Lessons in Love
A warm wash of natural light spills through an open door in the one-room building at the Nyambogo primary school — just enough light, it seems, to practice medicine.
A grandmother and her two grandchildren — 10-year-old Sombe and 6-year-old Susana — are crowded onto a two-seater handmade wooden school bench in the corner as they wait for the children’s malaria test results. Sombe looks down at the prick on his finger from the blood test as he digs his foot into a hole in the uneven and pocked concrete floor. His sister’s scalp is bleached white in places, and she’s missing patches of hair from ringworm, a fungal infection commonly seen here due in part to the shortage of water for washing.
At the center of the room, Diandra Fortune, a first-year medical student from the University of Cincinnati, and Brianna Tomasi, a 2017 UC nursing alumna and a pediatric nurse at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, call families forward to be tested for malaria. As it turns out, 31 of 42 tests are positive today — three out of every four, a high percentage, even for this part of Africa.
After a 20-minute wait, the UC team calls Sombe and Susana’s family up for results by way of a Swahili translator. Their grandma, Conslatta Onyango, looks away through the school’s back window, where lush green mountains roll above the thatched roof huts that dot the idyllic landscape. She barely reacts when she hears the kids have malaria. She’s heard it before, and she’ll likely hear it again, even as soon as the next day.