I met Deng at the Pamat market after having walked for an hour and a half to purchase goats for Timpir’s Christmas Gift Program. While we were waiting for sale of the goats to start, Deng would follow us around the market. Each time we stood up, he would stand up and follow us. Each time we sat down, he would sit down on the ground with his legs to the side and pull his gown over his legs. For the entire day, I didn’t see him smile once. He had the saddest eyes that looked as if they had seen things that no child should have to see. We could not work out what was wrong with Deng as he was not asking for money as some other children do and would not talk with us.
One time, when Deng sat down, I caught a glimpse of his calf before he pulled his gown over it. What I saw was grotesque. Deng had an infected wound on his calf, larger than my fist. There was a mass of flies sitting in the wound which is why he was so intent on covering it with his gown. I suddenly thought of what every person from a Western society would, where are the antiseptic and bandages? I knew I had some back in the village where we were staying, but that was an hour and a half walk away, and by the time a went there and back again, Deng would be long gone. So we wandered around the market looking for things that we could use as antiseptic or bandages, but found absolutely nothing. People said that there was a clinic in the town, but it was rarely open. So we went there with the hope of finding someone, but it was devoid of life and resources.
Then I had a brainwave… what about alcohol!? We bought a bottle of the potent local alcohol and I poured that onto Deng’s wound. He didn’t flinch. It occurred to me that the nerves were probably damaged. Then I thought, well what can I do now? I don’t know where he lives, and he doesn’t know that place where I’m staying so I can’t provide any follow-up treatment. I’ve got nothing to use as a bandage. I had the equivalent of about $2, so I gave it to him and asked if he knew where the closest hospital was (about 4 hours walk away) he said ‘No.’ There was no way I could give him directions to the hospital or to come to our village, so with that I left him feeling defeated, helpless and useless. I had done the best that I could under the circumstances, but situations like this reminded me just how much I take access to health care for granted.