March 24, 2009

The Glamour of the Missionary, redux

For all I write about some of the exciting and depressing things that happen here, like the micro-credit program or a patient struggling with HIV, most of my time seems to be spent on mundane tasks. Of late, one in particular has been occupying my time: checking to see if our medical records are proper alphabetical order. Here’s where we keep them.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been through virtually every card in those filing cabinets on the bottom, the card drawers in the middle, and the expanding folders on top. Along the way, I’ve managed to show several prodigal cards their proper place in life. And I’ve weeded out lots of cards from people who haven’t been to the clinic in over a decade and only came for one or two visits. I find myself wondering what has happened to them. Some of them probably just moved. Others are probably dead, based on what their health was like on their last visit. For other patients who have been coming to the clinic since we began keeping records in 1995, their cards make for fascinating reading and tell such intricate stories of all the challenges these people have faced over the many years.

When a baby is born, the parents get a Road to Health card to keep track of their immunizations and growth. The parents are supposed to keep them but we end up with a lot of them and now have a huge pile of really old cards. I even found the Road to Health card for a young woman who is now 20 years old, in Grade 11, and in my English class. I presented the card to her when she came to the clinic last week with her son.
One great thing about sorting cards is that it is so easy. Cards don’t speak Xhosa to me. They obey my instructions. When I get up for a moment, they’re right where I left them when I come back. They’re not demanding or excessively needy. They don’t take any coaxing and prodding to do what they’re capable of. This project has given me a tremendous sense of accomplishment, something that has been hard to come by here.


Claire Bergen said...

What joy to find the home for a misplaced card! And good idea getting rid of those really old cards that are just taking up space. I miss my alphabetization days!