Oh, her lungs!

Yesterday we spent the morning filming at the health clinic. I believe Karla has chronic lung problems, but here it’s being treated on a case-by-case basis. She often has colds or bronchitis, and produces a lot of slime causing coughing fits which are extremely painful to witness. She’s ill again, so we went to the doctor.

For the first time they are giving her injections (in combination with other treatment) to get rid of it. I had never seen this and know so little about medicine that I can only suspect it is some kind of a horse remedy. The doctor also insisted she be in clean air, avoiding dust (although they clean regularly, there’s an incredible amount of windy sand dust in the neighborhood they live in), smoke (they cook outside on a wood fire which produces a lot of smoke and makes the pots and pans go blacker than black), contamination (I can’t even begin to tell you the stuff that some of the vehicles spit out here) and other risks (yesterday for quite a while  she was only 15 centimeters away from the aggressive smell of glue). It’s somewhat hopeless, really.

I believe it is chronic because she was born underweight (2040 gr) and most-likely before her due date. Her lungs have always been a problem. I’m afraid though that, unless there is a systematic change in the way she lives, she’ll just keep dragging this around for the rest of her life. And that change depends a lot on her mother, and their economic capabilities.

It makes me realize over and over again that poverty is the evil of all evils, because it generates a host of secondary problems which are often trapped in vicious circles. Sujeylin cannot change the way they live. First, she pretty much lacks the education to consider that there might be an alternative (she’s smart and knows how she could sustain herself, but I think she believes she’s in the best quality home she’s lived in all her life). She’s simply living her life the way she knows it. Lack of education is a poverty related problem. Then, even if she wanted to do something, she lacks the means to make changes. She couldn’t move to another home. Or one better protected from dust, or for instance with a kitchen operating on butane gas…

All throughout the making of this film I have learned a lot about the effects of poverty. When you live hand-to-mouth, like so many people here, it’s like a stone around your ankle which keeps on drawing you back. Lack of means creates a negative domino effect on many fronts, and it’s not simply a matter of receiving more money. It’s something which envolves your entire being affecting all areas of your life, not in the least your health.

2 thoughts on “Oh, her lungs!

  1. This is tough. I have thought of this dynamic often through our trials with Melanie. Someone like Mel would not likely survive in an impoverished environment. It was Scott, actually, who first triggered my thoughts on this–when Melanie first started having problems and then we got the horrific diagnosis, I had moments of feeling that it was so unjust because I was not careless – i had taken care – it’s not fair! Scott’s response to my woe is me moment(s) was this – “See, I think this is an example of justice in the universe b/c we CAN take care of Melanie; we can give her the best chance; we should have her.” Epiphany for me.
    I don’t mean to make this about me or us -but this entry resonates with me on various levels. Poverty is a handicap – one that limits before one is even able to breathe on his/her own. I’m glad Karla was given life and can breathe – just wish it was easier for her.


  2. Thanks for this insight Kelley. You’re absolutely right. In many cases poverty controls the poor as if it were a chronic disease itself. And it directly effects Karla’s ability to be a healthy child, for the lack of basics in her nutrition, for the dusty and smokey environment she lives in, for a lack of education on her mother’s part on medical issues and treatment, for a lack of hygiene… And what will get Karla out of this vicious circle is good education. Which is exactly what we are focussing on now with her and Sujeylin – ensuring that she has no reason whatsoever to not go to school.


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