Past Letters

Dear Friends:

Hope all is well with you and your summer is good. We are in the rainy season. Lots of rain. I have a small, 4×4 truck now so I can drive to the rubbish dump. I go in every day now, some days 2 or 3 times. Over 400 people live and work there. They are all illegal and on the run from Burma. I wish they could go home. Maybe one day.

As you know, I have been taking in rubber boots for these people. Every one was barefoot. I managed to get over 100 boots to them, but then they ran out of food. I managed to get some rice, but not much.

I have been helping some of the sick. The problem is that they have started to trust and need the help. The sick are becoming a real big problem, as is the cash.

All through the year, volunteers come here. Medical students, teachers and others. I tell them the problem and I take them to see for themselves. Some are horrified and sickened. All feel saddened. With the help of the medical students, we raised over $4,000. With this it’s been possible to buy boots, toothpaste, brushes, soap and band aids for everyone plus over a 1,000 pounds of rice.

We also started a medical program. The medical program consisted of de-worming pills and vitamins, weighing all the kids and making out record cards for all. I had nine helpers. I know the students had a day they will never forget. For me, it restored my faith in humanity. I am getting some help from a clinic to keep the medical program going. I hope.

Some of this is hard for me. They think I am a doctor and they bring me to their sick. Some have been lying in their shacks for months and dying.

So much more to tell you.

Love to all. Fred

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I Call Her ‘Song’

As I earn the refugees’ trust, they invite me into their huts. I went into one shack near the dump that houses a family of eight. There was a little girl who was crouched down on the bare floor. She was beautiful but sad. Her mother called her over and I noticed her thin arms and legs. She was 13 years old, but she was like a skeleton. Her mother touched her head and she let me touch her head to feel her fever. I picked her up and the heat from her body made me sweat.

Communication is always difficult because I’m just learning the Burmese language, but both her mother and I knew that this little girl was quite ill.  At their request, I took a photograph of the girl and when I left the shack, I thought, ‘This girl is going to die.’

I went to talk to a doctor in town to ask what I could do about the little girl that I call “Song.” Dr. Ohnmar was great. She came with me to the dump and told the mother that her daughter was very sick. The mother said Song had been sick for a year.

Her mother and I took her to the Mae Sot hospital to get a blood test. I carried Song and she hugged me very tightly. She was so weak and scared, but she tried to smile. The doctors tested her blood, but the test came back negative for malaria. They gave her medication for worms. I took her back to the dump that night.

The next day I came to see her and her temperature was stable. I was so grateful she had de-worming pills. I had heard about the worms that live in people’s stomachs, but I had never seen them before. She threw them up and I saw a pile of them. They are 3 to 5 inches long and as thick as an earth worm. She had had them in her a long time. I decided to see her every day to make sure she had her fresh water, food and medicine.

The following day, her temperature had risen again.

This time, we decided to take her to the Mae Tao Clinic near the border where Dr. Ohnmar works. It’s the clinic that Laura Bush visited recently.

You can’t think of this place as a clinic as we would in the U.S. It’s Third World, but they do a very good job. The Burmese sneak across the border to come to this clinic. Pregnant women come to give birth there. Then they go back to Burma.

With medication, Song started to feel better and she began walking. Then one day I went to see her and she was just lying there. I took her back to the clinic and they admitted her. They wanted her mother to be there, so her mom had to leave behind her other children, who are babies and children up to 13 years old. Fortunately, the community here takes care of each other.

Song stayed for a week and I brought her a blanket and mosquito net so she would have protection. Sometimes I would stop by twice a day. She had a room there with her mom, but it was a very stressful situation.

At the end of her stay, she didn’t look a whole lot better but the staff didn’t know what was wrong with her, so they took her to the hospital for a TB test.

Her mother had to leave to go back to the dump to care for her other children. Somehow, they got a message to Song’s father, who still lives in Burma and he turned up, even though it’s illegal for him to be here. The little girl was so stressed she was crying her eyes out.

The test came back and she has abdominal TB. She is being treated with strong antibiotics, but she’s back living at the dump.

I couldn’t go back to the dump for 10 days and I was concerned about her. When I did go back, I couldn’t find her. I got on the motor bike to look around and people kept pointing to another direction. It turned out that she was at the camp I first drove through. She’d seen me, but by now I was about a mile away from that camp.

Song walked that mile. When I saw her, she was looking great and really happy. It was a wonderful reunion. I felt terrific that she was on the mend.

Twelve days later I saw her again. There was something wrong. She was so bloated. Her little face was all puffed up but she was smiling. The Burmese don’t show affection as we do. They might meet each other after five years and just say hello. But this little girl has no problem hugging me.

I took her back to the clinic. Now I’m concerned about her stomach. I’ll have to go back in a few days to see what’s happening with her. There is so much uncertainty here.

 

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