We heard about them, but we weren’t sure we believed it was true. Did the villagers actually believe in witch doctors and special powers of the ‘healing man’? Were they real? Unfortunately, yes. We found that the local witch doctor, or brujo, is alive and well. In some areas, it’s the only 'medical care' that might be available. Many times, healing herbs and age-old traditional healing advice do help. But witch doctors also use ‘magic potions’, cow dung and powders and believe in placing colored candles in ‘powerful’ positions around the sick person’s body. However, misdiagnosis is common and infections often become serious and even deadly.
A mother of one of our patients insisted that her daughter go to the witch doctor instead of taking the antibiotics we gave her and urged her to take. As a result, a small cut on Genevieve’s foot turned gangrenous.
When the mother learned that we’d have to amputate, she lamented “A daughter with an amputation is cursed, just another mouth to feed. I’d rather let her die.”
It took more than an hour to convince the mother to allow us to take Genevieve to the hospital. Reluctantly, she finally agreed. Her right leg was amputated above the knee, in the hopes of getting rid of the problem. Sadly, the systemic poisoning was too advanced and she died the second day.
We hope that our acts of care and concern, will convince people to come and trust our medical clinic. For lack of knowledge, the people do perish.