Monday, April 15, 2013

The soft spot

At the beginning of last week, one of the health workers presented a critical health topic in a culturally relevant way during our morning devotional time. It was primarily planned for the large group of women currently participating in our work-for-food program.

So what was the topic? Malaria? HIV/AIDS? TB? Nope. The critical topic of choice was--the baby's "soft spot" (fontanel). The question was, "What changes in a baby's soft spot do we worry about? What affects it?" There is quite a bit of preoccupation with the baby's soft spot and whether or not it bounces, and if it does, how quickly it does, and to what depth, etc.

The first, bold person to answer was a lady who said, "Vomiting or diarrhea." A few others nodded.
Then an older woman said that when the soft spot goes down, that's dangerous and the child could die but a traditional healer can help. Many more nodded their heads this time. Someone else suggested that that in this event, mom should have being taking "preventive measures" by massaging the roof of the baby's mouth with oil. "If she doesn't do this and the child becomes sick, the traditional healer will administer a mixture of oils and herbs or salts to then rub into the roof of the mouth, and administer an infusion of roots and herbs for the child to drink, to heal and control movement of the soft spot." There was much nodding of heads after this comment.

After several others also contributed their ideas, the health worker went on to explain that a sunken soft spot indicates dehydration, and the danger that results from vomiting, diarrhea, and even fever. And that while the parents run quickly to the traditional healer to identify what evil spirit has caused this and how to appease it, the evil itself is the very diarrhea that is dehydrating the child. He went on to explain the critical importance of re-hydration, especially in infants. Everyone sat in rapt attention--surprised that there would be such frank discussion on the cultural practice of seeking help from traditional healers whose main purpose is identifying evil spirits during illness. Everyone sitting there in rapt attention also heard the message about dehydration and life-saving re-hydration. They have also joined us for several weeks of devotions so far, and prayer, as always followed the morning's discussion.

A mom, examining an image related to the lesson.
After our prayer time, I was swamped with quite a few immediate needs but couldn't help but catch out of the corner of my eye how, as everyone dispersed, one woman with a baby on her back came to the center of the circle and knelt down to be prayed for. A man, I didn't even notice just who it was at the time, saw her and came immediately to talk to her. Then he laid hands on her and prayed for her while everyone else milled busily around coordinating the day's and week's work. There was a certain sense of wholeness in that instant, but it was brief because I also was absorbed with milling around trying to tend to sick people and coordinate the health workers for the day's and week's activities.

As that day unfolded, it held its fair share of challenges. But this was one of the high points.

No comments: