This week we have come across another disturbing situation. Whist driving through the bush, I came across a chappy we have known for a long time. He was wearing his biggest smile. 'How are you?', I asked through the car window. I am not sure he even heard the question. 'I am going to fix a lady's leg!' he started with exclamation points sounding out between word. 'She fell and has broken here' (pointing to his right thigh). Before I could interject he continued, 'I have bought herbs to fix it - I am going to make it better.' In such a case that probably includes snake parts, roots and leaves. I suggested that 'a trip to the hospital is a better idea.' It was rejected.
Later we discovered that he was charging the poor old lady over $100 for his herbal remedy - and are sure that he promised 'rapid healing' - this is probably more than the hospital would have charged.
This chap KNOWS that topical herbs cannot speed up the healing of a broken bone. We know that over 70% of all broken femurs result in death in this part of the world.
We spoke to a clan member about 'you should take her to the hospital'. The fear remains in the family that a hospital visit will result in amputation.... in reality, the herbal approach may well result in that or worse.
So we find ourselves in a difficult position, once again. We can only 'suggest' and 'encourage', lead by example. We cannot overcome the belief in the 'spirits', the power of the 'herbalist' or 'magic'. At least not in the short term. If we push too hard, we lose all communication and make enemies. If the lady dies, which is not outside the realms of possibility, how should we feel? If the lady's leg heals but in a poor position, perhaps she wont be able to walk properly. The list of challenges here is long.
For the record, we do not have the answer to all the questions. We have to respect peoples choices, but provide them with 'guidance and encouragement'. Of course, for $100 it is easy to see how 'shiny things and promises' can blind people from the 'right things and facts'.
We will pop by the community concerned again to see how it is going later in the week. We will continue to encourage proper treatment. We hope that we are able to encourage a positive outcome for this lady. I really thought that the people concerned in this incident had learned more than this. But then, I guess we see the 'miracle distractions' even in the developed world - after all we have all seen the 'lose weight fast ads' that distract people from a proper diet and exercise... and the 'pill sellers' take more money than a sensible approach would cost.