Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times where I wonder what in the world we are doing… but, every now and again there’s golden moments when we’re at the right place, at the right time, and the day we went to Harange was one of those!
Before I tell the story, I first have to clarify the way we pronounce the name of this village, just so you don’t think that we went to an “H-arrange” village…! So it’s pronounced “hah-ran-gay”.
Harange is in the Kokoda district so if you’ve been following along, you understand that this is in the mountains, fairly remote and that the village doesn’t have much access to health services. But beyond that, Harange is also situated inland beyond the Kumusi river. “The Mighty Kumusi”! This river is known for washing down vehicles that attempt crossing and wiping villages when it floods. Now the only way into Harange is across the Kumusi.
When I heard the possibility of reaching the people of Kumusi, my heart jumped at the thought of bringing health services to this remote place, but I got even more excited when I heard the provincial health team’s plan to get there… Yeah.. “floating across” with all our gear and drugs :)
I then understood why the village hadn’t seen health workers before! The last health care team that came to see their community dates five years back and went as far as the end of the path but didn’t attempt the great crossing. Instead those who were sick or in need of immunisations (older people and babies were floated across!) Unbelievable.
We saw many patients that day, many that I wondered how they were still alive! Including a man that fell off a coconut tree and broke his back! But the one that struck me more as the reason why we were there was a baby Junior. One of my students asked me some advice for the mother, she was sick and too weak to feed her child. I asked to see the child, it was a “brand new” baby. we found out she had given birth two days ago and he hadn’t been breastfeeding since he was born. We proceeded to do a “healthy baby check” to find a grossly underweight infant. After a few questions and answers with the mother, we found out that the baby was 2 months premature! That explained why the baby weighed less than 2kg… but not why the baby wasn’t feeding. So we asked the mother to breastfeed. Then it was obvious, the poor baby’s mouth wouldn’t open big enough to suck on his mother’s nipple.
We taught mum how to express breastmilk and feed it to baby with a syringe. Junior was HUNGRY! He must have gulped in 5cc instantly and sucked dry every syringe we’ve given him afterwards during the couple hours we were with him!By this point it was obvious that both bub and mum would need to go to the hospital for further care and follow up. We arranged for them to get across the river and for our transport to bring them to the hospital.
Imagine if mum didn’t have money to get to the health centre to give birth, how much longer she would have waited to cross the river and attempt to get to town… I love that we reached Harange that day, not a week earlier or later!