I sat in front of Isaac, while Faisal picked, cut and dug out over 60 jiggers from his 12 year old feet. There was no anesthesia for numbing, just a “sweet sweet” (sucker) to distract him from the excrutiating pain. Isaac, like each patient today, was assigned a jigger remover, a “foot-note” taker, and a comforter.
I signed up to take foot-notes so that I could be in the thick of it all. We were not allowed to remove jiggers until we had shadowed someone else for a day. I sat on a turquoise picnic table, armed with a sharpie and a clipboard. My only job was to take the name and age of the child in front of me and place a small dot on the silhouette of the foot where the jigger had been removed.
This simple task quickly turned into one of my most difficult jobs to date.
Isaac was at clinic alone today. No parents, siblings or friends were there to console or support him. I don’t know his story, but what I witnessed was a 12 yr. old boy weathered by a life filled with the pain of jiggers.
Kayla wrapped her arms around his chest as his crusty feet soaked in the water bucket. He was stoic and didn’t even acknowledge the arms around his chest. Every few minutes, he hunched over to scrub his heals with the brush left at the bottom of the bucket. Once they had soaked for a while, Faisal grabbed his feet and drew them to his lap and began to inspect. He looked up at me and said in a thick Lugandan accent, “This is a terrible case.”
The first prick of the safety pin into the infected area triggered a whence from Isaac that rivaled an electric shock. Kayla squeezed him tightly as he whimpered. He did not cry like you would think. It was more of a groan, followed by a slow stream of tears that flowed down his face.
All I could whisper was, “Just a little while longer Isaac… you are so brave… hang in there…we’re almost done.”
He couldn’t understand me of course, but it was nourishment to my soul. I had to remind myself that the pain he was enduring was necessary in order to receive the healing that he so desperately needed.
Isaac had learned to tolerate the pain of jiggers, along with overcompensating his walking pattern to avoid the rotten sections of his heals which caused him great discomfort.
Towards the very end, Isaac’s moan synchronized with the screams of the younger children. I started to feel panicky, to be honest, when these sounds came together. I even envisioned leaping off of the picnic table with my hands in the air, shouting, “This is just way too much!” But I focused as the last few jiggers were removed from Isaacs hands and feet.
Ninety minutes had come and gone just like that. Isaac’s feet were now #jiggerfree cleaned with peroxide and coated with antibiotic ointment before being covered by a fresh pair of socks.
He exhaled loudly when the socks went on his feet and then lightly slumped down onto his seat. He was exhausted! BUT he was done! We clapped and cheered for him as a volunteer knelt down to put his VERY FIRST PAIR OF SHOES on his feet.
Isaac will be treated, educated on remaining # jiggerfree, and resettled back into his community very soon! As our team left the Sole Hope Outreach House, I peered up to the porch where I saw Isaac eating lunch and laughing with his new friends. The pain was worth it!
Photos by: garyschapman.com