Dr. Jon’s Story
Dr. Jon Loute,
the one and only doctor at the hospital this time, became a
fast and interesting friend. At 27, quiet spoken, humorous, and thoughtful,
Jon sacrifices time and educated effort to bring a quality level of care
to Lwala and its 150,000 potential hospital visitors. Earning only $300 a
month, Jon now faces a concern for his newborn son and wife who will
soon join him at his thatched- roofed hut on the hospital grounds. He may
be forced to consider a city position for a higher pay and conditions that will
give his family a better quality of life.
Jon is one of ten children, 8 of whom are yet living and educated. His
brother died in the Lords Resistance Army, and his sister of malaria.
He grew up in a poor village not far from Lwala. He was well- educated in a
private school that was paid for by one of his brothers. It is common that
each child pay for the next in line, should education be an option. When he
got married, it changed everything, as now, as he states, he is responsible
for more than himself. He is conflicted about leaving, but finds it to be a
probable necessity due to the poor salaries in rural villages. the hospital is lucky to
have a doctor. Most rural villages have trained assistants who make due until
NGO doctors pass through.
Jon performs approximately 350 surgeries a year in a one room cement
cell-like building with two open windows. He works with two assistants and no
running water, no back-up generator, poor-lighting, no x-ray, no ultra-sound
or sonogram machines…and a small container of ether for the patients who
lay on a rusted table with little padding. Andrew delivers babies, removes organs, fights infections with drugs that have a weak power to heal. And he comes back each day to what he has…for that is life for him and his people.
While there, one baby was born dead; had they had the help of an ultra-
sound, the baby’s life would have been saved. Isaac, a medical clinician at the
hospital, claims that at times, “Diagnosis can be a matter of coincidence.”
Jon describes their fight against hopelessness as one to support with
humor. He and his medical assistant, Isaac, keep things going with nightly
volleyball matches and much good- humored laughter. Although Jon
is concerned with the future and current governmental and management
struggles and abuse, he proclaims about humor that, “It is better than
hanging!” Yet in his eyes remain the tension of responsibility for the life of
his newborn son, Calin, and the opportunities that he may never have.
I often traveled with Jon to the wards to listen to stories and/or to
help with 4th stage Sleeping Sickness or Malaria patients. The treatments
for Rodensciense( animal tryps.) lasted approximately three or four weeks
with rests in between using Melarsoprol, a highly toxic mixture of antifreeze
and arsenic. Due to lack of funding for research, this combination is the only
available cure for animal Tryps. It kills as many as 18% of the patients on
injection to veins that collapse under its stress. I got to know these familiar
faces and their personal stories with a translator, day to day….and they
welcomed me into their world.