A third stab of pathos

Two mornings ago my telephone rang at 0630am.  Alice was on the other end of the line, calling me from Darwin.  Two months after she stood in my front yard shouting at me.  Down the phone line I was woken by “Alan!  My sister!  I’m sorry my sister…  for doing that thing, you know, shouting at you, at your ‘ouse.  I should not do that.  I’m sorry”.

I guess it was better than most alarm clocks, in a predictably funny way.  I knew we’d eventually be friends again.  Grudges are not something that Alice and her ilk seem to hold, which is part of the appeal amidst all the unappealing dysfunction.

Today, Easter Sunday, a small group of her extended family are coming for Sunday lunch.  My favourite grandfather has requested roast lamb.  So roast lamb, it is.

In the meantime, I’ve been catching up with posts on Facebook from “Dr Dan” Murphy at Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili, East Timor.  This message about an HIV+ patient shows the level of suffering experienced by the poorest of the poor, living on our doorstep, one hour flight from Darwin.

She was carried in by one of our most dedicated outreach workers..Julmira, born in Indonesia in utter poverty, brought to Timor-Leste as a young woman by a Timorese man who was later killed leaving her destitute and alone. Now ravished by the “virus” she has become all that is implied by the adjective “marginalized”. Living in what could be euphemistically called a lean-to she had been viciously beaten by a stranger, off her medication, penniless, an outlier in every sense. Mouth filled with a coat of white, rattles with every breath, all 29 kilo’s shaking with chills for the first time tears welled up instead of her ever present smile. Quickly admitted, third and last line ARV, fluconazole, Cotrim, and a decent plate of food. This is one resilient woman. May she recover once again and find a spark of dignity we all strive to achieve.

Acute Rheumatic Fever, and it’s consequence of Rheumatic Heart Disease, is a well known phenomenon in Central Australia, where some of the highest recorded rates for this disease exist.  We have paediatricians, cardiologists, a Rheumatic Heart Disease public health program with high tech web based data programs, trained nurses, etcetera, which allow us to keep a record of these rates.  One hour north of Darwin however, they are “overwhelmed” by Rheumatic Heart Disease, and they do not have the facilities to record rates, so who knows, but I suspect their rates are even higher than ours.  In Central Australia, despite all of our resources, we see a number of RHD deaths per year.  In East Timor, this figure would be dozens per year.

It is worth spending 48 seconds hearing Dr Dan speak about Rheumatic Heart Disease in East Timor.
Dr Dan on Rheumatic Heart Disease in East Timor

One thought on “A third stab of pathos

  1. Humbled, as always, by your stories, Helen. Today, the Indonesian lady in ET. There must be some way of directly helping such people. I wonder what the UN and Australia achieved in ET for all those years, when things there are still so dire for its people.

    And Alice – she always makes me laugh!


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