We have shared a little about our roles providing medical care and as the village ambulance and our ministry in this capacity has really begun to expand. Every evening beginning around four o'clock people trickle in from the fields and towards our home, visiting for a while and then turning our attention to a child's fever, a cut or wound from working in the fields, arthritic joints, colds, boils, stomach flu, absessed teeth or chicken pox.
Those of you who know us know we have no formal medical training, but it is amazing how much we do know about medicine. Even more amazing is how much we have learned, largely due to a wonderful book which every missionary should own: Where There is No Doctor (available at Amazon or for free online at HealthWrights). The Akha have their natural remedies which include teas for stomach ailments, honeycomb used as medicine, massage techniques, and a bruising technique which brings the blood to the surface of the skin. These techniques are often effective, but have their limitations.
The biggest health issues with the Akha are often results of misdiagnosis in the home or in a clinic. In the clinic, the misdiagnosis often comes from a lack of understanding (nurses speak Thai, the Akha mothers don't) or a lack of finances (the nurses know the Akha do not all have the benefit of health privileges in Thailand). In the home, a serious injury or illness is often mistaken for something minor. For example, Mi Shui's arm was first assumed to be nothing and was cared for in the Akha way which unfortunately included shaking and squeezing the injury and spitting on the arm. In America we have our American way as well (when did a kiss ever heal an injury?) which is appropriate at times, but innapropriate at others. In the end, we hope to educate the parents to confidently treat minor illnesses and injuries before they become major ones.
One step in this direction has come from an unexpected source. Our intern Pastor ATu who was our housemate all of last year has moved on and a new intern has come in and taken his place. They have built a new home for him which leaves us with an empty room. In a pretty short time, the medicine boxes had moved in (along with a sleeping mat and a plastic chair which serves well for our examinations) and all the teenagers were walking around talking about the "Akha Cleeney (Clinic)". Since we have further formalized this treatment area we have had a severe burst wound (we think a girl was caught stealing and was shooed off with a stick), an absessed tooth, a dozen colds and a stomach flu (we were very happy for our dirt floors with that one).
There are still many things we have to refer the Akha to real doctors for, but it's been great to meet the physical immediate needs of our village. They have given us so much, it's great to be able to give something back.