Ines and I had been wondering for a while whether it is fair to offer medical treatment only to those patients who are on our list for luncheon. What about the children, who urgently need medical help and physiotherapy, and the adults, who suffer from chronic pain all over their bodies, rashes, stings, and other afflictions and cannot afford a doctor or any care? But how could we provide the entire village population in the hills of Lipah with medical help? It would be a logistical and financial adventure that would far exceed our possibilities, despite the numerous donations.
Then chance came to our aid.
In the context of our project to rebuild and expand the water supply for the inhabitants of the village in the hills of Lipah (since 2000 the population of 300 has almost doubled), we met with Ketut 'Ping' Suardana, who in the year 2011, as a member and on behalf of the Rotary Club Ubud, had led the construction of the drinking water supply in Lipah. We wanted to know more about the former project and the accompanying circumstances. During this conversation on Christmas Eve 2017, we also asked Ping about his current job. It turned out that he is the operational manager of the 'Yayasan Rumah Sehat', which means ‘Relief Organisation House of Health’. Founded in 2011 by Australian couple Ray and Sue Bishop, Rumah Sehat has since been dedicated to helping secure health, hygiene and education for the poor in East Bali. Rumah Sehat maintains a clinic in Culik, a village about 10 km north of us, in which several doctors treat patients with moderate findings. A mobile team of trained medical assistants and nurses also supplies medical help in some villages in the hills of East Bali, just not yet in Lipah.
When Ping told us that he was desperately looking for someone who could drive a dialysis patient twice a week to Denpasar, I spontaneously agreed. Not without getting his commitment, in return, to come every two weeks with his team to Lipah to provide medical help. A handshake quickly sealed the agreement.
On December 27, the dialysis patient, Wayan Astra, was driven to Denpasar by our driver, Komang Sukra Astika, for the first time. And since then twice a week. Now we waited anxiously for the arrival and the work of the team of Rumah Sehat.
The first day of treatment in the hills of Lipah is scheduled for today.
Ping calls me at 10 am sharp to let me know that his team has stationed itself in front of a small shop halfway up the hill and has already welcomed the first patients. In tense expectation, I drive up. Once there, I meet a colorful gathering of mothers with their toddlers, old women and men and young boys. It seems to me like a marketplace, a coming and going, accompanied by loud voices. Sons drive their mothers or grandchildren their grandmothers up the mountain on the pillion of their rattling motorcycles.
Dadong Simpen, probably one of the oldest inhabitants of Lipah Hill at the age of 87, sits behind her son on a motorcycle, riding side saddle, and smiles quietly to herself. Her face is still of great beauty and her alert look and her smile are enchanting. With a practiced grip, she straightens her full, gray hair, which has been tousled by the ride. Her son and another man help her to descend and to overcome the three steps to the treatment place. There, the nurses of Rumah Sehat in their red T-shirts are sitting on the bare concrete floor in front of the store. They are eagerly monitoring blood pressure, measuring blood sugar, administering medication, listening to and counseling the patients. With one or the other they arrange a doctor's visit in the clinic in Culik. A medical assistant neatly puts everything into a book.
There I also meet the wife of Wayan Aria, one of our lunchbox messengers, with her little boy, who was not able to stand on his thin legs and cried constantly in pain just a few weeks ago. Our fairy godmother Jero Wimega has taken charge of the task that the little one gets the right treatment in the hospital of Amlapura. Now he is standing there, leaning against his mother, one beaming brighter than the other. I'm sure the kid will soon manage to walk.
Meanwhile, Ping, the tireless and permanent organizer, has sighted me and pulled me aside. "How about we build a small treatment room here?" He introduces me to the owner of the land next to the sales outlet. He is ready to give us the land and carry out the construction if we pay for the building materials. No big deal, I think, and in two weeks, when Rumah Sehat come back, everything could be finished. Since I consider help to self-help the most effective of all offers of help, I agree quickly. As before, we seal everything with a handshake.
Slowly, the crowd dissolves. Then, I glimpse the young mother with her little son, whom I have seen a few days ago down in the village. The boy suffers from spastic convulsions, can hardly keep his head still and is not able to speak. Ping says that regular physiotherapy in the capital could provide relief for him. As we drive a patient to Denpasar two times a week anyway, I suggest we take the mother and her son with us as well. Ping will coordinate the appointments with the clinics. You can rely on him.
As always, I walk the way back. I meet many children who come home from school. Some sit on motorcycles in threes or fours. One motorbike is steered by a little girl with flying black braids, behind her two boys. It is hot. Other children struggle on foot up the steep road, the school knapsacks seem to literally ram them into the ground. Everyone is dressed in the same preppy school uniforms. They look well-groomed, Bali's schoolchildren. Even if Bali's life is hard and deprived of our standards, the Balinese are somehow always happy and reconciled to their fate. We Westerners, who live here a somewhat privileged life, could learn a thing or two from them.
Dadong Simpen arriving on the motorbike at the health post