Monday, June 27, 2011

When the Music Fades

Doctor Tamila Silagadze, who distributes medicine for UMCOR, apportions the much-needed medicines that arrive at the clinic four times a year.

Photo: Judith Santiago

Today I visited the Patriarchy Policlinic in Tblisi, in the Republic of Georgia, which has been operating since 1995. The clinic distributes basic medicines to the elderly, single mothers, and internally displaced people who come to seek relief from various ailments. In 1994, the Gregorian Orthodox Church allocated the room space for its operation.

Every quarter, a shipment of medicines arrives from UMCOR funding partner IMA (Interchurch Medical Assistance).  Doctor Tamila Silagadze, who distributes medicine for UMCOR, works quickly to assess the patients' needs and then apportions the necessary medicine, which can include pain killers, high blood pressure tablets, vitamin supplements, hygiene kits, and cardiovascular and allergy medications.  Most of the people who arrive at the Patriarchy Policlinic suffer from hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular and joint diseases.

Dr. Silagadze has to use wisdom in distributing medicines. She sees an average of 140 patients a month, and the quarterly distribution of medicines has to last until the next shipment.  There have been times, she says, that the clinic has run out of medicine, and she has had to turn patients away.  I saw how this breaks her heart.

I met Crocha Mairsara, 48, who just received medicine to treat his hypertension.  He says the medicine helps and he notices a difference in his health.  Crocha is married and has one son.  A veteran of the war, he bitterly describes how the war was thoughtless and only served political ambitions at the expense of countless people who lost everything.  Later, I asked him to take us to a nearby internally displaced persons (IDP) settlement, where I witnessed for myself the deplorable conditions that many women, children, and men are living under.

Vladime Devnosadre, 74, has problems with his eyesight and difficultly with his joints, but the medicines provided here will not ease much of Vladime’s condition.  He, like the other patients in the room, live on a small pension and cannot afford the in-patient care at the hospital.  Vladime says that the pharmacies are too expensive. Dr. Silagadze herself gets frustrated when the needs of the patients outweigh the limited available medicines, and yet the patients are very grateful to UMCOR and IMA for what they can receive.

Later in the afternoon, we visited a Tblisi IDP settlement where festivities were taking place in celebration of the arrival and distribution of UMCOR hygiene kits for 400 vulnerable families.  A musical band was playing traditional Gregorian music, and the children danced, clapped and rejoiced.  Many were dressed in their best clothes.  The scene temporarily masked the real conditions in which these families live.

When the kit distribution began, the children barged through the doorway of the very small room which housed the UMCOR boxes of relief supplies.  Each child made sure she or he got a kit. It was a blessing to see the smiles and excitement on their faces.

The Chairman of Abkhazia Parliament in Exile, George Gvazava, was sort of the “master of ceremonies” of the event.  He invited George Gedevanishvili, head of mission for UMCOR Georgia, and me to a table full of sweets, vegetables, breads, cake, fruit, and more.  After several toasts, I was warmed by the Georgian culture.  They spend hours at a table toasting one another in honor and respect of what that person brings to ones’ life and community.  UMCOR was honored that day, but as the toasts and conversations continued, the sounds of children playing rang in the background.  I couldn’t help but run back out to be with the children and the other families.  After all, that was the reason why we were here. I took pictures, laughed with the children, held them, and told them they would be in my prayers.

One woman shared her life with me. She looked tired and wearied and seemingly lost all hope.  There was no translator with me, but I did not need one.  I held her and assured her of my prayers.  I felt the helplessness and wondered what a normal day was for them, or for those who received medicines earlier in the day.  I pondered their day when the music fades.   When the medicine runs out, or after the thrill of receiving a new kit dissipates, what then?   How long do they wait for another bit of relief to come their way.  I breathed and was assured that God has not forgotten these lives, in fact, He was showing me what He knew all along.  So, when the music fades, pray.

On Monday, June 27, we travel to Tserovani IDP settlement in Kartli region for a baby food distribution; then in the afternoon, we travel to Bazaleti IDP Ambulatory and Daycare, which is part of a small reconstruction project.

*Judith Santiago is the media communications associate for UMCOR.

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