Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Witnessing a Traditional Healer


The baby with scabies living with our host family is almost one year old. Ever since we have been in Iva, he has been sick. Mary’s attempts to provide medicine to treat the scabies and recurring infections by taking the baby to the hospital have met with mixed results. In addition to the above ailments, the baby has developed high fever, swollen throat glands, isn’t eating, and coughs up mucus. It seems the family has lost faith in western medicine. At the advice of a local town woman whose baby just died two weeks ago saying that if she had taken her baby sooner to the taulesea (traditional healer) the baby would have lived, the family decided on a traditional healer..

The baby was taken to home of a very poor woman in her late 30’s with four small children. Mary went with six other family members. The healer asked our host family to bring a certain fruit which grows in a distant village and some chicken feathers.

The treatment consisted of first massaging the baby with oil hard on the cheeks and throat, proceeding down the sternum. The child’s teeth and gums were then rubbed with a cloth. The chicken feathers were dipped into the unknown juice and forcing the child’s mouth open to swab the inside of the throat. The child cried most of the time, vomiting after each swabbing. The procedure ended with wiping the mouth.

The idea of choosing traditional medicine over western medicine was difficult for Mary to endure. Yet, the faith you place in what healing techniques work is at the heart of any medical practice.

Mary is using all the strength she has to resist forcibly taking the baby to a western doctor.

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