The land rover is about to pull out of the compound with our health team in the back, lined up on seats like school children on a bus headed for school. They are going to our health clinic in Panthau.
“Please tell Agam that we said hello,” I told Dr. James, a cheerful man and brilliant doctor from Uganda.
“I will,” he promised. “I will send her consolidarity.”
Agam came to our clinic in medical unit in Wathmuan yesterday when we were conducting a nutrition feeding. She sat on the ground outside the building with her legs helpless and swollen to one side. Her eyes were bright and she smiled up at us as the community health worker, her mother, and countless members of the community gathered around to see who at whom all these ‘khwajes’ (foreigners) were looking. She had walked as far as she could and could not walk anymore – even with the help of her mother and we were determining how to get her to our clinic in Panthau which was 16 km away.
“We will drive her,” a nutrition nurse announced finally.
“How long has she had this problem?” our health advisor asked the mother.
“Since she was three,” her mother answered.
“How old is she now?”
The medical assistant suspected that it was a fungal infection that had grown unhindered for years until Agam could barely walk and every step was painful. A fungus. Like athlete’s foot. What we would normally treat with a quick spray from a bottle picked up at CVS or Boots had incapacitated this girl for seven years. There are some things in this world to which you can never reconcile yourself.
“Consolidarity,” Dr. James had said. I thought this was truly the most appropriate and African word I had ever heard. A combination of consolation and solidarity. Without any explanation I knew exactly what it meant. It meant that we were doing more than simply sending our consolation and sympathy; it meant that we standing together with the one whom we are consoling. Because we are here and because we should.