the Amos Youth Centre offers a safe haven, education, and enrichment for hundreds of Kafue’s children and teenagers. But Mario, Julie-Anne, and company also ensure that the kids’ health and welfare is a top priority. Mwila, age 16, who is sponsored by Susan and Carly’s family, hasn’t been feeling well for a while. She’s had headaches, stomach pain, and dizziness. She even collapsed once and has a strange feeling in her heart. Concerns about Mwila’s health are heightened because sickle cell anemia runs in her family. Her father is dead, and it’s possible that she could have been born with HIV.

Mario and Susan accompanied Mwila to the Kafue Estate Health Centre, one of a couple free clinics in the town. They stayed with her as she waited for two hours in several different lines. To pass the time, Ira played a mini game of soccer using a rock with a few of the kids outside where the line continued. Once Mwila got in the front of the doctor, Susan and then Mario served as her advocate. When the doctor explained she wouldn’t be able to take the HIV test until next Tuesday, Susan and Mario asked all the important questions. It was as if they were standing up for their own daughters.

While the U.S. and Zambian health care systems are both filled with red tape, the U.S. is far ahead in every other way. Mwila and the other patients spent most of their time waiting outside on benches, although they were under a roof. Hygiene control seems to be an afterthought in waiting rooms. In a country raging with TB, you can be assured that more than one raspy cough in the room carried the disease. Vital signs were taken at a table in a room where records were stacked in boxes, and the room included an old examination table that had rips in the fabric.

The doctor said Mwila might need to have an electrocardiogram, which would be given at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.

Mwila handled the day’s challenges particularly well, and Susan treated her to a new pair of shoes at PEP’s (the Zambian equivalent of Old Navy). In addition, Ira spared a few Kwatcha to buy a new Zambian wardrobe since he forgot to pack a pair of jeans and sweater. Our nightly dinner back at the lodge included the nine of us along with Mwila and sisters Precious and Cynthia.

From beginning to end, the day’s events revealed we all care a great deal about each other, whether we’re from American or Africa.