Back to Africa: Volunteer Work Despite Osteoarthritis Challenges
Many of our readers are aware that, in spite of the many challenges with osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis, my volunteer work in Africa remains close to my heart. I returned early last Spring due to the incredible pain I was in due to these arthritis “friends” (more like enemies)! At the recommendation of one of my doctors in the U.S., I began going to a pain clinic in a local hospital where I was given injections in my spine (which is NOT my idea of a good time). These specialists also insisted I take three different prescriptions of narcotics daily to help ease the pain. I quickly discovered that these pills were making me into a real “space cadet” and also caused frequent falls. Some patients do well on this regimen, but it was causing me more problems.
In Africa, I’ve been going to a healer who, much to my surprise, has really helped me. After so many problems with the new treatments, I decided to see if I could find a well-trained physician in my area in America who practiced non-traditional medicine. After talking with several friends who recommended this doctor from China, I decided to try and see if it would help. I realize that this isn’t the answer for everyone, but it has radically lowered my pain level (without any drugs or shots)! In addition to body manipulation, electrical stimulus of the nerves in my low-back, physical therapy (in the clinic and at home), massage, heat, and a variety of other things, I’m stronger and feeling better than I have in a long time.
I’ll admit that I’ve worked way too hard this summer with my custom baking and cooking company (Patticakes & Co.). At first I did it to help my depression because I was afraid that Africa was no longer a part of my life. When I was offered a new volunteer job in a new program in Africa - started by a former housemate - I asked Dr. Li for advice. After a quick hug, she reminded me how far I’d progressed, and said that if I did have some problems, I could return to using the PT exercises my therapist had taught me to do at home. I can also do my water exercises in the local outdoor pool.
I’m trying to complete those last-minute orders for fruit tarts and cheesecakes, as well as the triple-threat brownies most of my customers love. I also needed to update three vaccinations before I leave. I have the joy of getting to teach English to “Mamas” from the bush who have had little or no education. These ladies are the mothers of children in our new classes who receive medical help if needed, as well as healthy food and a basic education. The Mamas already know I’m coming and are very excited to start classes. Two of my bankers have even offered to go shopping in so we can have basic school supplies.
The other awesome thing that occurred this summer: I was able to see all three of my kids, their spouses and all the grandkids together for the first time in a long time, as they all live in different states. I’m extremely proud of everyone as they rapidly grow up, meeting a few frustrations as well as accepting new challenges.
Recently, I read a quotation by Mother Teresa that truly explains how I feel about not only my family, but also my work in Africa:
“Sometimes we feel what we do is only a drop in the sea, but the sea wouldn’t be if it didn’t have that drop.”
I know I’ll be where I want to be. I know I’ll be where I need to be! As always: Watch me!