I began the day stuck in my room. Literally.
It was 6:30am, I had just gotten out of the shower, I had a long early morning to-do list, and I discovered that something had gone horribly wrong with the doorknob to my bedroom. It would not open, and I could not get out. What began with subtle attempts to wrest the door open without waking my housemates soon disintegrated into me desperately pulling against the doorknob and making a terrible racket. Soon enough, my housemates living on my floor woke up and began to attempt to get the door to open from the other side. After an hour of futile attempts, banging, prying with credit cards and screwdrivers, and the congregation of more and more people on the other side of the door, one of the guards finally kicked the door in! At last, I was freed from the confines of my bedroom. This was a new one for me. A bit of a crazy start to a day that already promised to be very full.
In my own personal ranking, being stuck inside my bedroom until the door was kicked in was definitely worse than being locked outside of said-bedroom and having to fish out the keys from the 2nd story window using a 12-foot pole and a coat hanger . On the other hand, it was definitely better than being locked outside of my room in the open air wearing only a towel and better than being locked inside of a stinky, foul pit latrine. In my humble opinion.
Imprisonment in my bedroom was not the saddest part of my day. That came when the grandmother of the 8-year-old orphaned boy I was seeing in the HIV clinic looked across the desk at me and asked if I was the one who took orphans. “Will you please take this boy?” she said. “I cannot care for him any more.” Oh, Grandmother, I would adopt your boy if I could.
The day was full of lots of successes – even if they were not quite as dramatic as the moment when the door was finally broken open with the powerful kick of our favorite guard, Eli. We officially launched my new research study on disclosure of HIV status to children. At one of the rural HIV clinics, 10 adolescents gathered for a focus group to discuss what it was like for them to learn that they have HIV and to advise us on guiding families through this complicated process. The children were lively and talkative, and I cannot wait to analyze the transcripts of their discussion. How I love to learn from their stories!
My study measuring children’s adherence to HIV medicines was also very busy today. They evaluated 10 children at 2 different clinics, following up on all of the issues they have with taking their medicines. Working out of a small, hot tent, my team downloaded information from the special electronic bottle caps that record the exact time the bottle was opened and took blood samples to see how the drug is working in the child’s body. I so appreciate their hard work and how diligently they follow and care for these families.
In between the study activities, I saw children in the HIV clinic in Kitale. A 6-year-old girl with big eyes smiled at me shyly as I talked to her mother, then proceeded to decorate herself and her younger sister with the butterfly stickers I gave her. I found the right antibiotics for a little one with pneumonia and argued with the lab about missing results for a child who needed to start on HIV medicines and altogether felt pretty productive in taking care of the dozen children who came through my exam room.
A good day. Even if there is a hole in my door and I no longer have a functional doorknob.
(I also made these to thank my housemates.)